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WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2001
How do we hear what's really going on in the world? TV news? Daily newspapers? Radio? Online news? I've found none of these sources to be trustworthy. Most are dependent on advertisers, meaning I hear pretty much what the advertiser is comfortable with my hearing. Even NPR (National Public Radio) has had to accept support from corporations just to stay in existence, so unfortunately that formerly independent voice no longer pushes the edges as it used to. In the Bay Area there's still KPFA Radio, but even KPFA has had its problems remaining independent in the face of a corporate takeover of its national governing body, the Pacifica Foundation.
All this to say, it is not easy to find the truth.
For me, the internet has proven to be the best tool for discovering information the powers-that-be would prefer to keep hidden under a rock of silence and/or denial. For example, last week I kept checking in with www.indymedia.org to hear what was really happening on the streets of Genoa during the G-8 Summit anti-globalization protests. When Carlo Giuliani was shot, killed and then run over by Italian paratroopers on Friday, it was Indy Media that showed me the photographs and printed eyewitness accounts within hours. It also gave folks the world over an opportunity to express their pain and outrage directly on the site (anyone can post responses, articles, photos and personal stories) so we didn't have to feel alone or isolated. But it wasn't until last night as I read two email messages forwarded to me by an activist friend that I finally felt I was actually there with my sister and brother protestors on the streets of Genoa.
It was around 2:45 AM. I'd just finished writing and uploading yesterday's journal entry when I went to check my mail one last time before turning in. As soon as I read these two messages, I knew I had to help get this story out into the world in any way I could. So I stayed up until 3:30 AM sending a group email to almost everyone on my email address book. And now I want to share it here.
The woman who writes these journal entries of her experiences in Genoa on Friday and Saturday is most trustworthy. Starhawk is a longtime social and political activist whose actions come out of a deep spiritual commitment to the planet and all forms of life on it. I've seen her speak, read her books and shared ritual with her Wiccan community in the Bay Area. She is a truthteller who neither exaggerates nor passes on gossip. In these journals, she tells her own story practically as it happens. From here on, every word you read was written by Starhawk:
At this point it's still not clear to me how many are actually dead. I've heard one young man, I've heard two, four. I've heard that the police shot into the crowd, that someone was clubbed to the ground and, unconscious, run over by a car, I've heard it was the White Overalls, the Black Bloc, I don't know. I know what I saw.
The day started as a spirited, peaceful demonstration. I was on the Piazza Manini with the Women's Action and Rette Lilliput, a religious ecological network. Both groups were completely committed to nonviolence. My friend and training partner Lisa Fithian was down at the convergence center with the pink block, the group that wanted to do creative, fun, street theater, dancing and music as part of their action. Lisa is a great person to be with in an action: she's experienced, never panics, moves fast and knows what to look for, has a voice that can carry over a huge crowd and a great ability to move people. I wish she were going to be with us, but I feel like we've divided our talents well. I'll help move the smaller Women's contingent, help them with ritual and work some magic. Lisa will help the much larger and boisterous Pink Bloc become mobile and coherent. We hope to meet up sometime during the day.
Around 1 pm, the women march from the piazza down to the wall with probably three or four thousand people. The women gather in a circle for a spiral dance, singing "Siamo la luna che move la marea," "We are the moon that moves the tides, we will change the world with our ideas." We brew up a lovely magical cauldron-a big pot full of water from sacred places and whatever else women want to add: rose petals, a hair or two, tobacco from a cigarette., that symbolize the visions we hold of a different world. It's a sweet, symbolic action-not quite as satisfying, perhaps, as tearing the wall down, but empowering to the women who take part. The police are relaxed, these groups are clearly no threat to anyone. Monica negotiates with the police, and we are allowed to go up to the wall in small groups to pin up underwear-(residents of the Red Zone were threatened with fines if they hung out their laundry during the G8-apparently the site of washing might unnerve the delegates), banners, messages and spill our water under the fence.
(Helicopters buzz the house as I write, the news is discussing violence and nonviolence in Italian, and I stretch my memory of high school French to ask one of the women staying here in a phrase we never covered, "How many people died today?" One, she tells me, and one is in the hospital in critical condition.)
Then the Pink march arrives, trapped in a cross street by our march. We open a lane and let them through. They are delightful, mostly young, some all punked out in wildly colored hair or dreadlocks or bright pink wigs, drumming, dancing, cavorting through the crowd. They turn the corner and filter into the next square down the wall, only a short half-block from the street we've occupied.
