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When I was Melody’s age, my mom and I lived in Santa Fe New Mexico. Santa Fe was a pretty cool place. There were lots of artists and hippies like there were on Maui. I went to a Montessori school where I learned to write my name and they had a room for kid timeouts with rag dolls and pillows where you could go ape shit and get out whatever was making you misbehave.

We didn’t stay long, returning to Maui after my Mom broke up with the guy we were living with. But before we left we got to see a 40′ tall marionette burn while waving his hand in the air. It was mind blowing for a little girl like me, but I totally got it. My whole life I have kept the postcard we bought that day. Here is what it says on the back.

“In 1926, Will Shuster, renowned painter and beloved Santa Fean, created Zozobra, the 40′ puppet symbolizing “Old Man Gloom.” The figure is burned, accompanied by a huge fireworks display and traditional fire dance, all of which is to dispel gloom and create an atmosphere of joy for a true fiesta. Each year the building and staging of Zozobra is undertaken by the Santa Fe Downtown Kiwanis Club who uses the proceeds to subsidize needy and deserving college students who could not otherwise attend college without some financial aid and also places needy children in orthodontic treatment with these proceeds.”

A few years later, in 1986, Burningman was started on a beach in San Francisco with an 8′ tall crude wooden effigy, and grew to it’s current 40′ height two years later, and finally becoming an official festival in 1991 (giving no credit whatsoever to Shuster and his Zozobra). I went to Burningman in 2006, I had an amazing time at the event, but after 5 days of partying in the desert, the actual burn was a little bit anticlimactic.

Today in Santa Fe more than 50,000 people go to watch Zozobra burn, who now stands 50′ tall. His burning marks the start of three days of celebration, much shorter and probably a lot tamer than the same amount of people kick up over seven days in Black Rock City. However I found a recent video of Zozobra that puts the actual burning of of anything at Burningman to shame.

I loved both events for the same reason. I love the meditative and cleansing power of fire. It’s warmth is soothing and I the dancing flames are entrancing. Fire has so much life, power and energy. It’s nature’s way of cleansing out old rotten wood and setting the stage for new life to begin. When the community comes together to create something, sets it aflame, and gathers around the fire and no one really has to speak to feel connected. It is my zen. Good thing my new place came with a wood-burning stove!

This post was inspired by:
Prompt #21 (Nov 23) from lamiki.com

Zen. Some people get it at 6am on weekdays in the back of a hot yoga class. Some people get it while vacuuming their house. What is your zen?

2 thoughts on “Two Big Burns

  1. Pingback: lamiki » Blog Archive » Writing Prompt: Zen

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