June 21, 2017

A reason, a season, a lifetime, and the gift economy

Reason, Season, Lifetime. Anonymous

I met a man recently. No, not like that. Well, actually a little like that. Exactly like that. And this beautiful poem that first moved me years ago came to mind. Actually, it’s been on my mind for a while now. 
It’s coming up on single digits. The days till its been one year since Rupert died. He was both a reason and a season in my life. I think the two are similar, most are both and some are just one. He taught me so much about love and self worth. He raised the bar. And then instead of the future we were planning together, he died. 

The man I met earlier this week was a reason. We spent 15 hours together. We peeled back a few layers. There’s so many more that never will be. There’s no season for us, just the reason. 

He was stunning. Tall, lanky, strong face, charming smile, and twinkly dark grey-green eyes. A great conversationalist and a great listener. With a French accent and name to boot. 

I was the first person he’s ever met who’s been to Burning Man, which seems amazing for a world traveler from Montreal. But there it is. And he wanted to learn from me. I became his link to this thing, this event he’d heard of that he doesn’t know how to get to. “Just buy a ticket and get on a plane,” I told him. He replied with a big, sexy grin and repeated my words. 

I told him how I found Burning Man. “My undergrad is in photography, and I was a color darkroom printer.” 

“Useful job now,” he teased. 

“Ha! Yes, true. It was October 1994, and I was in San Francisco at a color darkroom rental facility. I’d moved from New York City nine months earlier.”

“That’s enough time for gestation,” he pointed out. I thought that was an interesting perspective and told him so. 

“A woman also using the darkrooms printed a picture of a man covered in mud on a giant desert. I introduced myself and said I would like her to take me to the next one. She laughed and the following August, 1995, she took me to my first Burning Man. I turned 25 at the event, and stayed an extra four days to help clean up because I couldn’t leave. I was home.”

I explained how hard it was to find your camp before there were roads, with 2,499 other people camped together and burning a beautiful wooden man at the end of the week. I described Pepe’s linghams and operas, and laughed while I described the embarrassing way I learned the meaning of the word lingham. We watched a video of the Temple of Wholyness burn over cocktails, and I described the somber quiet of that burn as compared to the frenzy of Burn Night. 

He listened to all if it, absorbing it, asking a question here and there. It was when I started talking about the gift economy that he stopped me. He had never heard of the concept and needed it explained. He needed examples. He really wanted to understand this aspect of the event. Of all the aspects of Burning Man that I described, it blew me away that what he latched on to was the gift economy. Later, because I wanted to gift him and because it felt like a great way to demonstrate he gift economy, I gifted him a key fob made by my dear friend Beveler. 


This man passing through town, dropping in to my life for a moment, gave me the opportunity to give a tremendous gift. I was able to teach someone who travels the world about the gift economy. In all his worldly travels, this was his first experience with it. Before this, he knew how to barter and buy. I am so grateful for the experience. I am so grateful that I was shown what a unique city I live in for a short time each year, but that I’ve been able to carry the economy of Black Rock City with me every day since I turned 25. 

Later that day, I saw my friend John Halcyon in a video he had made about the gift economy, and how important it is to avoid paying for labor at Burning Man. If you have to pay for it, scale it back, he said. An important message for all of us to remember. Because as I was shown earlier this week, the gift economy is a treasure worth fighting for. 

I love watching life for its lessons. It’s a hard place to live, this human existence in  21st century America. If you watch for it, though, the magic is there. The connections, the lessons, the synchronicity, the gifts. 

Who in your life is a reason, a season, or a lifetime?

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