was made evident in my wedding dress
made entirely from recycled materials:
white shopping bags for the dress,
translucent dry cleaner bags for the shawl,
pieces of white beach plastic on the trim of the skirt,
tiny swirls of pink plastic bags for roses on the tiara.
As a young girl, when images of love and marriage danced in my head, I dreamt of a handsome prince and a wedding in a towering cathedral, in a gown made of rare silks and beaded in pearls, a horse drawn jeweled carriage and festivities to entertain and delight the entire village.
I never in my wildest fantasy envisioned that, at age 54, I would marry a man like my loving companion, Richard Lang, at the towering steeple of The Temple of Stars, in a ceremony presided over by visionary artist, David Best. I never imagined that I would wed in a gown made entirely from recycled materials including hundreds of plastic shopping bags and beaded with bits of styrofoam detritus that I had found washed up on the beach or that I would arrive at the ceremony in a wedding chariot, an art car, festooned with pounds of white beach plastic and that there would be a gathering of friends, 35,000 kindred spirits, the celebrating revelers at Burning Man.
I can remember the evening David Best first suggested that Richard and I get married. We were looking over the plans for Trillium Press’ fund-raising print for The Temple of Honor, 2003. I remember my nay saying. In my independent youth, I resolved to never marry. Although I loved Richard, I was certainly not ready to commit. David insisted that marriage was the best. (No pun intended.) He could not recommend it more. He encouraged us to make our vows.
A year passed and while looking over plans for the 2004 print for The Temple of Stars, David again suggested that we get married. This time something opened inside of me. The thought of creating a magnificent ceremony of union at Burning Man captured my imagination and David’s offer of a wedding in the temple was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I began to knit a train, a shawl that was to become the fluttering piéce de résistance of my wedding ensemble. For months, I cut plastic bags into strips and then gathered them on to long coiled wires to shape the flounce belled skirt. The handiwork activity became my obsession. I was not only knitting a wedding fancy but also an ecological statement about the terrible fate of fish who mistakenly consume plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish. I was intent on making it dramatic.
Although I had many expectations about what might or might not happen on our wedding day, from bitter cold to hellaciuos hot or blistering winds, I had to let it all go. I had accepted the possibility of a catastrophe or no ceremony at all. What will be will be....but, the winds calmed...the sky rang a deep blue. It was meant to be that our marriage be sanctified.
Our magical wedding chariot, ”a feather on the breath of God,” transported us to the temple. We gathered our wedding party together: my bridesmaid, my entourage, Richard’s sons, friends, and members of our camp. After the final finishing carpentry touches were completed, David gave the “go ahead,” and we entered the sacred space of the temple. The men slowly proceeded from west; the women from the east.
As we ascended to the platform, I thought that I would vaporize into pure light. Standing before me was Richard, the man who would become my husband. He was so handsome in his black and white Indian kurta; his hair blessed with the alkaline dust, 70 million year old dust from Lake Lahontan, dust from the Pleistocene Ice Age. Noah and Eli, his two sons stood beside him.
Our vows were simple yet incredibly profound. David asked if I would help Richard with his work. David asked Richard if he would help me with mine. He asked Richard if he would bury me. He asked me if I would bury Richard. After that, David said, “That’s it. You’re married. Kiss the bride.” That’s it. That is all you really need. To work until you die and someone to help you with both.
When I held the toast of champagne to our well-wishers, I affirmed that my life was indeed larger. I had not only married a man. I had married a family and a community. I enjoined all of Burning Man into our community.
Now, back from the playa, returned to the day to day of my everyday reality, something really has changed. I never could have imagined that “married” would make such a difference. David was right...it is the best.
The photographs of our wedding chariot are by James Finneagan.
The photographs of the ceremony are by Robert Barbutti.