Laid over in South Lake running errands and eating.
You don’t notice the sun at first. It wears on you by degrees. When you’re green you feel it as premature fatigue, but once you’re hardened you don’t feel it for a long time. It starts as an uneasiness late in the day. A restlessness or a sort of hurried feeling. Then you feel frazzled or scatterbrained. If all of this hits you at once you feel like you’re being physically shaken. Your vision vibrates and it is almost funny until your stomach feels queasy. But there’s nothing to implicate the sun. Your skin feels fine, and you can’t see yourself. Then you wake in the night. Confusion. First you dream of long hours, searing skin in hot sun, then wake to find yourself in the cold darkness. Contradiction. You touch your neck and feel that the burn is real. Then the crown of your head. Through thick hair your scalp itches but then recoils from the touch in an acute ache. All the while guilt for having not been more careful with such a wonderful body slowly settles in and, humbled, you pass slowly back into slumber with the quiet resolution not to do it again.
Oh my god, I just picked up my mail from the South Lake post office and I am so touched. The muffins were moldy, so was the jerky, the banana bread too. Another box was filled with Japanese junk food, and then there was a letter and a patch, and for all of it, every lightly scrawled character, every molded sugar morsel I am unbelievably thankful. I say can’t explain how great it feels to be thought of. I want to call each person and I know I’d probably just ramble on about the million ways that their gift will affect my hike but I want to thank them personally.
“Thank you, Phoenix, for the otherworldly snacks! I promise to spread them out over the course of the next three days and not to eat them all at once.”
“Thank you, mom, for the massive wad of beef jerky! It is sure to last a LONG time.”
“Thank you, sister, for the delicious and fresh muffins! The figs are amazing too! In fact, they’re my favorite ;-)”
“Wilson! I saved you for last because your gift most touched my heart. The gift you sent, you see, is something I’ve desired since I departed Burning Man. I’d received one, once before, 2012 I think it was, a little different – it had a spaceship on it. But, because I hike a lot, of all the trinkets that are given away at Burning Man, a patch that I can put on my pack is my favorite way to remember each burn, but nobody gave me one this year. Thank you.”