5.7
July 27, 2015

Sunday Morning at The Temple of Grace: The Children of Burning Man.

Zipporah Lomax

The sky was vibrant orange.

I made my way across the open playa, pedaling towards that most sacred of places—the spiritual heart of Black Rock City.

Like a bell resting gently, the Temple of Grace rose in silhouette next to the blazing red orb of the rising sun.

A gentle stillness blanketed the space as I entered—a soft murmur of subtle shuffling, whispered prayers and tears of release—the delicate quietude of reverence.

The altar before me overflowed with layer upon layer of dusty offerings: carefully chosen words scrawled upon wood and paper, cherished possessions and meaningful trinkets, photos of loved ones tucked into every place between, coated in dust, corners curling in the wind. The prayers of thousands joined as one—ready to be unbound in a rush of air and flame.

Zipporah Lomax

There is a certain comfort in such mutual vulnerability, a surprising safety in the company of so many who’ve gathered for varied reasons: to honor and release, reclaim and let go, remember and rebuild. The space takes on the energy of the collective, morphing between sentiments.

At times sorrowful and heavy. At times light and graceful.

I sat in humble silence respectfully observing those around me, aware of a somber sort of heaviness—a thread of melancholy weaving its way between us—some piece of which we all held. It was our final hour to find peace, to scrawl our last words onto any receptive empty surface, to shed weighty tears and say our last goodbyes before that evening’s fire.

A discernible shift rippled through the space around me.

The air, suddenly less dense, felt brighter somehow—as though some tiny sun had risen again to warm us—like a balm, softly applied to our unified grief.

Intuitively, I turned to see the cause.

There, wrapped in orange silk, was a tiny blonde infant. Held safely in her mother’s arms, her deep blue eyes were calmly alert, taking it all in.

Zipporah Lomax

Immediately drawn to her serenity, I moved closer, kneeled beside her and introduced myself.

I watched in awe as Burners took note of little Astara. Her mother, Maura, graciously welcomed all who approached admiringly and Astara received them—patiently meeting their eyes and occasionally reaching out to touch them. These people were clearly moved. Some to the point of tears.

Zipporah Lomax

This precious little being had such an impact on everyone lucky enough to be there that Sunday morning. Her pure presence lifted our collective spirit and helped us exhale and let go of all we’d come there to absolve.

There was a dreamlike quality and a peripheral sense of disbelief in a child so small being there at all. Yet, to little Astara it seemed like the most natural environment. She was so at ease there in the dust, surrounded by hushed and adoring strangers.

Zipporah Lomax

It is encounters such as this that I aim to honor with my upcoming book, Dusty PlayGround. It is a visual tribute to the tiny, magical ones like Astara—the Littlest Burners who are such genuine gifts on the playa.

As a veteran Burner of 15 years, Dusty PlayGround is my testament to the softer side of this infamous event—gentle affirmation that it is so much more than a just once yearly gathering. The children are evidence of its cultural depth, demonstrating the generational diversity that makes Black Rock City a true community.

With this early exposure to the revolutionary principles upon which Burning Man is based—radical self-reliance, self-expression and inclusion, gifting and decommodification, civic responsibility and communal effort, participation and immediacy, leaving no trace—imagine what kind of future these kids might someday create.

Theirs is a world I hope to grow old in.

 

Relephant: 

A Pictorial Journey to Burning Man. {Nudity}

 

Author: Zipporah Lomax

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Images: Author’s own

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Ryan Jul 30, 2015 12:45am

This is the reality of Burning Man. Not just a festival in the desert, not a drugged out hippy cult gathering, not a rave party, but a beautiful expression of humanity, diversity, creativity, and culture. Thanks! We need more voices to spread the subtleties of the experience that is Burning Man.

Tobin Jul 29, 2015 1:52am

Beautiful, Zippy. To be in the presence of such new, raw life is to see more clearly the energy of the divine…this is the power of babies to capture our hearts, our mind, our spirits, our love. I am here at the Mystery School of Love in the Netherlands now and have been captivated by the tiny souls here as well as I miss my own precious children. Thank you for your gifts, your document of pictures and reflection of words.

marta Jul 28, 2015 1:45pm

What a wonderful article and PHOTOGRAPHY! Even if Burning Man doesn’t resonate with you, the value of this project is undeniable. it’s hard to not appreciate Zipporah’s talent both for words and capturing raw beauty around her. I can’t wait for this book to come alive !

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Zipporah Lomax

Zipporah Lomax has been a professional freelance photographer since 2007, specializing in Festival Photography since 2012. As the fifth of six kids and an auntie to eight, Zippy—as most people call her—has a marked affinity for children. That, combined with her sensitivity for quiet subtlety, has made her a festival favorite, known for her ability to see moments from an uncommonly intimate perspective. Zipporah is currently raising funds to bring her photobook, Dusty PlayGround, to life. You can help make it happen! Please visit her Kickstarter campaign before August 3rd to learn more and consider backing this project. For the Littlest Burners and their amazing parents.