Catharsis – from stress to adventure

Rain poured through the tent, soaking everything at the edges, including the bottom of my sleeping bag.  There was no air mattress for me that night, so I laid on the hard ground.  And a nearby camp played their thumping music loud into the wee hours of the night (or early morning).  Camping on the National Mall is not allowed, so me sneaking sleep inside the tent meant for storage meant I could be discovered and told to move.  Yet.  It was a relaxing, freeing and wonderful weekend to be alive.  As I lay there, looking at the Washington Monument through the screen window, I knew this was the kind of adventure that feeds my soul.

The Washington Monument as seen through the tent window

Catharsis 2019

I had heard about this Burning Man regional called Catharsis when I attended a Global Leader Conference for selected leaders from local “burner” communities all over the world.  There was a contingent from the Washington D.C. community, who presented how they were able to get a regional started, including all the work a team of lawyers had to go through to make it happen.  This regional is different, as it is free to the general public.  The DC burners who presented that day had such enthusiasm, warmth, determination and energy all combined that it inspired many burners want to attend, including me.  In past years the event was in November.  This is the first year they held it in May.    

The embers from the Temple Burn at Catharsis on the National Mall, 2019

Catharsis on the Mall in Washington D.C. is a public, First Amendment vigil designed to create an artistic space for healing and transformation. Inspired by the 10 Principles of Burning Man, it is co-created by dozens of core volunteers, artists, and activists; and thousands of participants.

This art piece is called Ichiro The Sacred Beings, and was brought up from Mexico. It’s based on actual dinosaur bones found, and native ritual patterns.
Radical Self Expression, as demonstrated by Ichiro and Rich

It is one of the only events ever permitted to burn a structure on the National Mall and allow amplified music for 24 hours. The 2019 theme was, “Our Mothership,” and was “in collaboration with various local, national and international creative groups to highlight the interconnectedness of all life and our ability to impact the greater health and healing of both the Earth and each other.”

Primordial Soap, part of a camp run by Dr. Bronner’s (organic soap!)
Andrew, aka Ranger Drewcifer, showing off his art car, the Killadelphia Experiment – an engineering marvel meant to inspire potential artists that anything’s possible.
A playa-tech bench. This is a certain building technique often used at Burning Man that involves no nails or screws but slots. It’s the technique used for the main construction of my Adventure Taxis.

The vigil is anchored by the intentional burning of artistic sculptures created by local artists for this purpose on Friday night and Saturday night, including A Well Rooted Woman by Quest Skinner and the “Temple Burn” by Michael Verdon. There was a parade around the Mall Sunday morning that passes in front of the White House (due to rain, the route did not include the Capitol).

The artist of the effigy burn (called The Well Rooted Woman is the Crown of Us All), Quest Skinner, making last minute adjustments.
Quest’s other piece “The Crowned Mother” will be going on display at DC art museum (PGAAMCC)
Quest said because of the rain, “A Fairy of Lights” did not have the LED lights added to complete this piece.
Selfie with art installation "Well Rooted Woman"
I snuck a selfie in with The Well Rooted Woman effigy before they moved her to the burn platform
Effigy burn prep at Catharsis 2019
The effigy getting prepped for the burn. It takes a dedicated team to make this happen!
Quest made history – she is the first woman, and the first black woman, to be able to legally light a bonfire on the National Mall in Washington DC!
The effigy burn!

Over Veteran’s Day weekend, thousands of people explored Burning-Man inspired free live music, art exhibits, workshops, healing modalities, and other interactive programming for all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.

Participation and interaction is key with art at these events. Many people joined in to help with The Art Rising painting.
L.I.F.E. was an installation that encouraged people to paint & decorate it throughout the weekend.
A fire dancer named Wolf brought her van, and for the art event collaborated with two other artists who created this face by laser cutting wood. Wolf gifted tarot card readings. I took her up on one, and it was a wonderful way to connect with a good soul.
Having a “temple” is classic for Burning Man regionals. The first year Catharsis happened, they weren’t allowed to have a fire on the National Mall. Now they’ve figured it out. For this burn (on Saturday night), they burned the smaller inner structure on a burn platform, made in a way not to leave any marks on the grass.
One thing I really like about the regionals is that they are much smaller than the big one out in the desert. My theme camp can be seen in the background near the Temple.
Start here for the explanation about Temple.
The Temple info, part 2
The Temple info, part 3

Adventure Taxi will travel!

Bringing my art to DC!

How did I, and my Burning Man art piece – the Adventure Taxi, end up at Catharsis?  I admit, it was all pretty last minute and unplanned on my part.  The timing for the closing of the sale on my home meant I couldn’t really plan too much.  A friend of mine had posted on social media about her plans for going to Washington D.C.  I knew this was an event I really wanted to attend, and this could be a last chance before I start my nomadic travels in a rolling home.  I reached out to MegO (check out her guest blog on solo travel here), and it turned out she needed a vehicle to get all her theme camp gear down south.  Having hauled so much in the past few years, I knew my minivan could hold quite a bit.  As the Universe would have it, the timing worked out and we went down together.  I was able to bring along my art, and we filled the rest of the van up with tents, and art, and other necessities for the weekend event.  This was exactly the kind of adventure I was hoping to be able to do, once I was free of my house.  I took the risk of not planning in advance, wondering if it could happen which included envisioning it did…and ended up doing something from my bucket list!  Not only did I attend Catharsis, I brought my art there too.  That was a proud adventure moment for me!

