Lucky Lake Campground – Whilst the enigmatic culture swirling about Black Rock Desert’s Burning Man continues confounding outsiders, denizens of America’s Great Lakes gathered to share and celebrate the event’s ideals at a venue closer to home.
Driving through the darkness dodged traffic while pushing through twelve hours navigating the heartlands highways. It also left a pair of spare hours requiring expenditure through the summer Michigan drizzle.
Western Michigan remains greatly untouched by industrious hands. Outdoors persons are the majority tourists and an early week day’s morning in June found Montague-Whitehall a little sleepy.
An art gallery, talkative local and a drive-in still providing car hops & curb service exhausted the morning after getting lost trying to find the rather large lake nearby. Root beer refreshed as the short jaunt back up the highway found a short line of cars.
People stretched, laughing and waiting for the final gate to unbar. The queue continued forming to the rear, reaching toward the road within thirty minutes. Movement toward the front as the gate opened an hour late eastern standard, or on time. Cursory greetings and examination followed by a thorough vehicle search for stowaways and contraband. Fireworks, glass and substances such as crack being rather unwelcome.
The continued expansion of consciousness and interest surrounding the culture first spawned a quarter century ago on a beach in San Francisco created Ticketpocalypse Part Deux, leaving many long time residents of Black Rock City on the outside looking in after the main sale.
One of the very few positive repercussions rising above the cacophony of complaints was spiking interest in the event’s scattered love children, regionals. Fostered by the borg as tendrils of realization about what society could be spread across the globe, regional burns have slowly grown over the last decade. Started by burners, for burners with no greater intention than spreading the principles supporting Black Rock City, the sudden difficulty in obtaining tickets to that thing in the desert left many searching for an event closer to home.
Tickets scanned, wristband accessorized, a short drive led to the greeters’ station full of friendly if marginally confused helpers. Bell rung and vague advice about where to camp led to an aborted bivouac before friendly rangers helped move things down the street.
Ranging around a small pond camp sites slowly took shape alongside the established groups. Four years into existence Lakes of Fire owes continued growth to a strong group of supporters ranging across the Old Northwest and southward. Fifteen hundred tickets were snatched up in two days time after going on sale in late March leading to some consternation among the ticketless here as well. Burning rewards the prepared.
Camp finally complete, stakes sliding easily into the Michigan sand, time was taken to relax, make peace with the natives and watch things come together. The lakeside neighbors shared the story of their resonating art piece positioned within sight, a pendulum that produced sound via motion.
Placing an ad in the guide and visibly extolling concern via a pair of anti hydraulic fracturing signs in the front yard provided a number of early visitors who sought us out. Pleasantly surprised at the attention and interest a lot of discussion occurred concerning the fate of continued drilling on the peninsula. Reactions pro and con, civilly conducted, were expressed and knowledge gained from a man who had worked as both a state regulator and private sector employee in the industry. Another woman stopped, excited to see us with the promise of returning with petitions for passersbys.
Urgent concern with the fight in New York led to ignorance about the situation across the lakes. Managing the balancing act between red and blue, the state does what it can to retain solid, middle class employers. A modest history of drilling helping fuel interest in opportunity.
More arrivals as the first real art car drifted passed, evolution granting wheels where once only pontoons had lain. A sold out voyage of revelers waved whilst land boating down the single sandy street circumnavigating the campground.
Tent pitching dispensed, exploring the event’s evolving landscape absorbed daylight’s remainder. Spaces coming together into camps. A few’s early arrival allowance permitted most construction to reach completion before the masses wound inside. For the rest a hurried burst of enterprise accompanied arrival, shelter and entertainment constructs taking shape.
Vehicles continued trickling through the greeters’ station while their bar served up cocktails to the arrived. Wristbands of a different color allowed easy age identification, a solution that continues eluding organizers of the mothership.
Other fractivists located whilst meandering, discussion with locals revealed a rather dour outlook. Horizontal hydraulic fracturing would most likely continue as most denizens preferred the short term stimulus against long term issues.
Thursday blended toward evening as the first thumpings of large speakers pushed through earth and air across Lucky Lake. Electronica inundates many large gatherings of burners without excluding those of contrary musical persuasions. A trio of venues provided most of the womps while spilling a differently from each.
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Darkness breathes life into all the spectacularly lighted spaces and creations. Burning is eye candy galore. A few addresses down the way spiderwebs glowed through the night as down tempo beats emitted from its heart.
Chrysanthemum provided a thoughtful counterpoint to the throbbing bass drifting across the water. An “aggregative assembly of differences” collectively collaborated upon a space for meditation through thought, discussion and music. Lying beneath the tangled web of luminescence allowed reflection as the ground softly vibrated through sonic waves.
The night also allows the many pyromaniacs attending such congregations to remind everyone part of what a burn is really about. Fire…
Friday dawned clear and foggy. Sunlight hitting closed eyelids normally reasserts consciousness no matter how early the hour. Staggering upward through cool morning air, a few of the weary or waking spoke softly to one another watching the sun peek upward.
The event’s second year involving a body of water as the location’s centerpiece brought the best burngineers could offer. One fourth time participant shared that after the event moved to its current location the previous year no one was really sure what to do with the pond in the middle. Twelve months of reflection, forethought, creativity and follow through gave life to the lake.
