The Temple at Black Rock City… Burning Man 2012

The 2012 Temple at Burning Man captured in the early morning light by my friend Tom Lovering. The courtyard and Temple are already filled with visitors.

My first trip to Burning Man in 2004 became a quest. A neighbor of mine, a veteran Burner, suggested I would enjoy the event. He was a strange fellow. I guess he thought I was too.

His description of Black Rock City reminded me of the Mos Eisley on the planet Tatooine, the Spaceport where Luke Skywalker began his journey to the outer worlds. Strange creatures resided there. Adventure beckoned.

Most quests involve a similar location, a jumping off place between the world you know and wherever it is you are headed. Your challenge, if you accept it, is to go out into the beyond, do battle with the bad guys, and come back with something good for your community.

I didn’t find any bad guys at Black Rock City but I did have a wonderful time. And the journey expanded my perception of reality, which is always a good thing. I returned to Sacramento and immediately begin recruiting friends to go with me the next year. Today I regard my treks to Burning Man as exotic, art-filled vacations with a dash of pilgrimage thrown in.

The pilgrimage part involves visiting the Man and the Temple. Today’s blog will feature the Temple, Burning Man’s spiritual center. It is the place on the Playa where Burners go to say goodbye to loved ones who have passed on or to simply give thanks. Visiting is a moving experience that I believe people of all faiths, or none, can relate to.

The 2012 Temple at Burning Man was exceptionally beautiful. Reflecting an oriental theme, its spire reached for the sky while its large courtyard opened to the desert and welcomed visitors. Intricately carved wood invited thousands of messages and photos about parents, friends, lovers, children, husbands, wives, other relatives and even cherished pets.

Normally raucous Burners become quiet when they enter the Temple Grounds. While it isn’t a place of formal worship, it is a place of quiet meditation, reverence and respect. People sit quietly, post messages, or wander around and read what has been written.

The following photo essay is designed to capture the essence and beauty of the Temple in a way that words can’t. My friend and fellow Horse-Bone Camp member, Tom Lovering of Davis California, got up at 5:30 AM on Wednesday to catch the sunrise pictures. My wife Peggy and I took the day, night and burn photos.

The sun greets a new day at Black Rock City and gently bathes the courtyard of the 2012 Temple. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Early morning sunlight provides a golden glow and captures the intricate woodwork inside the 2012 Temple at Burning Man. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

Music is found everywhere at Burning Man, including the Temple. I love the obvious joy of these performers caught on camera by Tom Lovering. I also think this photo provides a good perspective on the size of the 2012 Temple’s courtyard.

This daytime photo provides an overview of the 2012 Temple at Burning Man and the courtyard, which extends an equal distance on the other side. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Peggy captured a fun perspective here of the 2012 Temple at Black Rock City. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

I took this photo of the 2012 Temple at Burning Man to show the intricate wood work. Much to my delight, the light shining through created a sense of eyes creating a cat-like face.

Speaking of kitties, the people owned by this cat memorialized her in the Temple with this picture. Thousands of Burners use the Temple to say goodbye to relatives, friends and pets who have passed on with messages of love and gratitude.

I took this photo to provide an idea of the number of messages Burners leave for loved ones. Previous photos have shown the size of the 2012 Temple of Burning Man and its courtyard. By Sunday, when the Temple was burned, close to every inch of reachable space on the inside and outside of the Temple plus structures in the courtyard had been covered with messages.

The 2012 Burning Man Temple at night.

A night-time view from the inside of Burning Man’s 2012 Temple.

Things burn at Burning Man including the Man and numerous works of art. Impermanence, deconstruction and celebration are all involved. The Temple has these elements, but it also includes the burning of the thousands of messages,  sending them skyward, or Heavenward if you prefer, and providing closure to those left behind.

Silence accompanies the burning of the Temple. No mutant vehicles spout fire, no music is played, no Burners dance. Only the sound of crying or the shouted “I’ll miss you,” breaks the stillness. We too have honored those who have passed on. This year we remembered my sister’s Mother-in-Law Betty, a woman full of life who had adopted us all as family and who had passed away shortly before Burning Man 2012 began. Go in peace, Betty.

Eventually, all that is left of the Temple and the courtyard is the structure… and then, it too collapses, returning to ash and dust. A very special thanks to David Best from Petaluma California, the architect and builder of the 2012 Temple at Burning Man, and to the Temple Crew that devoted thousands of hours to putting the magnificent building together.