Decompression/Recompression

My life is best described as a flurry.  Not quite a full-force blizzard, but close enough.  It’s just hectic enough to make people wonder if they should come out and build a snowman with me, or huddle under blankets by the fireplace, safely in their own abodes, letting me rampage on my own outdoors.

Today marks the one week anniversary of our official arrival in Boulder.  One week into classes, into work, into my new life.  I came off the tail of a grand adventure with no time to breathe before launching into the next – but if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably already guessed – this is how I roll.

I hate being bored.  It drives me bonkers.  Makes me angrier than if someone ate the last of the ice cream the day that a bus splashed dirty street water on me as I was walking toward some really bad news.  Boredom is generated and controlled by no one and nothing but yourself, so I take it as a personal failure when I feel bored.  The world at my fingertips, and I can’t figure out what to occupy my time with?  That’s ridiculous.

I’m almost settled into the new place.  I have to figure out how to get my desktop hooked up to the wifi in the apartment, and there are a few lingering boxes, and I’m not quite sure how to store my yarn with the limited space that I have, but I have to think that I’m almost finished settling in, or I think I might just snap and spend the rest of my “free” time sitting in a corner chewing on boxes.  I went on a tear through my boxes, knowing I saw the cord for my cameras and tucked them somewhere that made sense, but now I can’t seem to find them in any of the places that make sense, nor any of the places that the Mad Hatter would consider appropriate.

I’ll edit to add pictures when the item is found, but until then – stories, because words are still important to convey my experience.

I had one week between the end of the Aerial Dance Festival and the start of Burning Man.  One week, with no obligations, very little money available to spend, a child, and a car.  There is a lot you can accomplish in one week, and still I wish we had more time.  Ellette and I picked up our friend Ari from the Denver Airport on Thursday, which was the earliest he could fly out to meet us, and we started driving West.

Excitement was high at this point.  Freedom and a roadtrip have a habit of creating that feeling.  (4 days later we were extremely happy to have arrived at our destination where we could take a break from being in a car, and being stuck with no one’s company but our own).

We drove through the mountains towards the Grand Canyon, because I gave Ellette free reign over our destination, and that’s what she chose.  Knowing we had time to kill, however, led us to stop when the desire took hold.  Utah is a beautiful state, and I highly recommend taking a leisurely drive through it.  There were so many view points, that we eventually had to put a cap on how many we would actually stop for.  They were gorgeous.  I really don’t have any other words to describe it.

To break up the immobility of sitting in a car, I tried to handstand my way across the country.  I did a lot during the trip, but completely forgot once we got to Burning Man.  I did remember to do one when the man burned on Saturday, and had someone photograph it for me, but that was the only handstand accomplished.

The Grand Canyon was more breathtaking than the last time i was there in 2009.  That time was just me and a guy was I on-again-off-again dating, and the experience was just not very enjoyable because of outside emotions.  This trip, i had a clear head and a clear heart, and Ellette and I loved exploring together.  We climbed everything we could get a grip on and resolved to return in the future for a longer stretch of time, with better gear, so that we can hike and camp and experience it closer.

We continued driving West after that, through Nevada until we reached Black Rock City.  We had a minor detour at a town called Rachel, which is located on Extraterrestrial Highway and caused us to stop by the presence of several flying saucers.  The town had a couple of trailers and a bar.  We stopped for a drink, chatted with the bartender, and left a dollar bill taped to the ceiling with our names written across it.

And then Black Rock City.

My birthday was spent in the line, waiting to get in.  I enjoyed meandering up and down the line of cars, offering chocolate covered doughnuts to other burners.  It wasn’t until I received my first hug on the playa that I realized what I needed this year.  It was a long and close hug, each of us holding on tight and welcoming each other home, and I settled in to it.  All of the anxiety, jitteriness, and excitement started to quiet, and I could feel my breathing deepen.  This was to be the burn of hugs.

It had been just me for the summer – no significant other, physically removed from my close friends, and constantly bustling through my adventures, that I had forgotten how nice it is to share a moment with another individual – a hug, a handhold, a side lean.  And here I was, tossed into a crowd of 60,000 people all ready and willing to hug the breath out of me if I just asked for it.  I found myself seeking out that contact – giving camp mates hugs every morning, holding on long and tight with each one.  I wanted to forge connections, I wanted stories and laughter that would sustain itself off the playa.

