The 2nd Annual Winter Retreat to the Black Rock Desert was an unforgettable experience for all of the Everywhen who attended. It was a journey of making family, bringing art, telling tall tales, leaving no trace and doing no harm that truly embodied the spirit of the Project.
As I embarked on what would grow into an 11-hour drive to Gerlach, I couldn't help but feel anticipation and excitement. The roads were treacherous with accidents everywhere, and the snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas was very high: the snow banks were at least two stacked school buses tall! The journey was long and grueling, taking 6 hours to get to Davis -- a drive that normally would take 1½ hours. But despite the delays, the beauty of the snow-covered mountains was a reminder of the majesty of the natural world and the power of the elements. Gazing at the snow's reflective beauty in the sea of the traffic's tail lights, I appreciated finding serenity in chaos. Besides, what's a pilgrimage to the Black Rock Desert without some sort of unexpected happenings?
Upon arrival at Bruno's Motel in Gerlach, I was greeted by Jadestone, one of the Everywhen Project's Operations Directors. She warmly welcomed me and we spent time decompressing and talking about her spiritual journey through art and her quest for finding community, which led her to the Everywhen Project. Her warmth and hospitality, accompanied by burning incense and delicious meatloaf, made me feel right at home.
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Saturday began with a trickle of voyagers to the Everywhen coming into the common room and catching up with each other. For some, it was the first time meeting, but it felt like we had known each other for a long time. We walked over to Bruno's for coffee and brunch, and then met with the Stewards of Black Rock to do roadside leave-no-trace (trash cleanup) in Gerlach. The small unincorporated community now has six trash bags less of roadside litter to worry about. The feeling of giving back to that community and taking care of the environment was truly fulfilling.
We got into our cars and followed each other to the playa. The playa weather was in lower 20s, windy, and very cold. But, the winter air did not dampen our spirits! Parking and hopping out, we set up the Temple in a river of snow, and placed one of our Electric Universe fire pits in front of the Temple. We have two, and I love them. Made by Walter Alter of the Thunderbolts Project, the fire pits are upcycled oil drums adorned by petroglyphs and originally created for Everywhen's "Temple of Everywhen" art project for Burning Man 2020.
Seeing cars parked at the playa, Just Joe, the manager of Fly Ranch, stopped by and introduced himself. After a bit of teasing for being "betrayers" of Burning Man, he invited the Everywhen to walk the Fly Ranch Labyrinth the following day. The feeling of camaraderie and community was truly inspiring, and we thanked him for the invitation.
As sunset approached, Jadestone painted the faces of those who joined us at our gathering, blessed the Temple site, and oversaw a ceremony to bring in the new Lunar Year and to set intentions for Constellation City 2023. The ritual was beautiful, taking place under a new moon and an endless star field from horizon to horizon. The stars sparkled brilliantly above this moment of the Everywhen, the snow-covered playa and the bamboo Temple. I was awestruck!
I held a torch in my hand and joined the others in lighting the torches in the fire. The petroglyphs carvings on the fire pit danced as the flames flickered, and I was momentarily captivated by their glow.
We held the torches above our heads, and began a meditative walk around the Temple site. The wind blew fiercely on the torch's flames, creating a roaring sound as the fireballs grew with intensity. I found it very difficult to hear others! Jadestone encouraged us to release our worries and fears, doubts and regrets, and anything that was holding us back. These ceremonial fires would consume it all, leaving us free to start anew in the Lunar New Year.
The jovial festivities that followed the ceremony at the 8 Mile Temple were a true highlight of the weekend. We sat down to a delicious steak dinner at Bruno's, surrounded by the Everywhen community. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the connections we were building. For some of us, this was the first time we had met in person, and yet, there was a sense of family that transcended any distance or time.
As we laughed and shared stories over dinner, I reflected on the personal growth and spiritual journey that had brought each and every one of us to the Everywhen Project. For some, it was a quest for community and belonging. For others, it was a desire to connect with the natural world in a deeper, more meaningful way. And for still others, it was a yearning to tap into their own creativity and sense of purpose.
But despite our different reasons for being there, we were all united by a shared desire to celebrate the Lunar New Year in a way that was authentic, meaningful, and truly transformative. And as we raised our glasses in a toast to the new year, I felt a deep sense of hope and excitement for what was to come.
