“Some of the stars are moving…” 22 July 2010

It is hard not to be moved by a place where people come to write the names of those lost to them, and then later return in the still of the desert night to watch that place be engulfed in flame.

This is the temple of Black Rock City, a structure that bears the weight of so much deeply personal profundity. Much is written about the havoc that surrounds the burning of the eponymous Man on Saturday night of the festival, but to me the true spiritual termination of this week of impossible glory and adventure always comes the following night with the burning of the temple. The following dawn we will depart the desert for another year.

So I was in a contemplative mood that night as I settled in with the other dusty denizens of the city who had formed a circle around the temple. The crowd was, as always, quiet, reflective, studious. After a few minutes, a close friend leaned over and quietly said to me, “Some of the stars are moving.”

I looked up into the sky, wondering what cleverness was afoot. Eventually I spotted two red dots, moving slowly in parallel across the sky. “Those are airplanes,” said a woman sitting next to us. I didn’t agree; making the stars move was simply too much like something that would be pulled off at Burning Man. Another red star appeared, then a blue one. More people started noticing and a fervent debate sprung up. “Kites! They must be kites,” said one voice from the crowd. “No! They’re balloons!” replied another.

“Look!” someone cried, “There’s more! Seven, eight…ten…more!”

“It’s Burning Sky,” I said, referring to the group of expert skydivers that live in the temporary city. I grinned madly at my friend, who had figured this out before saying something to me.

By this point a collective murmur hovered above the entire crowd as everyone was staring in wonder at the sky, and suddenly an arc of glittering fire appeared. A massive gasp went up, then cheers. As the second and then third and then many more tails of moving, swooping fire came into sight the crowd came to its feet, cheering and yelling and laughing in delight.

“It’s Burning Sky!” I called out. “They make magic above us!”

– ~ –

Some Of The Stars Are Moving is, for me, about the collision of the profound with the whimsical. Writing the piece took a fair amount of time for me – I wrote a draft, and it took three further rewrites before I found something that had that feeling of transient happiness that is all the more sweet when you are exquisitely aware of your own mortality.

Enjoy. It is what you are here to do.