Two hours ago I got back to Boulder from Burning Man. There's a lot to be said about the past week and a half, but this is not the occasion to say most of it.
Every year at Burning Man, a crew builds a large wooden temple. The attendees then write messages on the temple, attach offerings to its nooks and crannies, and have a good cry inside. On Sunday night of the event, the temple is burned as thousands of people look on in near silence, appreciating the symbolic release of all the words, objects, and memories they placed there. The majority focus on death, but many people seek release from old relationships and personal hardships, while others add messages of philosophy and joy.
I liked a lot about the temple's design this year, but I didn't connect as strongly with the messages people left as I have in years past. Perhaps that's because I wasn't yet ready to release: the important death to me had not yet come.
Our old family friend Clover has been in the hospital and hospice for the last few weeks. We all knew his days were numbered, but when I called before leaving cell phone reception behind as I crossed the desert, he was doing well. I'd hoped to see him one last time when I got back, to give him a send-off in person. Sadly, Clover passed on Monday, around the time I turned from 447, Black Rock City's highway, on to I-80 and the default world.
Clover liked to do things in his own way and at his own pace, and there will be lots of time to honor our good friend Big Red. My dad, who shared so much with Clover in the last three decades, will be helping organize a memorial, perhaps at Halloween. I'm sure we'll be visiting our cabin soon, a place Clover lived in and looked after with his skilled woodsman ways. Perhaps we'll save a plate for him at Pie Night in November with a slice of some of the community's tastiest pies. And I've got a whole year to come up with a tribute to be burned at the temple in 2011.
I'll sure miss this old quiet, steady, dry, sharp guy. I'm glad I had the chance to grow up around him. And I'm glad I got to share my last words with him in the hospital, a moment containing both hope and acceptance.