After dinner, we made our way to the Miner's Club, followed by Joe's Bar, where we hung out and played pool into the late hours of the night. It was there that I realized just how much the Everywhen Project had already grown and evolved since its inception just a few short years ago. We were no longer just a group of individuals drawn together by a shared passion for the Black Rock Desert. We were a community, united by a shared vision and a shared sense of purpose.
As the night came to a close and the festivities started to wind down, many of us retreated to our rooms at Bruno's Motel, feeling exhausted yet fulfilled from the day's events. We had accomplished so much, from cleaning up the roadside in Gerlach to setting up the Temple site and conducting the ceremony to bring in the new Lunar Year and set intentions for Constellation City 2023.
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Sunday morning began with a slow start, as we attempted to make pancakes on an induction oven, which unfortunately proved to be a failed endeavor. Instead, we decided to head over to Bruno's for breakfast. As we sat together and enjoyed our meal, we reflected on the previous day's events. "It was very cold last night," I remarked. "But what a beautiful ceremony it was."
Indeed, it was chilly ceremony, but the warmth of the community and the memories we made together made it all worth it.
After breakfast, we returned to the 8-mile entrance to the Black Rock Desert Playa to begin the process of leave no trace and teardown from the ceremony. I did a quick livestream for our Facebook audience, and then we took a group photo before packing the Temple. It was a time for reflection and gratitude as we cleaned up the site and said goodbye to the Temple. But our journey was far from over. We had one more stop before we left the desert behind: the Fly Ranch Labyrinth.
I was filled with anticipation; I've met and worked with several other Burning Man founders, but this would be my first time meeting Crimson and Will. We pulled up to the Fly Ranch gate, taking in the view. And right then, cars pulled up: Just Joe, Crimson Rose, and Will Roger! We followed them to the Labyrinth, and Just Joe introduced our team to the Burning Man Founders:
"Will, Crimson: this is Everywhen," said Joe. "Welcome!" said Will.
Located on the Fly Ranch property, the Labyrinth was surrounded by the beautiful snow-covered mountains of the high Nevadan desert. It is a winding path of stones, crystals and sea shells that leads to a central large crystal, where visitors can sit and contemplate. The history of the labyrinth dates back to ancient times, where they were used as a symbol of the journey to self-knowledge and spiritual enlightenment. The Fly Ranch Labyrinth was built to continue this tradition, providing a place for visitors to connect with nature, themselves, and the greater universe.
One of the most remarkable moments of the day happened for me, when Will Roger and I stopped for a moment while walking the labyrinth. He referred to the Seplaya get-togethers on playa over 2020-2021 as the “Pandemic Burns.” His eyes sparkled as he recalled this memory, calling it an authentic experience. He thanked me for organizing the 2020 event, patted my shoulder, and continued through the labyrinth.
As we walked the labyrinth, I reflected on my personal growth and spiritual journey through the years building the Everywhen Project. For me, this retreat was not just about celebrating the people of the Everywhen, but about finding a deeper connection to myself and to the community. The Project is about creating a unique and meaningful experience and to inspire all it touches.
After finishing our meditative ritual, the Everywhen entourage had a special moment with the two Burning Man founders. Together, we stood in a circle, reflecting on the fierce wind and cold of the day and feeling grateful to be in each other's company to walk the labyrinth on the Lunar New Year. It was a memorable experience.
After all, that's what the Everywhen is: At any or all times; every instant. Of all times, collectively. This was certainly one of those times.
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Some of us stayed in Reno that evening. I went to the Z-Bar, to check out that site ahead of our Mother’s Day fundraiser event, and then went to a local Burner’s get-together where I ran into a few people from a few of Constellation City’s camps. It is a small world, and it reminded me of the interconnectedness that we share in the Everywhen. Great things happen when we come together with purpose.
Now, there are a few who may say that the Everywhen Project is just a copy of Burning Man, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The Project is its own unique community, with its own values and traditions. It's a group of people who are searching for something deeper, something more meaningful. It's a spiritual journey, a quest to find meaning in the world. Our ethos is evolving as we grow, and in 2023, it is this: Make Family, Bring Art, Tell Tall Tales, Leave No Trace and Do No Harm.
As we enter the New Year, join us on a journey of self-discovery and growth. Come experience the wonder of the Everywhen, whether you're a first-time attendee or returning back. We are pushing boundaries and helping each other forge unique spiritual paths that will change the way we each see the world and ourselves. Don't miss out on Constellation City, June 29 through July 5, 2023 at the Black Rock Desert!