Elsewhere others expended their time providing services to those assembled. Entertainment and infrastructure are to the benefit of the entire community. Recycling camp hosted a wooden visage of one of this nation’s oldest plutocrats for cremation after enough adult beverage containers reached their donated collection point.
Other groups gifted food, warmth, beverages and art depending on their persuasion. Constantly available s’mores fed folks’ sweet teeth down the street from morning pancakes. Racks of clothing a few more camps away provided alternatives for those arriving less than elegantly dressed.
Dusk brings a scurry for eveningwear through fading light while others rouse themselves. The day is for discussion and greetings. Enveloping darkness is time to dance and make merry. Evening opened the Secret Gentlemen’s Club, velvet rope thrown wide.
Bar, stage, seating and cultured entertainment as any self respecting gentleperson should expect. A luminescent shuttlecock volleyed whilst a pair of virtuosos captivated. Cold drinks complemented neck wear provided for the less couth present.
Burning is community and the community does its best to provide all the amenities others could want. People build and bring what they enjoy. A tiny theater showed old black and white films through starlight. Nearby a few gatherings laughed clustered about firelight as it kept the damp at bay. Thumps and amplified strings emanated northward.
Flashing lights and loud music generally equal some sort of gathering involving sauce amidst bodily contortions.
Chicagoans brought the domes and large speakers necessary. Pumping coordinated noise mostly nonstop the Freakeasy brought out the largest crowds of the long week’s end. Charming young women served up adult beverages while a string and bow performance gave way to tech beats once again.
Nightlight fades all too fast through spatial revolutions, dawn breaking on the far horizon once again. Rangers remaining calm through the withering exaltation of a man trying to leave while less than himself. Trained to solve problems and keep participants safe while protecting the community, rangers handle many of the human difficulties that arise. This morning two delicately helped someone remove themselves from a bad situation.
Breakfast and more music, the dome still thumping bass, if more softly in the morning hours, as the final full day began. Claimed by sleep before the heat set in, bandying about for twenty hours costs time on the back end. Final arrivals straggling in, hundreds spent the day enjoying a spate of activities and creations such as the floating bar set adrift.
Returning the petitions upon which a half dozen hardy souls hadst penned their misgivings involved breaking another long life vow. Never one to be overly involved in any group holding ideals too closely, stories left over from the cults of my predecessor’s youths instilled enough fear to do something even more dangerous and think for myself. Fortunately admittance to a group of happy dreamers involved little brain washing.
The Happy Dream Cult began after one man’s vision and returned to Lakes of Fire spreading the gift of pleasant rest to the initiated. Entitling oneself and partaking in their rituals fulfilled entry obligations. Hopefully the nightmares end.
Pirates and ninjas and zombies strolled by calling toward the common denizens while dragging a red wagon full of libations. The smell of sizzling meat wafting downwind.
Magnificently cooked swine fed many as daylight began to fade once more. The gift of sustenance gratefully received.
Preparations for the final countdown well under way, the area surrounding the largest piece set to burn cordoned off from the masses. An effigy accorded the entire western peninsula reaching into the lake to ensure space and safety.
All the stops pulled, resources outlaid as quickly as possible so there’s less to bring home, burn night brings distant explosions and cheer to the heart. A number of previously idle vehicles quickly transforming into moving party wagons.
eeeere eer e Fire allowed humanity to progress, create thousands of years of civilization and annihilate one another. The captivation many feel near flames can be intoxicating. Much of art created meant to meet a fiery demise, the end of a burn hammers home the message of impermanence.
Puffs in the distance and the sudden blossoming of red against sunset. Each beautiful.
Avoided the mob after days of meeting, greeting, babbling and listening incessantly for a more meditative state of mind. A beach opposite the coming spectacle before the inevitable prerequisite fireworks brightened the night. Oohs, ahhs and before overly long…
Ignition and engulfment. A perimeter keeping back the foolhardy enforcing safety with the exception of a few wayward cinders drifting woodward. Crackling drifting across the water.
Real life always seems to interfere. A dozen hour commute home forced break down through the afternoon. Exhaustion claiming the weary once more shortly after wandering away.
Dawn brought silence after most spent their evening socially. Packed up the tent while sweeping the surrounding area for specs of imported consumerism. One of burning man’s ten principles lying near and dear to many hearts is the doctrine of leave no trace. We are guests in this time and place. It is not ours for wholesale rape and limitless consumption.
Driving down the mostly deserted street toward highway and all that lay beyond brought surreality to the forefront momentarily. The demands of modern survival quickly overwhelmed reflection as motorized cages whizzed passed. Ends often remain sad, but allow the next beginning.
Months later the struggle of survival wages on. Suffering the short sighted stumblings of the herd while quietly attempting to help brings frustration and tiny moments glimmering through the gloom. The ceaseless yearn for home something every burner withstands. Next time is only a year away and only a year again after that.
In a time of confusion the only hope involves radical realignment of self and societal priorities. Every time a group of citizens come together in their refusal to accept “that’s just the way things are” our world grows a little more hopeful. On the shores of a small pond in Michigan a new group of individuals received their introduction to a life less ordinary. Some will reject it, others still won’t understand it, and still others will embrace it only in that time and space. For a fortunate few however, a seed planted shall blossom and grow into real change at a time when it’s needed the most… from there the choice is theirs. It always was.
Thank you for being to everyone who created our shared experience.