I guess normalised nudity is in my rear-view too

All good things come to an end. I mean, shit things do too, but that’s beside the point. We’re on the road, leaving an unforgettable weekend behind. Taking nothing but the memories and excessive quantities of snacks we brought. So long, and thanks for all the MOOP.

It’s hard to succinctly summarise such an expansive, weekend of endless experiences. I don’t have the wherewithal to explain the complicated feelings of sadness over leaving it all behind, while craving so much the touch of my partner and the four walls in which we’ve made our lives. Can someone make me a German compound word for it? I think there’s beauty in the transitory nature of such a vibrant ecosystem. I woke up this morning and looked across the vast fields of tents and structures. In eight hours it’d all be gone, the Leave No Trace team doing their damnedest to preserve the land that’d given us so much.

Hyperborea was like altered reality. An extended weekend with no egregious interactions. Everyone greeted me with a smile or a hug. Their generousity was bountiful, encouraging sincere reciprocation. Any time I could help a stranger or do a favour felt like a gift. Like called to like and I loved being able to give of myself. There was nothing but greenlighting. The principle of radical self-expression wholly invited offers of creativity without judgement. If someone was to strip naked and dance around the fire, cheers would erupt. If one was to start singing, others would join. A vibrant celebration of individuality and reminder that none of us are truly alone. An overabundance of affection and faith in the human spirit. How do I not embrace total strangers with a consensual hug and a peck on the cheek?

I don’t know how I’m supposed to sit in a cubicle tomorrow. What does it feel like to not live communally? To hold in thoughts and not speak your mind liberally? To be so bound by social conventions and polite niceties? To have to wear clothes at all times? To hide your individuality behind the shell of who people want you to be? Who am I when I’m not being me? Or is the real question, how do I be the most me I can be while playing inside the structures of others? I was wrestling with identity while staring into the burning effigy. Now I’m contemplating what parts of me were sparked by the events of Hyperborea. What path will this take me down? Are there lessons to take away in order to enrich my life?

The trip isn’t far enough in my rear-view for me to see how I’ve changed, but I know for sure that I have. As we watched the temple burn last night I looked around the circle. The air was still and quiet. I traced the faces of all assembled, diving back into endless transient memories. Conversations and meals shared. Dance and massage partners. Experiences both ephemeral and lasting. As I gave of myself, so too did they leave part of themselves with me. Much as this all sounds like nonsense, I did preface it by saying it was hard to explain. If this is my self-expression, I don’t want it to be anything less than radical.

‘Cause Hyperborea surely wasn’t.

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Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.

For future reference, the correct answer is Bulbasaur

So far camping has gotten better.

After yesterday’s morning grumpfest and sleep deprivation, I was in a dark place. My mattress deflating, tent collapsing, entrapping me in a tomb of poles and canvas. I took in the panorama of joy around me and felt very alone. It was not an ideal start to the trip.

I willed myself to move through the negativity and into a place of nihilistic humour. We’re all gonna die someday, so hey, I’m on track. Then community came to the rescue. I felt shitty that I’d offered a friend both space on my mattress and in my tent. Circumstances had forced me to forfeit both. It was like I’d promised the Earth and arrived with a handful of ashes. My friends took stock and little by little, we worked together to bring me back to the fold. My friend was driving up, so I got her to grab an air mattress en route. Another friend offered us the plounge tent to sleep in. My friend arrived with a small tent which we used to store our gear (and presently, my “office”). We set everything up and the weight lifted. I looked around to see the abundant sun and colours in all directions. I let go of resentment and fear to just be present. Then I spent six hours doing my sanctuary shift. Six hours was a long time to sit there without anyone coming to us for help, but I guess overall it was for the greater good that we weren’t needed? It was great that nobody was having a bad time, but it sure would’ve been nice to help someone.