Ellette and I didn’t leave camp as much as we did last year, but I’m alright with that.  I got my chances to explore, even having an entire night out on the playa, as an adult, jumping from camp to camp, meeting new people, biking into the deep darkness, chasing a vision of people and lights, and falling asleep briefly inside of a giant genie bottle, only to be woken by gentle chatter just before sunrise.  My companion and I wandered to the 7am burn, where we watched two larger-than-life lovers locked in Embrace turn to dust and smoke as the sun came up.  I wandered back to camp, only to doze off on a couch on top of a school bus before making it to my tent.

We had such a brilliant time and built a few lasting friendships, along with meeting more lovely people than we can ever keep straight.  We have little stories tucked into our arsenals that simply cannot exist in the blogosphere appropriately, and we’ve come back very satisfied.

Now, entering the default world on our return.  I had been curious how decompression would strike us.  Ellette is like puddy, adapting fluidly with the changing situations.  I have been keeping my focus pointing forward as I knock to-do’s off the list, hoping that the brunt of depression would be deflected by being in the studio 30 hours a week working on what I love.

And then I realized that I’m craving human connection.  I’m craving sitting in the dust watching the sunset, a cold beer in my hand and good conversation afoot.  I’m craving quiet moments standing close to people as we share our thoughts on a towering art structure.  I’m still finding my footing here, carving out my place and setting my schedule so spontaneity is a possibility, and lacking the freedom I had all summer is taking it’s toll.

I realize also that I haven’t knit in over a month.  This could be contributing to my feelings.

Photos to come, I promise. I see that reading through this all a second time isn’t quite adequate in describing the thoughts and feelings coursing through me right now.  If only I could think like the March Hare for a little while to find that elusive cord…

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Austin and an Art Car

Or: “Finally Catching Up”

I went straight from Austin to sitting in front of a sewing machine and packing to 5 days of an amazing burn, and now I home, with a full night’s rest on my own bed.  I woke up to the prospect of cleaning, packing, and getting down to business.  So, I put my big girl pants on and poured a cup of coffee.

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Austin was all about the bus.  This was my third trip to Austin, and probably the most entertaining.  I’ve seen the sighs before, I’ve met some cool people and did a bit of street performing.  We went swimming in the river, window shopping on South Congress, and that was enough.  This time, I met up with 13 other people to convert this little bus into an art car for Burning Man.  They got the roof deck started during a different build weekend, and that is where I spent my entire weekend.

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Everyone in the group had something to offer – sculpting, building, sewing, organizing, etc.  And everyone was excited to be a part of this project.  No one rested until we were called to lunch/dinner/etc.  The drive to work was infectious.  Saturday morning, I was handed yards and yards of coarse rope and instructed to lash the railings.  I spent so much time with that rope and the drill and the glue that my hands were red and raw, my knuckles had been worn away, and I had transitioned from cursing at the pain to shedding quiet tears under the Texas sun, pulling as hard as I could on my knots.  But the end result was entirely worth it.

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We didn’t finish – not even close.  But, the bus is closer, and following another build weekend, it will be ready for the Playa.  There are miles of fabric left to be sewn to the bus and more molding to be done.

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These guys – they were absolutely amazing.  Thank you for letting me be a part of the build and a part of your burn.

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It Simply Was

I’ve been mulling over what could be said about the trip; what needs to be said, what I want to say.  I’ve been trying to think of what to write about, what to dwell on, what to remember, and what I would do again.

As I said before, when people ask me about it, I have a hard time saying anything.  How was it, really? What did I gain from it?  What did I love about it? I hesitated to answer just as I’ve been hesitating writing about it.  Then, this past weekend, I went to a wedding with my family.  As my brother and I were sitting in the car together on the way, I suddenly realized that he would enjoy going to Burning Man, and I told him such, going on to explain why I think that is true.  Some of the reasons were the same as mine – the travel, the community, the art – oh, the art!  And some were different, that we seek out different qualities in people and react differently to large groups, constant interaction, etc.

I thought about this more, recalling the times I had felt compelled to tell someone about the trip.  I noticed it all came down to that statement: “You would have liked it.”

After writing the post about Decompressing, a friend of mine told me about Experiential Truth, that some things cannot be summed up with words.  Period.  Really, in this situation, I can’t tell you what it was like, nor do I honestly want to.  Everyone experiences Burning Man differently, and for me it was deeply emotional and intimate.  It gives to you the realizations, emotions, and entertainment that you need most.  And, what you need is not necessarily going to match what I need.  My daughter and I did almost exactly the same things that week and walked away from those instances with completely different perspectives on what happened, and a different sense of peace than each other.  She was happy to spend her afternoon in a net hanging over a dance floor inside of a giant blue whale.  I joined her for 5 or 10 minutes before growing bored and wanting to move.  She spent close to an hour content in her nest, chatting away with whoever else decided to rest there next to her as I meandered through the bowels of the whale, chatting with the bartender, finding a pile of free henna and making art on our bodies, climbing scaffolding and engaging in conversation elsewhere.

