Story last updated at 11:06 PM on Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Letting Go

Celebrating, releasing and starting over is th spirit of fifth annual bruning basket

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

Each year the week before the fall equinox, a band of artists on the Homer Spit face the challenges of weather and create a huge, finely crafted basket. And then they burn it.


Photo by Michael Armstrong

"Surpass," the fifth burning basket, goes up in flames.

Homer's fifth annual Burning Basket, Surpass, lived up to its name. Under the direction of Mavis Muller, artists dealt with constant rain, gale-force winds and a sprained ankle or two to make a 15-foot tall, six-sided basket. Last Friday, the weather broke. On Sunday, the night of the burning, the setting sun glowed upon the basket.

"We did surpass our ability to deal with the adversity of weather, but this is our reward," Muller said in her comments before torching Surpass. "That's art for ya."

As part of the burning basket ceremony, visitors were asked to participate by adding tokens of remembrance to the basket. Fireweed Academy students helped gather materials for the basket and made watercolor drawings and origami cranes to write notes on. Through holes in the basket's sides, some dropped private notes. Others left public notes stuck to the outside.

"It is not necessary to cling to rocks that are falling with you," one note read.

"Prepare for opportunity disguised as loss," read another.

"Learning to let go, one day at a time, one moment at a time" and "We are all capable of so much love we can all surpass what keeps us from giving it," read more notes.

A visiting Dutch couple, Joop and Wil Sollman of Amsterdam, left a note that read, "We hope to have a safe trip home after a beautiful holiday."

People honored loved ones, friends, pets and family who had died. Some carved notes into apples or wrote on pieces of birch bark. Flowers and fall leaves were woven into the basket, the word "surpass" written in stick letters.

"Sometimes an ending can also be a beginning," Muller said. "We're here to release and let go and start over."

As the sun set, drummers beat out a slow march. Muller led a procession of torch bearers to the basket. She asked the crowd to hum "Taps" in memory of people lost to war, and as the music faded, the fifth basket was set aflame.

"When people ask me why you burn something you worked so hard on, I think you'll figure that out," Muller said before the basket caught fire. "We share the creative spirit. The greatest fire is the fire of love."


Photo by Michael Armstrong

A shrine in the Burning Basket labyrnth.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at