As the playa dust leaves our clothes- but never our hearts- we wanted to thank you all for your service this last year! It was an eventful year and we experienced some profound and memorable things so we wanted to take a moment to thank you for being a part of our community!
Important Dates and Announcements
August 26 – Sept 3, 2018: Burning Man 2018
Next Year’s Theme: I,Robot.
You can read more about this year’s theme here: https://journal.burningman.org/2017/10/philosophical-center/the-theme/i-robot/
The man burns in 267 days!
As the nature of the event and our community changes, so too does the needs of the volunteers and the leadership and support teams that aid them in their effort to hold the Temple space.
Thank you, Green Eyes! For the past 3 years, Green Eyes has graciously served on the Temple Guardians leadership team as your Volunteer Coordinator. The Volunteer Coordinator assists in welcoming new Guardians, setting the schedule, making sure that it gets filled, and does the reconciliation of shift data after the event.. As this role has grown, we will be replacing our single VC with a team to split up the responsibilities and share the load. The design of the new approach is underway and we look forward to sharing it with you soon. We will announce additional members as this team shapes up, but we want to thank Tonya for her years of service to the Temple Guardians community!
Another volunteer critical to our success and evolution as a team has been Farmer, although you might not even know it! For the last two years he has served a role that is as critical as much as it is behind the scenes: making sure that the on-playa sign-ons are correct, that we are using the correct set of Guardian communication lists, etc. We are happy to report that we are now formalizing his role as our “data czar” within the volunteer coordination team as he helps us to sort and maintain the data that helps keep this train on the tracks.
Ranger Cherub, who has served as our Operations Manager for the past two years is stepping up to help fill the growing role of Temple Guardians manager, working with Carousel as a peer co-manager this year. As co-managers, they will jointly oversee the workings of the year round team as well as sharing operational responsibility on playa.
Bonanza, who has been steadily taking on more responsibility from her multiple roles is stepping up in to the role of primary Volunteer Coordinator.
Reflecting on the 2017 Event
For Temple Guardians, Burning Man 2017 was a milestone event in which our team went above and beyond expectations in the face of a series of challenges. We spoke with Temple Guardians manager Carousel about the year and how his team responded:
TG: Most Burners are aware of the tragic event on the night of the Man burn, but can you tell us more about its effect on Temple Guardians and the Temple burn?
Carousel: Operationally, our biggest concern was to just make sure that the Temple burn was going to be allowed to happen. There were some serious doubts that the BLM had about our ability to keep the perimeter safe, and there were a lot of issues to manage. Even with the full force of every department involved working hard to make things happen, we didn’t have approval to go ahead until 4:30pm on Sunday, cutting it really close. Changes continued right up to the ignition, so the command team was managing details right up until the very end.
Of course we were also quite concerned with the emotional impact both on the community and specifically on the Guardians. Emergency Services has a number of teams under MHB (the Mental Health Branch), and the entire Crisis Intervention Team was immediately activated after the incident on Saturday night. CIT counselors were available 24 hours a day at the larger med stations until after the event was closed.
TG: Was there any impact on our ability to meet our Temple responsibilities?
Carousel: In some ways it actually had the opposite effect. While there were a few Guardians who were not in a good place emotionally to hold space at the Temple, some of our most skilled and experienced Guardians added themselves to shifts just when they were needed most.
TG: What about the impact on the Temple burn itself?
Carousel: For the most part we worked as if the Temple burn would occur and we took actions commensurate with our faith in the process. Our turnout rate was excellent, 103 Guardians worked the Temple burn this year, joined by just over 100 Black Rock Rangers. In a show of the immense importance of this burn to the entire community, six hundred additional staff members from every single department on playa joined us to create a perimeter of just over 800 volunteers.
TG: So, did all of those changes put additional pressures on the team?
