photo by masepack

photo by masepack

From hundreds of meters away you can see it. The temple that glows orange from its center. Its spires twisting and spiking into the night sky, against the brown and red mountains made dark with the loss of sun. The outline made possible by the fires that shoot up from the center of a giant plastic tubing, expertly installed. It spans several feet, and every few minutes flames will burst up and through.  You shiver and pull your coat tighter over you. You touch the inner plastic tubing, hoping to steal some warmth from the Fire of Fires.

The temple is packed at 3am. It pulls people in with a magnetism of quiet and solemnity, so different from the rest of the festival. The winds whip, the dust gets in your eyes.  People mill about, run in circles, go in and out, sit in meditation, rock back and forth with their hands in prayer, in mudras. A man dressed in a black top hat, mascara that extends from the corner of his eyes in branches, sits with his false-lash-draped eyes closed, his hands together in prayer, motionless. A woman with red hair and green eyes bows back and forth before a picture of a young woman.

img_3323The columns of the temple are made of flat panels of wood carved in latticed patterns, intricate as a church’s confession screen, decorated as stained glass windows, but instead of color, there is only light, negative space, and the pale yellow of the wood. Layers and layers of lattices, some carved out with open triangles, diamonds, stars. There are certain sections with open squares large enough to crawl through. In one, a young woman looks around through the carvings, fingering the patterns in the wood.

The whole structure vibrates with the passing winds that kick dust through the many openings in the wood. We travel up and down ladders, over stairs, across slanted ramps. A temporary shrine that will burn in silence on the final night. Sharpie markers are the main instruments of prayer here. Writing and drawings blanket the temple walls.

You wander up the stairs, dragging your palm along the wooden railing, reading the inscriptions along all surfaces of the temple. On the north side, in large letters: “Burn, burn, burn away fear and hesitation, that something new, a creative reawakening, may be borne of its destruction.”

img_3169You walk around, looking for an unclaimed expanse of wood. You find an open patch on the outer portion of the stairs, and bend over the balcony, your feet dangling in the air to reach it. You lean up against the railing of the temple. You have come here on the encouragement of others, and let yourself go in a way that would horrify the you-of-three-weeks-ago. But you don’t even know how to ask to keep this feeling. You start to write: “Help me to find my freedom in each and every day.” You hang suspended across the balcony, chewing the tip of the marker. You slide back down, abandoning your markings.

You walk up the spiraled stairs to the next floor. The evening is cold, and wind occasionally cuts through the barely covered temple. You walk back to the Temple’s center, waiting for each blast of fire. The warmth emanates out, and fights off your chill.

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