Night in the deep desert. 3 am, hour of the wolf. Thousands of us, all lit up like neon fireflies. Ashes and dust and music in the air. Pulsating beats of a million drums, speakers, and bass machines. A whirlwind of paths, narrowly avoiding each other on near-collision courses, never really crossing.
I’ve left my friends and veered off from the path back to camp, westward, into the darkness. I’m on foot, tired but intent on walking. Can’t ride a bike on a spiritual quest — that’s cheating.
I’m on a search for a moving target, a needle in the dark haystack. Repeated cautions about great distances and how a bike is my only chance only spur me on. Stubbornness may not be a virtue but it does start off all the best stories.
My fighting windmill, my Moby Dick is out there, one of the faraway shimmering lights, somewhere off on the playa. I’ve heard stories but haven’t seen it up close, so to make matters more complicated, I’m not exactly sure what this thing I’m trying to find actually looks like. I press on.
As the hours go by, I pass by all forms of our impromptu city’s life on my journey. I walk by bright clusters of opulent excess, by small ragged camps, by strangers wandering off in big and little groups on roads not previously taken. I stop to marvel at the hedonism and the joy and the abandon. I jump in sync with the crowds at a rave. A man covered in blinking lights pulls up and invites me to stop and lie down in the dust with him. I thank him but keep walking and he follows me on his bike for a while in silence. Eventually, he gives up and rides off, back to the center camp.
I am exhausted now, so I stop and take stock. There is nothing closeby resembling my target. Off in the distance, far beyond the edges of the furthest-most borders of the camps, there is a tiny pulsating pink light. It looks like that could be it, so I try to estimate its exact location — the night and the flat landscape with no reference points make it really difficult. It could be an hour away on foot or it could be three. I’ve never walked that far before, and there’s not enough water in my bag to make it there and back. Water in the desert decides all things. It’s about the journey, I tell myself as I reluctantly turn back towards camp, not about the destination.
I think as I walk back, about the desert, about the nomadic tribes of old, and about the ancestral wisdom and the legacy they’ve left for us, hidden in our genetic code, ready to spring to life at just the right moment.
I pass by a couple in a little makeshift nest of furs and bikes, clutching hands and each other. The guy says, “….you were my missing piece!” and they fall into a long, breathless kiss.
It occurs to me then and there that I have been wrong all those years, searching for the same thing — for someone to be that missing piece of my own. It’s a mistake to form a single whole with an incomplete person, fitting their jagged selves sideways against the edges of me, trying to fit into each other like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, biting and breaking off bits of ourselves to make the attachment stick.
But I don’t have a missing piece. My edges are solid. I am the full circle, the light and the dark, the masculine and the feminine, the strong and the vulnerable, the rational and the creative, the yin and the yang. What I should have been seeking are others like me, other full circles, strong and vulnerable, light and dark, complete and whole.
Energized by the thought, I veer off course once again and head for the music I hear to the side. There is a small crowd gathering and I follow along. The music is louder now and I dance as I walk, stepping in rhythm with the bass, skipping as I get closer. I approach the sound car from the back, and as I make my way around to the front, I see it — the giant pulsating red heart. This is what I was looking for when I set off on foot all those hours ago, not that glimmering light far off in the distance. I am exactly where I needed to be.
Previously: Memories of Earth : 2002 – 2013