At the end of the week of Burning Man, there are two events which signal the close of the event. The first of these is the burning of The Man. This burn all party, the art cars are there with their lights on and music blaring, there are many thousands of people running around, and it's a giant celebration.
The second burn is the burning of the Temple, on which people have written things that are meaningful to them. They've done this all week long and when the temple burns, it is a largely silent event.
At the end of the temple burn, I begin the long walk back to my camp, where everything is packed. I sleep in the cab of my rented truck, and I leave very early the next morning. Leaving Burning Man doesn't start when I drive off the desert floor though, it starts with that first footstep after the temple has burned to the ground. Leaving Burning Man takes a long time. Turning my back on the smoldering pile of lumber, and beginning that long walk back, for me that is the beginning of leaving Burning Man each year.
Today I had a similar experience. Over the course of the last several months I've been seeing a therapist to help me through some tough times. Tonight was my last session with her, and walking out of her office at the end of it, getting in my car and driving home felt a little like leaving Burning Man.
There are two more leavings that will happen. One of them is my last day at work. Even though I know I’ll be back, I won’t be coming back to the same team when I do. Walking out of my office for the last time on Friday will be the second leaving.
The third one will be the most painful of all. I have been seeing a wonderful woman for the last several months, and I will see her in Portland this weekend. When we part ways there though, I’ll be traveling for three months, and then she’ll be moving to Thailand to teach English for a year, possibly longer. Although there’s a possibility I’ll see her towards the end of my trip, and I may very well fly out to Thailand to visit her sometime in 2012, it most likely will be, for us, the last time we see each other for a long time.
And I met her at Burning Man.