...or, that time when IAMU became a character in a new book about transformational life journeys.
Kara Khim (2013, 2014) has just published a new book, Discovering My Wings: From "Perfect" Wife to an Untethered Life, which chronicles her amazing journey from the collapse of her "perfect" marriage and life, to discovering and creating who she is, to the realization of her truest dreams. From the description:
"From suburban Virginia to wild Alaska, the desert at Burning Man to the lush Sacred Valley of Peru, Kara’s trip is a nonstop adventure and a deep dive into the depths of her soul. Kara’s journey isn’t just a cross-country road trip, it's a constant deconstruction and redefining of identity, from the perfect southern woman to a gritty, fierce, intuition-following adventurer."
Can confirm! What's more, Kara describes her time with IAMU (as a first time Burner who showed up for Build Week, no less) as a pivotal moment of realization that there was far more space and support in her life to become who she is. To protect the trouble-makers (and to editorially simplify a dizzying array of characters for the reader), the 'Ethan' character is a composite of Charles, Roman and Gabe Payton. 'Mirabelle' is a composite of Khady, Cici and Jen Goroff.
In the first BRC part of the book Kara shares some touching and remarkable memories in camp about discovering her path during a time of total uncertainty. What didn't make it into the book is how pivotal Kara was for us during existential uncertainty of our own, and our own discovery of who and what IAMU would become.
What comes around, goes around
In 2013 our advanced team was a day and a half ahead of schedule by Tuesday of build week(!) when we were suddenly hit by the worst storm in Burning Man's decades-long history. It was a 70+ mph hurricane in the desert that destroyed nearly everything in its path and sent several people throughout Playa to the hospital. For many of us it was the scariest and longest 20 minutes of our lives.
Literally everything IAMU members had pooled together over a year by way of plans, ideas, builds, tens of thousands of dollars worth of our shared resources had been laid waste in minutes. Happily, none of us had been harmed, which was nothing short of a miracle since anything that wasn't bolted to the ground had become a projectile. There was gear and equipment that we never found.
As the wind died down and we emerged from our shelters, containers and collapsed geodesic domes it was both a sobering moment of gratitude for our general physical wellbeing, and a realization of the complete decimation of our dreams and means to make good on them. No one knew what to do or think or feel as we surveyed the wasteland of our previously 'certain' progress. There was an odd, eerie quiet as the sun set and we started a fire and silently began pulling cooking and camp gear out of the rubble.
And then, a laugh pierced the darkening silence. And not just any laugh, but Kara's signature, completely, outrageously liberated laugh sounded like a bell throughout our site. It broke through all of our tension and made all of us laugh at the complete absurdity of EVERYTHING about our situation. Her laugh brought us back and grounded us in the realization that all this surreal wasteland and decimation was not the end, but rather this moment and space we had all arrived at together, safely, was a clearing, our clearing to create and transform everything forward. For the hell of it. Like we had anything better to do. That It's All Made Up anyway, no matter where you are, so we might as well make this up too.
Needless to say we took the evening to warm by the fire, break out some bottles and other things to take the edge off, and just be, together.
We started build week all over again on Wednesday morning and managed to complete the largest scaffold structure in our history (Matt Blakey's final Playa dream, no less) only a couple of days behind schedule. The main camp member contingent, who had heard (as the world had) about the horrific storm, showed up in full force ready to help the Advance Team round out the village build.
Since that year we have learned to secure everything early and often. More importantly, our experience with that devastating storm, and Kara's laugh that cleared us of our despair, would become a touchstone and reminder of our ability to make anything possible, from wherever we are. Thank you Kara, and we are honored and grateful to have been part of your journey!
Looking for an inspiring story or a great gift for someone wanting to shift their life?
Those of us who have read it love it. It is a fun and inspiring read and would be a great gift for anyone who might feel lost about taking a first, unlikely step towards a life more real and aligned to who they are.
And since we're on topic, 'Discovering My Wings' is not the first book about transformational experience and culture that IAMU played a part in creating.
Neil Shister (2013, 2014) has written a remarkable and highly regarded book, Radical Ritual: How Burning Man Changed the World (2019) about the cultural relevance of Burning Man as the world seeks new ways to come together and create collaboratively. IAMU (with a fair amount of supportive cajoling by the remarkable Cait Clark, Neil's wife) convinced him to go to Burning Man, which helped open up a whole new world to one our favorite worldly characters. And the rest is literally, and literarily, Burning Man history.
"Neil Shister's book skillfully traces the evolution of Burning Man and provides rare insights into how this cultural phenomenon is changing the world." —Michael Mikel, founding board member of the Burning Man Project