On our street, everyone is sitting peacefully and having lunch. I walk over to the Pink Block to see what's going on. I drum for a while with the accordion player. People are milling about-there's nothing clear that's happening, when suddenly a line of police has blocked one of the exits. Dancing youth are wildly leaping and stomping in front of them, but that's all they are doing. Much of the Pink Bloc has moved on, they appear a block or two above the square, with the police now trapped between groups of Pink. I am just thinking that this is not a good situation when a tear gas cannister lands in front of me. I start to move away, back down to the street where the women are. just a mild hit, I wash out my eyes, help a few others whose eyes are streaming and red. Lisa appears, and we go back for another look. This time the gas catches us in a bad situation, with the way back to the street blocked, and another exit up a staircase too full of bodies. I am getting hit heavily, my lungs and eyes burning but I remember that helpful hint from all the trainings we have done. I can breathe, I really can breathe, and fear is the most powerful weapon. Lisa has better eye protection, she takes my hand and leads me out. I wash them out again. This seems like a good moment to leave. I gather up what's left of the women, Lisa and other's get the Pink Block together, I begin a drumbeat and we start up the street, which is also up a hill. The march feels powerful and joyful. We are retreating, but in a strong way, moving on to the next action, still together.
The good feeling lasts until we reach the top of the hill. Somehow the Black Bloc have become trapped between the pacifist affinity groups and the police. Monica is on the cell phone, upset and tearful when she learns that the Black Bloc have trashed an old part of the city. "It's over," she says. "after all our months of work! Let's go home."
I am trying to find out what the women want to do: Lisa is trying to find out what the Pink Bloc wants to do, when suddenly massive amounts of tear gas fill the square. I am moving away from it, down a side street, trying to convince myself that I can breathe, when I notice that I'm somehow in the midst of the Black Bloc. They run past me, younger, faster, much better equipped, and the police are behind them. I do not want to be here. I'm fifty years old, and I was never very fast even when I was young. For the first time, I come close to panicking.
But below is a side street, and the wind blows the gas away. I can breath. I duck down the alley. Like most of the streets in this hillside area, it winds around the side of ridge, with a sheer drop below, and snakes back to the main street. A small clump of Pink is sheltering there. I join them, we wait as the Black Block thunders by one street away. Lisa appears to tell us that the riot cops are coming up from below. They're beating people brutally. We check the exits, fearing we're trapped, but suddenly the street we came in on is clear. I and a few others make a break for it, get across and head up a stairway on the other side. Lisa goes back to see if she can help move the others. Before she can, the police have found the alley. They beat people hard, going for the head. They beat pacifists who approach them with their hands up; they beat women. A battered crowd gathers on the stairs, moves up a level or two. I comfort a young man with a head wound, a woman who is crying, her thigh covered with the blood of her boyfriend who had been taken to the hospital. We are all shaken.
Slowly, a pink contingent gathers on the stairs. We move up and up; in this part of town, half the streets are stairways that rise in endless zig zag flights. Below us, we see contingents of riot cops sweep the streets. The helicopter above move on, following the Black Bloc. Lisa is moving back and forth across the street and back to the square, checking out rumors, trying to figure out what's going on and where we might go. We eventually make our way back to the square. One of the women has been gassed so badly she's been vomiting, but she wants to stay. Another women from our contingent was hit in the head by a cop and taken to the hospital. A whole lot of people have been badly hurt, people who clearly and unmistakably are not rock throwing, streetfighting youth, people who believed they were going to be in a peaceful and reasonably safe place. Lisa and I had done a training for the women, trying to give them some sense of what they might face on the streets from our experience in other actions. But there's no real way to prepare for a cop beating a peaceful, non-aggressive, midde-aged woman on the head.
The Pink Bloc begins a long journey back to the other side of town. We're joined by some of the others from the square and by some of the Italian Pacifist Affinity groups who have been trying to hold space on this side. As we're trying to make our decision, with translation into English, Italian, Spanish and French, Some of the Black Bloc drifts up from below and asks if they can join us to make our common way to the bottom of the town. Some of the group are angry at the Bloc and unwilling to take the risk of joining with them or being associated with them. Others feel that we should hold solidarity with everyone, and not leave anyone vulnerable to the police. Eventually, the group offers to accept them if they'll unmask and leave their sticks behind. They won't do that, they say we should each respect each others' way of doing things, so they'll go down alone, letting us go first.
There's more, mostly
a series of moments of being trapped in an intersection here or
a stairway there, but after around two or three hours we made
it back to the convergence center. I'm far too tired to make sense
of this day right now, it's all I can do to describe it, and it's
after midnight and people have to go to bed. Someone is dead,
and the night is not over.
