Lunar Burn 2013: Cheer & Loving in the High Desert

Originally posted on Burnerprep.com.

 

For the second year running the often empty hills of northern California’s high desert in Madeline filled with campers, artists, dancers, musicians, and an assortment of loving festival-goers seeking connection and vacation at Lunar Burn on the PermaBurn property.

Center Camp as seen from the Lightside camping area
Center Camp as seen from the Lightside camping area

Lunar Burn, aptly named as a celebration that always falls in accordance with special moon phases, took place this year both in celebration of the recent lunar eclipse, as well as Vesākha, otherwise known as Vesak Day, or Buddha’s birthday.

For experienced Burners (participants in Burning Man and related festivals), the High Desert is nothing too radical, especially after spending a fair amount of time on the Playa. For those new to a desert or high desert festival, this one can be deceiving. When one pictures deserts they often imagine sand, a total lack of plant and animal life, and a mirage in the distance, but in northern California’s high desert that’s not the case. Long sloping hills, patches of trees, a carpet of sagebrush, and the occasional lake, blanket the PermaBurn property. These characteristics make the high desert quite deceptive. It can be an exceedingly harsh environment despite it’s welcoming appearance.

Thursday night brought hail. The days were hot and dehydrating until clouds blew in. Pouring rain caused shivers to those far from camp who were still garbed in sunny-day wear. Nights dropped into the freezing range. In the past Lunar Burn had been fairly warm throughout the day, warranting lots of shorts, t shirts, and skimpy outfits but this year’s weather showed the diversity of the complex high desert climate.

Another fresh addition to the Lunar Burn was a geographical division of campsites. In 2012 all attendees camped on one road that led out from “center camp” (the hub of the festival’s music, medical area, bar and events). This year’s Lunar Burn was divided into a “Lightside” and a “Darkside.”

A few folks connect at the center of Lunar Burn’s “Esplanade"
A few folks connect at the center of Lunar Burn’s “Esplanade”

 

The lightside was home to most of the live bands, quieter camping, and the original campgrounds. This year’s new darkside became the zone for fire spinning, thumping electronic music from 6pm-6am, as well as a UV reactive art gallery brought together by Camp Tryptech.

Aside from Tryptech’s annual blacklight-reactive UV art and chill zone, this year also featured a geodesic dome attached to the main stage on the lightside which exclusively housed an art gallery. At all hours of the festival one could enjoy paintings, both finished and living, breathing collaborative pieces by many of Lunar Burn’s visual artists, with a live music accompaniment.

 

All photos by Matty Dervy
All photos by Matty Dervy

You really can’t beat a desert sunset, in this case the one behind the main stage, set directly between the art dome and a communal space that featured everything from slacklining to relaxing.

This year’s Lunar Burn hosted  its first ever art contest, with many submissions that were judged by a panel consisting mostly of Lunar Burn staff and volunteers. The winners received a hand-carved, antler peace-pipe, intricately and painstakingly engraved with the Lunar Burn symbol and stone inset that took over 7 months to create. The winning art piece has been added to the Lunar Burn art vault to be displayed at Lunar Burn events for years to come.

With so many differences from the past Lunar Burn it was almost difficult to adjust to the changes. (“Two different camping areas? But I want to camp with everyone!”, “There’s an art contest? This community is about unity, not competition!”) As strange and new as many of these elements were to Lunar Burn they were welcomed with open arms. These changes have to be expected as a community and the creative elements involved grow and mutate together. Even with potentially divisive elements in the organizational structure of the festival, love and unity were abundant. One of the major and most touching events of the festival was Lunar Burn’s first ever marriage.

Benjamin Gunnerson and Brielle Shyla glowing after their marriage ceremony, Lunar Burn’s first.
Benjamin Gunnerson and Brielle Shyla glowing after their marriage ceremony, Lunar Burn’s first.

The loving couple, Benjamin Gunnerson and Brielle Shyla (both of whom were organizers and staff members at Lunar Burn), were married in a radically inclusive ceremony full of Lunar Burn participants. A group of roughly 75 people, some close friends and others only meeting the newlyweds for the first time, joined hands creating a ring in a valley, empty of all but sagebrush. The couple was welcomed into the circle by cheers, and all participated in a group meditation. They were married with a group of close friends and family inside of the circle. The ceremony was closed and followed by much rejoicing, hollering, and one of the largest group hugs I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of, not to mention the reception!

With headliners such as Desert Dwellers and Element of Soul to follow, the festival was nothing short of wonderful. Lunar Burn promises to be a largely spiritually inspired festival, and does not disappoint. The interconnectivity, the welcoming nature, and the openness of the participants to new experience sets the tone for the festival and the hard work of the volunteers rounds off the festival in such an amazing way.

With plans already in the works for Lunar Burn 2014, stay tuned. You won’t be disappointed.

Lunar Burners trekking the not-so-lonesome road between the Lightside and the Darkside.
Lunar Burners trekking the not-so-lonesome road between the Lightside and the Darkside.

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