When it comes to the experiential truth, all I can say is there are good and bad, and the degree of each depends on your personal priorities.  Next time, I will have the awareness to take time to myself so I don’t shut down mentally and emotionally before the end.   Separating myself from the crowd is not only ok, but it is necessary for my experience to continue being fun.  Next time, I will adventure with Ellette for a day with the purpose being to hop on every single art car we see because for her, the art cars are what make the experience exciting.

So, how was Burning Man?  It simply was.

It was jumping on the playa with people we just met:

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It was exploring art:

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(Yes, that is a giant mustache teeter-totter.)

It was challenging ourselves:

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It was giant:

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It was illuminated:

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It was spiritual:

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It was circus:

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It was adventure:

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It was solitude:

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It was faith:

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It was making friends:

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It was community:

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It was breathtaking:

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And most importantly, it was this:

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Don’t Ask – Decompressing

I returned home on Tuesday, around 8pm.  We sat down for a minute looking around, then heaved a sigh and unloaded the car.  The next day, we cleaned the car, cleaned a little of the house, tried to remember to do laundry, started school, went back to work, interviewed a nanny, and fell into a very deep sleep, only to wake up this morning bright and early, getting ready for work, return the car, and hit the grind again.

I leave town this weekend for a wedding, and next weekend for a party, all while beginning the new teaching session at the Brookfield Dance Academy which means every Sunday I’m driving to Wisconsin to teach.

All summer I’ve been looking forward to adventure, and the sense of peace that would follow.  In my head, my thoughts have been “I went out there, I did that, and then I go home and rest.”  But the rest hasn’t come yet.  The back to back travelling of the past few months has taken it’s toll, and I’m not sure how long it is going to take me to return to what constitutes normal.

This latest adventure has been the most interesting, eye-opening, strange and intense yet.  As soon as I had returned to cellphone service, I was getting excited texts and emails from friends and family.  Was it awesome??? They ask.  I’m so jealous! It must have been a blast!!

The multiple question marks and exclamation points are disorienting.  Contain your excitement, please.  I’m still decompressing.

Decompressing – a very common state after burns, and renaissance festivals, and theatre shows, and other intense, time and labor intensive endeavors.  I am trying to find the order beneath the chaos, clean the dust out of my sinuses, figure out what my routine ought to be, and catch my breath.

When people ask me what happened, did I have fun, will I show them my photos, I feel myself shrinking in my shoes.  I feel guilty for not having an answer right away, and for not having the excitement and enthusiasm they expect me to have. 

What happened?  Stuff.

Did I have fun?  I think so.  Mostly.

Photos?  Ok, but I don’t have the energy to explain them.

There is just so much information to process, so much pondering that needs to be sorted and emotions to reflect on.  It was, in its simplest form, everything I expected it to be.  And yet, I wasn’t ready for not being able to handle my expectations.  I had fun, but I’m trying to figure out what made me happy, what made me scared, what I would do differently.

Last night, my roommates asked me to tell them a little about what happened, what was it like.  I stared at my hands trying to figure out what happened, to pick out a singular piece, to put the feelings into words.  After some babbling, and with the help of someone else who was there, I eventually started forming cohesive sequences of events and the related emotions and thoughts that went with them. 

It is going to take some time, but I will be writing about this adventure, and it may come in spurts, and it may be interspersed with my normal (now seemingly mundane) knitting updates (I finished “a” sock while there), you will find out all about it.

Bear with me, ok?

Overwhelmed – My Packing List and Me

I’ve been up late every night this week packing, thinking about packing, worrying about packing enough of the right things, worrying about packing too much, and sometimes even dreaming about packing (that was a weird one).

We leave tomorrow. To put it into perspective, I bite my nails as a nervous habit.  I’ve got no more nail left to bite.  I want to get on the road so that I can stop overthinking about what I’m bringing (There is currently a bright pink, poofy prom skirt draped over my boxes as I hem and haw over bringing it).

The spreadsheets are what keep me sane.  I have been eyeing them up to figure out what still needs to be purchased (camp fuel, batteries and vinegar) and what needs to be packed still (not much, in truth), and what has already been packed.  I am looking at the boxes of three people’s possessions in the dining room and I wonder how we are going to fit it all in the SUV tomorrow morning.  My travelling companions have agreed to stand back while I and my innate special reasoning and mad-Tetris skills work to fit everything in the car.

