Week Nineteen: Kathy Benson


Write about one thing you’d like to do before you die.

I want to experience Burning Man.

I first heard about it a few years ago at a party. One of my college friend’s husband Jim had gone for the first time and was telling a small group of us about it. Jim had an amazing experience and I was fascinated from the moment he began talking about Burning Man.

Jim and I are connected on Facebook, so I also got to see pictures he posted there from his trips to Burning Man in 2010 and 2011. I was enthralled – getting a taste of what it might be like to go and live there for a week someday, as Jim and so many others have.

So what is Burning Man (according to the website)?

“Once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever. Burning Man is also an ever-expanding year-round culture based on the Ten Principles.”

What Burning Man isn’t (also from the website):

“Burning Man isn’t your usual festival, with big acts booked to play on massive stages. In fact, it’s more of a city than a festival, wherein almost everything that happens is created entirely by its citizens, who are active participants in the event.”

I struggle to put into words what I find so compelling about Burning Man. But ever since Jim first told me about it and I saw pictures, Burning Man has captured my imagination. It’s at the top of my bucket list. Though I am a bit overwhelmed by what’s involved to actually go to and be a part of Black Rock City, I welcome the challenge. The community, art, freedom of expression and openness all attract me to Burning Man. It looks like so much fun, as well as inspiring.

I have been a retreat junkie for years, I participated in one for the first time when I was in high school with a youth group and was hooked. I loved having the opportunity to deepen my faith and my spirituality. I also got to help plan and facilitate retreats, which showed me what an incredible experience “giving” a retreat for others can be. I continued to be involved with retreats (both religious and secular, including Operation Snowball) in high school, college, grad school and as a young adult after I joined the workforce. Most recently I served as the lay director for a women’s retreat at our parish in November 2011 and it was awesome.

I also went to and worked at residential summer camps over the years and even wrote a paper in college about how the world would be a happier and saner place if everyone had the opportunity to get away and go to summer camp every year. In many ways Burning Man sounds like a weeklong summer camp for adults, only more intense and maybe even more fun!

Burning Man takes place every year during the week leading up to Labor Day Weekend. Thanks to social media, this year I was able to follow along some of what was happening in real time. I found myself daydreaming about being there and wondering what that would be like.

As it turned out the night they were “burning the man” I was communicating with one of my twenty-two paternal cousins, half of whom I have never met in person, via Facebook. She lives on the West Coast and we commiserated about how awesome it might be to go to Burning Man together someday.

I look forward to learning more about Burning Man in the years to come and preparing to go there someday. Realistically I think it will be awhile before I can pull it off, both financially and logistically. But hopefully when our children are a bit older I will make it there. As Jim told me, “it is an incredible experience that you will never forget.”

Photo Credit: Jim Ward – who captured artist Laura Kimpton’s “Oink” at Burning Man 2010. According to Jim, Laura said “when pigs comes up to each other they ‘Oink’ letting each other know everything is alright. She wanted everyone at Burning Man to know everything was alright.”

What is one thing you’d like to do before you die?


Kathy Benson is a bereaved and blessed mom, writer and group fitness instructor trying to live mindfully and find joy in the journey after dealing with secondary infertility and loss for five years. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two living children.

Kathy blogs at Bereaved and Blessed. You can also follow Kathy on Twitter @BereavedBlessed and her Facebook page.



6 thoughts on “Week Nineteen: Kathy Benson

  1. My niece went to burning man in 2011. She said it was one of the most amazing experiences she’d ever had, to that point.

    We live in Las Vegas, which isn’t too far from it. It’s also on my before I die list. My wife thinks I’m nuts for wanting to go hand out in the middle of the desert, but it’s a very spiritual experience from what my niece says.

    Great post!

  2. I’ve heard about this but never really knew what it was all about. Sounds pretty amazing and I hope you get your chance to participate. I want to go gorilla trekking with my girls but you have to be at least 15 to go so I will also be waiting a while for that!

  3. Like others, I’d heard of Burning Man but thought it was just another music festival. Now that you’ve told us more about it, I, too, would like to go – but only when you go, too! It may not be at the top of my bucket list but it’s there.

    I think I’d like to spend backpack in India with my husband. We backpacked through Greece & Turkey for our honeymoon, and it would be fun do be that carefree an nimble again, after we raise our kids.

  4. Wow! I would have never guessed this about you. I knew a little bit about the festival, but not about the principles … they sound like principles to live by, not just to retreat by. So cool!

    I don’t really have a “bucket list.” We used to keep a running list of places we wanted to go, but it got lost when we moved … I would love to go to India with my yoga teacher, though. That’s more of a dream than a “goal,” because lots of other things would need to be in place, but I think it would be fundamentally life-changing, too. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Week Fifty: Kathy Benson | The Today Voice

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