Then my shift ended and so did my need to be sober. I had a couple of drinks and went adventuring with friends. There’s a massive metal polyhedron that you can climb. It rolls around, so part of the fun is trying to hold on. I did all sorts of hanging shenanigans and pull up-y tricks. Then I met my friends who were experienced hoop artists and we mucked around some more. My arms are certainly feeling it today. We looked around at some of the camps. I did axe throwing, choosing from their array of 72 (!) weapons. I was a contestant on the Trash Fence TV Dating Game. The potential date was kind of uncharismatic, but the two other contestants were friends. We riffed with each other and wondered out loud why we didn’t all just go on a date. The only question I can remember answering was “What pop culture character would you describe yourself as and why?” I don’t know where I pulled this from, but I responded immediately with “Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors. Because my hunger is insatiable.” The crowd went wild. When it came time for each of the contestants to ask the potential date a question, I posited “What pokémon did you start with?” She responded “Uh, I didn’t play Pokémon, so I don’t know?” Straight away I put my hands up, yelled “I’m out!” and faux walked off the stage. When it came time for her to choose which suitor to date, the crowd was cheering my name. She did not choose me. I’d had such a blast that I didn’t care one iota. Then post show a bunch of people came up to give me hugs. My heart swelled three sizes.

We spent a couple of hours dancing up a frenzy, then chilled way out. Our friends had procured a magnum of champagne, so we settled into a plounge and formed a big cuddle puddle until the wee small hours. It was such a lovely night, and I even managed to get a good sleep this morning.

I think I’m getting a hang of this camping thing, guys.

So it begins with a blank canvas

So far camping could be better.

Call it a lack of prep, but I feel pretty unprepared. It’s very cold and windy. Right now I’m wrapped in a duvet inside a sleeping bag. I’m also wearing a onesie with a T shirt and sweatshirt underneath. It’s fine for being inside my tent (which provides no real warmth, on account of all its walls being glorified open air. I’m sure I’d be lauding that fact in the deepest summer), but that wind is a motherfucker. Speaking of my tent, it spent the night collapsed in a heap. We set out from Toronto far later than I’d expected, which meant we were setting up tents in the dark. I’ve tried a couple of times to set it back up, but the wind keeps bending its poles. I’m sitting up to write this and the roof is sitting on my head. I’ve used it before without issue, but this time the tent is pulling rank and having none of it. The bright side, I guess, is that after I push the poles back into place I can see how spacious it all is, until it collapses in on itself again a minute later anyway. Small mercy.

I’m tired. I had less than the prescribed fourty winks. Probably closer to eight. Aside from my tent imploding, the air mattress gave out almost immediately. I’ve been sleeping on a glorified lump of plastic and a couple of pillows my friend lent me. Yet again, sleeping is a strong word. I’m equal amounts of tired and grumpy this morning, which isn’t helped by the dull but persistent headache that’s hanging around. Like I said, so far, camping could be better.

The camp itself however is very cool. People went all out in decorating. So many tents are festooned with colourful light displays. It makes sense. Being far away from the city, at night the only light found is the light people bring. Also, I mean, they’re burners. It kind of comes with the territory. It’s still very early in the festival and it’s half full. There’s still a lot more to come. That being said, there’s already a lot here. In this chill, I’ve been looking enviously at the purpose built sauna that’s been brought. It looks like a large wooden cabin, but promises hot, sweaty warmth. Speaking of hot, I got to try the fiery lawn darts last night. They’ve arranged a wall of balloons filled with propane. When it’s your turn they dip the tip of a dart in kerosene and light it up. The goal is not to hit the balloon itself, because that’d just pop with little payoff. Instead you want to hit just below so the flame from the dart ignites the balloon and it explodes. I had a go last night and demolished a cute lil’ balloon dog. It caught a chain reaction and set of a bunch of other balloons, lighting up a huge swath of the wall. Just call me Dartanian.

Ugh. It’s 7.30am. Let’s see if I can get any sleep this morning.

Chilli out, bud

Right now I’m. I dunno.

