That Time Of Year

By Morgan Karpiel

For all those who have been trying to reach me, I apologize. I’m in the process of moving. You know how it goes. Pack boxes, shut off the internet, find all things missing behind the couch and, for the first time ever, clean the carpets. The worst thing is the boxes, all the stuff you have to bury in a little cardboard casket to collect dust for another few years, until you remember that maybe you’re missing something.

Packing boxes isn’t all bad, though. Today, for instance, I happened to find a feathered bikini and a green wig in the bottom of a wooden drawer. Now there’s a story. There’s a memory. When was the last time I wore those?

It was 2004. I was sitting on the playa at the Burning Man Festival, wincing into the white glare of sunlight, worrying that the bikini was too damn small. It was my first time at Burning Man and I was an attempting to do something wild, be someone different. After all, I had just survived a horrible divorce, the destruction of a comfortable life . . . What to do? All of the responsible choices I had made over the years seemed to have gotten me absolutely nowhere. I was now ready to be irresponsible.

And there is no better place to be irresponsible than Burning Man, a week-long hedonistic celebration of art and philosophy set on the flat plane of the Nevada Black Rock Desert. Once a year, over thirty thousand people gather in the heat to erect theme camps, sculptures, interactive exhibits and DJ stages. They wear costumes and ride bicycles. They laugh, sing, drink too much, beat drums and say spooky things like ‘welcome home’.

While this may sound slightly suspicious, from a responsible person’s point of view, it turns out that the Burning Man Festival was founded by a man who had just endured a nasty break with his partner. He threw a beach celebration to mark the end of that chapter in his life and he invited all of his friends. They burned the effigy of a man at the end to symbolize his release. Of course, the festival now includes so many artists, spiritual types and lost souls (like myself in 2004) that it no longer has just one meaning, but I think the feeling is the same when, on the last day, the effigy is burned. Change. The death of one self and the birth of another.

In 2004, I wore that bikini that was too small and I danced in it. I laughed at a naked man wearing a Santa hat, and was left awestruck by the sculpture of an enormous flower that glowed with neon petals under the moon. I cried about my divorce, a lot. I modeled in a costume fashion show. I ate something that tasted like a hamburger but probably wasn’t. I hollered at a DJ and took a lover who was beautiful but definitely not serious. I learned that belly dancers can get irritable and that strangers can love you instantly and that you can always get ice, even if you only have one dollar left. And when The Man burned, I learned that I had nothing to fear, that life would always be beautiful, no matter what chapter I’m on. So there it is, the story of the feathered bikini. Not surprisingly, it now rests in a new place of honor, ready to be worn at a moment’s notice. And for all those who haven't been, tickets are on sale.


  1. Hi Morgan:

    What a story! I'm glad you shared the tale behind that green feathered bikini! ;)

    I think moving house has a way of bringing up memories - both good and bad like so much dust that floats up from behind all those old boxes. As we lay the foundation for building new memories - where do we put our old ones? Why packed away in new boxes of course where they can whisper quietly to us when we least expect it.

    I predict many bright things in your future - you're a great writer and I know it'll only be a matter of time before the Gods of publishing know it too. ;)

    Take care sweetie.

  2. Morgan, your posts are always so profound - I eat them up like a starving woman.

    Thanks for sharing the photo of your green feathered bikini - now that's taking life into both hands! One of my poet blog friends has been a regular participant in the Burning Man Festival, and her photos have mesmerized me. It would be astounding to attend it some day.


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