Minivan filled to the brim, ready to be unloaded!

No Camping on the National Mall

One of the drawbacks of not planning ahead, and being distracted with major life events, is that I forgot about planning where I would sleep at night.  There is no camping on the National Mall.  For this event, Washington DC did allow music to play all night, so you could be awake and participating (mostly dancing) through to morning.  On Thursday night, after our long drive, I was able to stay in the extra spot in one of the other member’s hotel room.  This was wonderful, as it was a great way to meet my new friends.

Ginger Camp offered lots of ways to interact. Here’s how MegO, the founding Ginger describes the theme: “Only a Ginger, can call another Ginger, Ginger! Come find healing through Ginger, whether it’s learning ways to take care of your body and soul, eating Ginger infused everything, or becoming who you are by finding your inner Ginger. Gingers express laughter, self-care, and radical self love …so are YOU a Ginger?”
Ginger Camp had prime placement near the Washington Monument. My Adventure Taxi added just a touch of iconic NYC to the scene.

For Friday and Saturday nights I made plans to park my car at another friend’s house, who lives in DC.  She was so gracious and also offered to let me sleep on her couch.  After Friday night’s effigy burn, my friend MegO and I felt we needed to do something to watch over our camp stuff.  Although I didn’t have my sleeping bag with me that night (it was in the car, still in the hotel parking lot), we did have access to a tent and an air mattress.  The intention for the tent was to store members’ gear, and extra supplies for the camp.  The rules of the government run park include no camping on the National Mall! 

The Adventure Taxi lit up, in front of Club Fish (Ginger Camp at night, where the video shone through the tent top). The storage tent is behind, or off to the left in this photo. All night long we could hear people hopping on the cab to play!

With this in mind, we found odd things to keep us warm and went to sleep with the thump, thump, thump of the nearby sound camp dance music.  It wasn’t an easy sleep, for sure!  At 5:30 in the morning, after the sound camps stopped playing, we heard a rattling in our camp’s big pop-up tent area.  MegO and I were both grateful the other stayed too!  Peeking out, it looked like a possible homeless man…but we jokingly called him a bear!  Yelling through the closed door to please leave, we heard the noises stop.  We saw his shadow stand up, and move on.  Shortly after, we heard clunking noises in another camp’s structure (we told them later).

My Adventure Taxi in front of the Washington Monument at night! While I had it lit completely the weekend before, something glitched for Catharsis. Fortunately, a lighting expert was around Saturday and helped me fix it!

Saturday was slightly rainy and very overcast.  It was still a wonderful day interacting with the art, and connecting with friends.  That night, MegO had changed Ginger Camp into Club Fish (it was cool – she had made a video of her fish tank and showed it on the pop-up tent ceiling!  Very chill!).  I had brought my sleeping bag, so I had that for the tent that night.  I was not in the mood to stay up all night (as many can and do), so I retired early.  As I stared up at the tent windows listening to the dance music, trying to squeeze myself smaller to avoid the wet sides of the tent from all the rain, I was letting that critical inner voice yell at me for not pushing myself and being out there doing “all the things.”  And then that other voice chimed in…reminding me I’m on an adventure!  How many people could say they slept on the ground of the National Mall with the Washington Monument overhead and the White House not too far away!  I pushed myself to actually be there and not on a friend’s couch.  I did what I wanted – connected with friends instead of exploring all the things.  A restless night brought a rainy morning.  And with a big smile, I ventured out to the Catharsis parade!

An art car made to look like a tank with a daisy sticking out it’s cannon. It brought up the rear of the parade.
Paraders from Catharsis at one of the stopping points, in front of the White House!
Dressed and ready for the parade! He’s holding a sign that advertised the event and it’s theme (Mothership Earth)
A panoramic shot of the parade in front of the White House.
The Killedelphia Project chugged along as the art car leading the parade.
Filled the minivan back up with the Ginger Camp equipment and the Adventure Taxi. Ready to go back to New York. Couldn’t resist another shot of this ‘burner’ in front of the White House!

My Catharsis

Despite adverse conditions all weekend, this was the kind of adventure that feeds the soul.  The stress of selling my house, and becoming a nomad transformed into the fun of knowing life is an adventure.  Or, this weekend was, in other words…A Catharsis– an emotional discharge through which one can achieve a state of moral or spiritual renewal, or achieve a state of liberation from anxiety and stress.

people playing kazoos in the Adventure Taxi in Washington DC
The Joyful Revolution members creating joy! (photo by Jess Levenson)

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  1. Harlow

    Video of Stacey with a hula hoop… or it didn’t happen. LOL

    • Stacey Newman Weldon

      hahaha! no evidence of my attempts at hula hooping! Would be a really shaky selfie…lol


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