If that isn’t the least inspiring beginning to an entry in some time…

Wait, I already don’t like how this has started. It feels so disconnected and loose, so I guess that’s what we’re going with. I’m borderline stressed at the moment, I think. I’m going away to the burn on Thursday, which is awesome. I’m gonna have an otherworldly festival, challenging myself and trying to be as present as possible. Radsome To The Max, right? I’m also the right amount of antsy for an upcoming unfamiliar experience. I think that tracks.

At the moment I’ve got this vague but pervasive sense that I’ll get it all wrong. A big part of the festival is being self-reliant and self-sufficient. I’m stressed that my preparations will be insufficient and I’ll be forced to rely on others too much, which will put a strain on the time they’re having. I feel like I’m not gonna have enough water or food and that I’ll have to source this from friends. Alternatively I’m worried about bringing too much stuff and filling our transportation with unnecessary baggage (literally, the metaphorical baggage doesn’t take much physical space). I made a big batch of vegan chili to share with camp mates, but after I packaged it all up last night I discovered there were only ten portions. I’m probably gonna need four or so myself. Is this a matter of over-promising and under-delivering? That’d make me feel shitty, especially because they’re already being so generous with their time, expertise and emotional energy. I don’t want to lean on everyone, and the thought of doing so is filling me with nerves. Also I have no real idea if it’s spelled “chili” or “chilli” and by this point I’m almost afraid to google it.

To be clear, deep down I’m sure it’ll all be fine and everything will work out. Even if I do end up leaning on friends, I’ll no doubt provide support when they need it in return. That’s what a community is. Aside from that…

Will I pack everything I need? Or will I get there and think oh shit, I can’t go commando this whole time? What if I get too drunk and pass out? My body being ravaged by insects and burned to a crisp through exposure? What if I get injured and it ruins my festival? What if I play with fire and suffer the consequences? What if I fuck up my volunteer work at Sanctuary and someone in an impaired state fails to get the help they need? What if my radical self-expression just ends up pissing everyone off? What if I take generosity for granted or do something with ramifications that extend beyond the festival?

Once again, I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’m a big boy and I’ve faced much bigger challenges than a regional burn. It’s not my first camping festival either. The scale just seems a lot larger. I’m certain I’ll have an astoundingly good time and deepen a lot of my friendships. I’m sure I’ll make new ones. I’m sure that all of this anxiety is the mental equivalent of dusting. Shaking things up in the hopes that whatever settles is less laden than it was before. In holding my stress points up to the light, perhaps I can see how unfounded most of them are.

If we’re being entirely honest, the hardest part will probably be coming back to reality once it’s all over.

If your joy level is contingent on listening to me talk about socks, is this ever the entry for you!

Today we’ve got the most flippant of entries. It’s an errand day, which seems as good an excuse as any to just write en route to most everywhere.

I’m leaving for the burn on Thursday, which means I’ve got four days to sort myself. A Sunday is ripe territory for picking up bits and pieces. First up I’m heading to a friend’s place to borrow a chilly bin, or as they say here, a cooler. My perhaps vain hope is that it has wheels and can be used to trundle around everything else I get at the mall. I’m planning on making a big batch of vegan chilli that I can freeze. Without meat it won’t spoil easily, which seems like a safe bet. Hence the chilly bin. The other part of the equation is my friend stopping over with her Instant Pot later. She’s giving it to me in exchange for some home cooked food, which seems like a sweet deal. Once I’ve got the bin, I can grab the ingredients, then cook it all tonight. I love it when a plan comes together.

Of course, I’m ill prepared for everything the elements could throw at me. First up, I need socks. To be clear, I needed new socks a year ago. By this point they’re all riddled with holes. I’m gonna pony up and invest in some solid ones this time around, whatever the cost. If I’m hoping to not have legs full of ticks this time next week, I need something sturdy. It could be cold and rainy the whole weekend for all I know. Let’s see the best that Walmart has to offer.