Carousel: Absolutely. We deployed more resources earlier in the day than ever this year and the additional degree of hot weather this year was a real strain on all of us. Fortunately the heroes from Center Camp Café were angels on our shoulders this year and put in a helping hand to make sure that we covered everyone. This was a big effort to just keep everyone hydrated with Guardians, Café, the DPW fluffers, and Rangers Echelon all taking turns.
We also put pressure on ourselves on the perimeter. At training Guardians always hear me say that we aren’t just protecting this Temple, that the work that we do as Guardians on Sunday protects all of the Temples extending out into the future. I can’t see anything that could replace the release and completion of the Temple experience, so I always emphasize that our work protects the community’s ability to have the tradition of this ritual continue.
TG: Other than the uptick in security around the burn, were there other issues this year?
Carousel: We saw a lot of the same type of issues that we see in any year. This Temple was a bit more of a problem for climbing than some others have been, but our team managed each problem with professionalism and love.
TG: So, it turned out to be an eventful year for the Temple Guardians.
Carousel: In many ways, it was not unusual. We always experience a lot of emotional reactions at the Temple, and Guardians are trained to handle those situations. The temptation to climb was a bit higher with this particular structure, so that added to our concerns. But I would have considered this year normal if not for the tragic death at the Man burn. That event set in motion an uptick in wariness on our part, and put the focus of law enforcement and the entire Burner community on the safety of the Temple burn. Fortunately, we were up to the challenge.
TG: Any changes for next year as a result of the events of 2017.
Carousel: We are conducting very extensive and detailed reviews of operations this year both internally and with other departments that we interact with. There will likely be some changes next year, but we are still in the beginning of this process.
NAME: Vic Webb
PLAYA NAME: Vic
YEARS AT BURNING MAN: 7
YEARS AS A TEMPLE GUARDIAN/VOICE: 6
WHAT IS A FAVORITE TEMPLE MEMORY OF YOURS?
Favorite memory is the one that keeps me coming back year after year. In February 2011, I lost my mom to an aggressive form of leukemia. I lived in Colorado, she in Florida. Because of finances and work schedules, I wasn’t able to make to her funeral. Not being able to make her funeral still stings to this day.
2011 was my first burn and I found it emotionally hard to approach the temple. I was afraid to finally say goodbye. On Thursday night, some friends and I went to a music show on the opposite side of the city and we got separated from each other. It’s Burning Man, it happens…
I had snacks, water, warm clothing, etc, and decided to venture into deep playa alone. I wanted to look at the stars, check out some art. A few hours later, I was standing at the threshold of the Temple of Transition. I wandered around a bit, looking for a good place to write what I wanted to say. Reading notes and stories of others’ loss overwhelmed me a bit and I was pulling my hat lower and scarf higher to hide the tears.
A woman approached, asking if I had a marker so she could write her offering. I did, in fact, have a pocket full of markers (I’d been saving them all week, never knowing when I might get the courage up) and let her take a color of her choice. Her eyes were red and glassy, evidence of her recent tears. I suppose she could see my eyes were in the same shape and asked if she could hug me. I agreed and we embraced. Just a simple, genuine hug between strangers on similar paths. It probably lasted a minute, maybe two at most, but made such a profound impact on how I viewed my experience at the temple. That hug let me know I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t the only one wrestling with my emotions, my demons. It grounded me for just a minute, allowed me to get my thoughts together, and go write what I wanted to say to my mother. Turns out, my message wasn’t so much “Goodbye” as it was “I won’t forget you. I will return”.
On the night of the temple burn, I was among the mourners present. As the structure burned, I gained a bit of closure, but my promise was reinforced, that I would be back to say more. The wall I wrote on was the last bit of structure to fall before the perimeter was lifted.
That hug was like no other. Just pure love, pure acceptance of where we were at, and just the most touching moment I think I’ve ever experienced in my life. With a complete stranger no less. This feeling of raw emotion, of inclusion, is what keeps me coming back as a participant. Having the privilege of maintaining a space where others may share their own experiences is what keeps me volunteering with the Temple Guardians.
So yeah, short story long, my favorite temple memory is a hug with a stranger from 2011.
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