THE LAST BLUE MOON was Aug 31, 2012. A friend and shamanic practitioner sent me the words of his teacher, which I read just before heading into my fourth Burning Man that year.
“This event occurs approximately every 3 years when there are two Full Moons in the same month. The second Full Moon of the month is what we refer to as a Blue Moon. We’ve always celebrated the Blue Moon with a ceremony; which is about crossing two of the sixteen gates; which lead to the Dream Time realms: One outer gate and one inner gate. Depending on the gates we cross, our experience is meant to decide our journey for the next 3 years until the next Blue Moon.”
I remember that night vividly. I camped with Synesthesia, a large group of Vancouver Burners, including the mysterious and alluring AppleCat. Earlier that summer, I had listened to her downtempo mix; caught by the mysterious alchemy of…something. I couldn’t name what was woven into her songline.
Upon arrival I immediately wandered to find her. “Excuse me, do you know where AppleCat is?” I asked numerous apocalyptic campers (many whom have since become friends). Eventually I found her, lying in a heap, a bag of ice in her crotch and a bottle of tequila in her hand.
“Hello, I’m Ian.” I said.
She looked at me curiously, before taking another swig. “Who?” she asked.
I felt like I had presented myself before the Queen of Burning Man (purely my own projection), and had only one opportunity before being cast back to the common folk.
“Ian… MacKenzie. The filmmaker.”
“Oh!” she remarked. “Yes, I know you.” I soon learned the tequila, along with a healthy dose of codeine, was for her abscessed tooth. The ice was to cool her down. We traded further pleasantries until I asked when she was playing her set.
“Thursday night, 7 o’ clock.”
I vowed to attend and bid her goodbye, convinced the chance to see AppleCat live was worth the trip to Burning Man alone.
In truth, I was conflicted about that year. The three burns prior had been the perfect trifecta, ending with 2011’s Rites of Passage along with the Temple of Transition. Returning in 2012 felt somehow indulgent. But I came anyway.
Thursday night. I sat on a camper roof with my best friend, gazing at the purple playa sky that is a magic only Burners know. The blue moon rose quietly, amid the thrum of distant bass and feral art cars.
I reflected: “Depending on the gates we cross, our experience is meant to decide our journey for the next 3 years until the next Blue Moon.”
At 7pm, I gathered our group with the promise of seeing AppleCat’s performance. We headed to the Synesthesia dome, expecting the music to already be emanating. Instead, an ominous silence. Another crowd had gathered outside around the generator, which had ceased operation. A spied AppleCat and wandered over.
“It’s fucked,” she said, not looking at me, clearly heartbroken. They say the playa provides, until it doesn’t. And maybe that’s the lesson.
I returned to my group and reported the bad news. We headed into the wild night, while the dust whipped at our heels. What followed was a whirlwind of moments too precious, too beautiful, and perhaps too transient to remember – because I don’t recall them. Instead, I remember the long walk back to camp at 3am, alone, my kin long-since departed for bed or their own journeys.
As I approached the dome, a question came unbidden. “I wonder if AppleCat is playing?” I let myself cradle the possibility, certain it would never actually happen. She had likely fled camp to salvage the night for herself and her friends – after all, this was Burning Man. No shortage of possibilities.
I turned the corner and there she was. Performing.
I approached the modest crowd, soaking up the impossible. I watched her swoop to the bass, flowing like incense, weaving like a viper. Then she would shift, focusing intently on her laptop, tapping the keys, syncing with her headphones – calling the next track into life.
This was her songline: a delicate salve for every broken being aching to find meaning in chaos. An embrace for the young girl that had to grow up too soon to protect the ones she loved. A manifesto for the more beautiful world she knew humans were capable of creating.
And a love letter to the one she never thought she’d find: a cosmic partner for the mythic stillness of the great grey inbetween. She had met this one before, spiralling through many lifetimes. Sometimes they were enemies. Sometimes they were kin. But in this one, they might be lovers.
That night of the blue moon, I heard all that and more. And without her noticing my presence, I left the dome. We did not see each other the rest of the burn, or even in the months afterward. We had our own trajectories to fulfill, our own karmas to face. She was engaged to another and I was married five years, though in both of our relationships, the cracks were beginning to show.
I had a life in the suburbs of Vancouver, complete with a garden, a dog, and a bathroom with two sinks. (Never did use that second one). The following six months were awash in the carnage of heartbreak. Perhaps both our partners sensed what was to come, as each responded in their own ways. Mine fled to the arms of another.
Now, three years on, the blue moon has returned. I live a life that bears little resemblance to the one I left behind, having finally befriended the weight of the grief that still stirs. I weave my partnership with all facets of that fierce woman I met that day in the dust. But I’ve learned some things along the way.
I know that true love means more than how another makes you feel, and true partnership means you must inevitably love its end. I know there is an underground speakeasy somewhere in the past, with two strangers sitting across each other, one has just asked the other to dance. And above all, I know that life is more mysterious than I’ll ever understand.
Careful how you tread tonight, friends.