First step completed. My friend’s chilly bin was sitting out on his deck. It IS the perfect size, plus it has a handy handle for dragging it around. Exactly what I wanted. I’m gonna use it to stock all my supplies while I grumble throughout the mall. It was also great to briefly catch up with my mate. He’s one of those excessively industrious people who does project after project. His big one right now is moving his indoor obstacle course to a much larger facility, then adding a combination indoor paintball escape room game. Also an aquaponic ecosystem. Good to hear he’s doing interesting shit, while I in contrast run silly errands. Next up let’s get some camping supplies. We’re apparently gonna need about 5L of water per day. So I’m buying a collapsible tank from Dollarama to cut down on my moop.

Okay, I’m on the other side. I managed to cram everything I needed into the chilly bin and my backpack. Success! I got my 20L of water, the collapsible water container. I got a mosquito net, emergency blanket, head lamp and extra tent pegs. I got 12 pairs of socks, both extra thick and plain. I got granola and all my chilli ingredients. 700g of almonds for mature snacking. I even got a pack of animal cookies just ’cause they looked cool. It seemed like the adult thing to do. Now to go home and make some chilli!

But first, let’s play some Magic. All work and no play makes for a shitty Sunday.

Wait, how much potato are we talking here?

Do you ever remember a dream several days later?

A friend of mine (I’m not being intentionally vague, I feel like it was some homogeneous mash of people I know and love) and I were being billeted by some Texas family. Guns and trucks style Texans. Every single stereotype you can imagine rolled into one. Details are a little bit foggy, but I remember them living in this colossal house. I also know that we seemed to ideologically clash on virtually everything, to the point where staying with them got a bit tense. The house was riddled with guns. I mean, it was all a dream, so it’s only fitting that it got farcical. Still, wall mounted guns, gun cabinets in the lounge. I remember several guns leaning against the corner of the wall in the bathroom. This is clearly what my subconsciousness thinks of Texans.

They had several large gas guzzlers, but the kids had taken them for the weekend. The only vehicle left was my mum’s minivan she’d lent me for the trip. In reality, my mum doesn’t have a minivan. In this dream however, she had a huge pink van tricked out with all sorts of snazzy contraptions. My host dad was mortified and refused to drive it. Said it was the un-manliest vehicle ever to grace the Earth and he wouldn’t be caught dead being seen in it. Also, we needed (does anyone ever *need*?) to go to Costco for supplies. To assuage his fragile masculinity, the car had a device like that dumb Tomorrow Never Dies BMW Ericsson remote control. So this grown man slunk down in the back seat away from prying eyes and drove a large vehicle through the city streets via remote control. He’d periodically peek out the window to make sure nobody he knew was seeing him. He commanded his wife to do the same. We sat up tall and straight, all too happy to be seated in the lap of gaudiness.

Costco was a trip and a half. It was enormous and felt like a city in itself. The aisles were absurdly wide and the products went far beyond buying 12 packs of peanut butter. You could buy cars and shit. Those Tiny Houses you see in all those niche reno shows. I think I saw someone bringing a pony up to the cash register. I don’t remember much of what we bought, aside from the mum grabbing a 24 pack of pre-made pumpkin pies. We stopped off at the Costco café post shop to grab some grub. Notable was the $68 meal deal for two, which came with a mountain of mashed spuds, gravy, two substantial rib-eyes and a pair of rifles.

I’m not entirely sure how removed from reality this all is. Austin was nothing like this, but then again Austin is a weird liberal jewel in whatever four letter word we want to call Texas. Bigg? It’s funny to me that my brain looks at the state as a pair of truck nuts given geographical land mass. I was talking with someone about how much work this next generation is gonna have to put in to make life work. It’s obvious that even without being a part of the political divide in America, I’ve entirely built up such a strong series of prejudices. With the increasing divide in the world, what needs to happen in order for people to come together in a basic human capacity? Jesus, are we gonna need a Watchmen style universal villain to enter the fray and unite us? Hell, is there anything more 2018 than the Korean war possibly ending and a united Korea to be potentially more cohesive than the United States?

We’re living in a world far beyond the purview of dreams.