Peggy and I watched with dismay as several of the stately Ponderosa Pine trees on our property in Southern Oregon teetered on the edge of death, victims of pine beetles and the drought brought on by global warming. It is a story told over and over in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada where the US Forest Service reports that over a hundred million trees have suffered a similar fate.
This year’s Temple at Burning Man was a reflection on the devastation caused by global warming. The Temple was made from trees that had died. The write up on the Burning Man site described the structure of the temple:
Interlocking timber pieces in formation become a Temple that is both cloud and spire; inverted pyramidal columns suggest the negative-space of a forest canopy, simultaneously supporting a vast pagoda-like ‘cloud’ framework which in turn supports a central spire. In this way disorder gives way to harmony, and a group of dying trees is re-ordered into a cathedral of timbers stretching toward the sky.
The Temple is not a religious edifice, like a church, but it is a spiritual refuge. Burners come to mourn those who have passed on and seek peace. Thousands of messages are left for loved ones. I always make a point of working my way through the temple while enjoying the sense of peace, reading the messages, and quietly supporting those who mourn.
People also leave messages for their four legged friends that have died. The memorials almost always include photos and often include favorite toys, like a well-loved tennis ball. I am always moved by these memorials but I was particularly touched by the written memorial to Kozmo this year, as I am sure you will be.
The Temple is always burned on Sunday in a solemn ritual that sends the messages skyward and provides an element of peace for those left behind. For once, the always boisterous, always noisy Burning Man is silent. The music has stopped, the dancing has stopped, the drinking has stopped; there is only silence and respect broken occasionally by the sound of someone crying or calling out the name of a loved one who has passed on.
NEXT POST: More sculptures from Burning Man 2017 with a special focus on trees in honor of the world’s remaining forests.