I have three knitting projects set aside to accompany me.  One pair of socks, one pair of shorts I’ve been meaning to design, and 3 balls of a chunky yarn that has been destined to become some sort of sweater for Ellette.  I’m calculating 70 hours on the road, half of which I am going to be driving, and a third of the remainder I will probably be sleeping, which leaves around 20 hours of prime knitting time there and back.  I am also estimating upwards of 6 hours in a gridlock waiting to enter and exit Black Rock City, so an additional 12 hours added to my prime knitting time.  Am I delusional in thinking that one of these items can be completed in that allotted 32 hours?  Should I be adding another ball of yarn?  Oh dear…

Tonight is the last night to prep.  I am going to finish the purchasing of items and collect the straggling bits that need to be packed.  Pile everything in the corner and reassess.  Then, I am going to see if I can fit anything into smaller boxes, or if I can split up a big box into two smaller boxes for easier packing.

I will be able to blog until we get past Reno, at which point a lovely friend of mine will be guest blogging for me.

Prep Work

I have been over here questioning the wisdom of my decisions.  8 days in the desert? Really?  Nothing available to me if I forget it?  The idea of not having enough water, or food, or stable shelter is a little worrying right now.  Ironically, I was completely fine and stress free until a coworker stated that he would be losing his mind if he were in my shoes.  I couldn’t sleep last night.

When I got home from work, I set to further food prep.  I had picked up a dozen apples, sent them through the slicer/peeler/corer.

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And set them to soak in lemon juice and water so they wouldn’t turn brown.  While they were soaking, I worked on other prep stuff – gauging how much food I had and whether or not it will be enough (I alternately go from thinking “Whoa, this is a lot” to “Oh my god, this can’t be enough for a week!”)  I also cleaned the house, because I don’t want to leave for so long and leave a mess for my roommates to deal with.

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Once the apples were good and soaked, I placed them on trays in the dehydrator.  My house is loving this machine – from dried strawberries, to mangoes, to vegan jerky (more on that later), it has constantly been in use by just about everyone in the place.  Our kitchen smells amazing!

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I kept them drying at a high heat, shuffling them around to make room for more rings, and turned the heat down low before going to bed.  They are all done now, and looking delicious.  I still feel like I have so much more to do.  Knitting time has gone out the window (which is probably a shame, because if I spent more time knitting I might not be so worried), and I’m packing and making lists and labeling boxes and trying to think of what I’ve forgotten.

But I know it’s going to be wonderful.  It will work itself out in the end.  We will leave on Saturday, and I will chew my fingertips to the nib and get a little antsy on the freeway and maybe say a few snarky things to my driving companion along the way (sorry about that in advance, dear).  We will pull up to the gates on Monday and I will probably get out of the car and jump around in anticipation (and from being in a car for 48 hours), and the next week will pass in a colorful, sunny, chatty, hug-filled, dusty blur and you will be given dozens upon dozens of photos to prove that it happened, and all of this frantic prep work was totally worth it.

On The Board

My to-do list does not appear to be getting any smaller, but I do see progress being made.  The lovely little sweater I was working on last week has been cast off and set to block.  The Pelisse was blocked and thrown into my project bag for seaming and button bands, and then that’s done.  I’ve also got 90% of a bikini top knit for the Playa.  I’ve worked out the details for one of the costumes I’m making for Burning Man.

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Outside of the dining room, which has become the craft explosion area, the house is clean and prepped for tomorrow’s birthday party.  I’ve been dehydrating food like the apocalypse is next week and I need dry goods to last for months, if not years.  And my laundry has actually been finished and folded, with a good portion of it getting put into the Burning Man packing pile.  I really ought to go through and make sure I have what I need.  Silly dresses and funky belts are all well and good, but nothing if I don’t have clean socks and undies.

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I realize that we will be gone, camping in the desert, for 8 days with no access to anything should we forget something, and by that account, the pile being built here is fairly small.  I still feel like I’ve got far too much going on here and I need to remove some items.  The only things not included in the stack so far are kitchen goods (food, utensils, etc.), sleeping bags, and water.  Most of the camping gear, first aid kit, and clothing are packed – however disorderly at the moment.  That should give me hope.

I think I’ve switched on auto pilot with all of the things going on.  A well placed survival mechanism when my world starts going haywire.  I don’t stop to think, I barely talk to anyone and socialize anymore.  I’ve simply been jumping from one task to the next to the next, crossing things off the list, remembering new ones, working a little bit at a time toward completion.  But in doing so, I feel so alive!

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