She’s always been her very own self.

That’s one of the best things about my mom.

Centered. Wise. Curious. Determined. Funny. Caring. CREATIVE. Fun. These are all the other adjectives that I use to describe her. But to start, she knows who she is, period. I certainly don’t know if she could be as kind and plain wonderful if she weren’t so self-assured.

Born about the time of Gloria Steinem, mom was ironing shirts and making her own patterns for clothes in our dining room when women were becoming part of the civil rights movement, and she did her part right here in our state to enable the passage of the ERA to assure equal pay for equal work in our nation.

The amendment never passed, but not because she sat around hoping someone else would jump up and do something.

She came out against nuclear waste dumping in the state of Nevada long before it was chic and had a slogan. She just couldn’t bear the thought of toxic waste traveling through the state and then being entombed here for all time to infiltrate the atmosphere. In essence, her stance was an environmental one.

Part I and II illustrated by Mom

A fourth-generation Nevadan, she knows the people and landscape of our state so well that she jumped at the chance to illustrate “You Know You’re A Nevadan if….” Some years back.

Though she was baptized a Republican, she finally embraced the way she was voting all along and registered Democrat at the age of 69. Since she always voted for what she believed, she just made it official.

She was married to Dad for 48.9 years before he passed away and has had her super boyfriend for nine years. However, neither one of these guys has been able to corral her. She’s traveled the world – Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Australia.

Just recently mom said to me, “You live and you live until you die.”

So when she asked the four of us “kids” a few weeks ago, “Guess where I’m going?” We had a variety of answers – Egypt and Hawaii being the top hunches — we didn’t come close. The answer my friends: Burning Man.

Of all things, mom went with the local Rotary group comprised of ladies and gentlemen. Just a day trip – probably the perfect way to see the counter-cultural festival whose principles include radical inclusion, gifting, de-commodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy all set on the Black Rock Desert in Nevada northeast of Reno.

The Man burns Saturday night of the fest.

A few of her friends tried to wave her off going – “You don’t want to go out there, it’s just a bunch of damn hippies.” I don’t know for sure, but I think she just wanted to see what it’s all about, being an artist and all, she’d seen some pictures and read some stories about the folks who work all year to create some really spectacular art. And then in some cases, burn it.

Being a virgin burner, she didn’t take a bike out there, to travel around to many of the art installations. That’s too bad; maybe she would have seen more. But she did ride on a couple art cars to get around and she took a walker. Yes, a walker. Her boyfriend needs one to get around, so she thought it would be good to have one if she got tired. And she did. Listen, Black Rock City is 60,000+ people and is perhaps 36 square miles in area. With her walker, for that alone, she attracted attention – burners would stop their bikes and ask to take her picture and told her she was the oldest person they had seen out there (gee thanks! They’ll see someday, she’s still a 20-year-old on the inside. Send a picture to us when you get your first wrinkle, buddy!) But having her picture taken was a fun way to meet people and find out about them.

Yes, she saw some naked people. Mostly attractive young-ish topless women and as for guys, the only naked ones were all about 55 years old and above, she thought, “Hmmm. I guess there trying to show they still “have” it.

All that nakey stuff was just a sideline though, compared to the giant art installations slashing out from the flat, black desert floor. Gigantor objects such as Wall Street, a sinking ship, Char Wash, front porch and the EGO Project in addition to The Man, which gets burned Saturday night changed the landscape temporarily.

She and friends stayed for the burn, wondered why you might go to all that effort to build something only to burn it up, and then struck out for home.

Perhaps the burners who go need to get out there to rediscover who they are or find out for the first time. But not mom; she doesn’t need outside affirmation. She’s glad she went. She loved the experience and I know that mom knows that she is who she is, who she is. I love her.