I think Im calm, that Im not in shock, but my fingers are trembling as I write this. We were up at the school that serves as a center for media, medical and trainings. We had just finished our meeting and were talking, making phone calls, when we heard shouts and sirens and the roar of people yelling, objects breaking. The cops had come and they were raiding the center. We couldnt get out of the building because there were two many people at the entrance. Lisa grabbed my hand and we went up, running up the five flights of stairs, up to the very top. Jeffrey joined us, people were scattering and looking for places to hide. We werent panicking but my heart was pounding and I could hardly catch my breathe. We found an empty room, a couple of tables, grabbed some sleeping bags to cover our heads if we got beaten. And waited. Helicopters were buzzing over the building, we could hear doors being slammed and voices shouting below, then quiet. Someone came in, walked around, left. I couldnt seem to breath deep and I had an almost uncontrollable coughbut I controlled it.
I lay there remembering we had lots and lots of people sending us love and protection and I was finally able to breathe. The light went on. Through a crack between the tables, I could see a helmet, a face. A big Italian cop with a huge paunch loomed over us. He told us to come out. He didnt seem in beating mode, but we stayed where we were, tried to talk to him in English and Spanish and the few Italian words I know: paura fear and pacifisti. He took us down to the third floor, where a whole lot of people were sitting, lined up against the walls.
We waited. Someone came in, demanding to know whether there was someone there from Irish Indy media. We waited. Lawyers arrived: The police left. For some arcane reason of Italian law, because it was a media place we had some right to be there, although the school across the street was also a media center and they went in there and beat people up. We watched for a long time out the windows. They began carrying people out on stretchers. One, Two, a dozen or more. A crowd had gathered and were shouting Assessini! Assesini! The brought out the waking wounded, arrested them and took them away. We believe they brought someone out in a body bag.
The crowd below was challenging the cops and the cops were challenging the crowd and suddenly a huge circle of media gathered, bright camera lights. Monica, who is hosting us and is with the Genoa Social Forum, came up and found us. Shed been calling embassies and media and may have saved us from getting hurt once the cops finished with the first building. All the time there were helicopters thrumming and shining bright lights into the building. A few brave men were holding back the angry crowd, who seemed ready to charge the line of riot cops that was formed up in front of the school, shields up and gas masks on. Tranquilo, tranquilo, the men were saying, holding up their hands and restraining the angry crowd from a suicidal charge. I was on the phone home, then back to the window, back to the phone. Finally, the cops went away. We went down to the first floor, outside, heard the story. They had come in to the rooms where people were sleeping. Everyone had raised up their hands, calling out pacifisti! Pacifist! And they beat the shit out of every person there. Theres no pretty way to say it. We went into the other building: there was blood at every sleeping spot, pools of it in some places, stuff thrown around, computers and equipment trashed. We all wandered around in shock, not wanting to think about what is happening to those they arrested, to those they took to the hospital. We know that they have arrested everyone they take to the hospital, taken people to jail and tortured them. One of the young Frenchmen from our training, Vincent, had his head badly beaten on Friday in the street. In jail, they took him into a room, twisted his arms behind his back and banged his head on the table. Another man was taken into a room covered with pictures of Mussolini and pornography, and alternately slapped around and then stroked with affection in a weird psychological torture. Others were forced to shout, Viva El Duce! ! ! Just in case it isnt clear that this is Fascism. Italian variety, but it is coming! your way. It is the lengths they will go to to defend their power. Its the lie that globalization means democracy. I can tell you, right now, tonight, this is not what democracy looks like.
Ive got to stop now.
We should be safe if we can make our way back to where were stayiing.
Call the Italian Embassy. Go there, shame them! We may not be
able to mount another demonstration tomorrow here if the situation
stays this dangerous. Please, do something!
THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2001
Yesterday the heat broke and we were treated to lovely grey skies, chilly temps and rain sprinkles throughout much of the day. After fighting through hoards of hot folks crowding the swimming pool on Monday, Wednesday saw few swimmers outside of my intrepid water aerobics class members. Lifeguards like Annette had little to guard. I liked it because I had the pool to myself to do my 6 laps of the crawl. On Monday it had been like playing dodgeball to try to swim even one lap without running into someone, even in the lap lane. But yesterday, everything was free and clear.
Today I awoke to crystal-clear skies and temperatures in the 70s. Perfect day to run a bunch of errands. Dry cleaners, alterations, bank ATM, drugstore, grocery store, brief visit to Ed's office and lunch at the bagel shop. I chose to go through neighborhoods the whole way so I could pick a bouquet of summer flowers...by camera, of course!
A couple of purple posies from my neighbor's windowbox, a handful of green ferns, some of the shocking pink flowers growing beside this quiet sidewalk, a bunch of blackeyed susans, a mixture of flowers from this lush summer garden, some old fashioned hollyhocks and a few traditional healing flowers should make a lovely bouquet.
Now don't forget to stick
them in a vase of virtual water so they'll stay nice and fresh.
Happy summer, my friends!
FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2001
What a sweet day! My friends Sooz, Penny and I got together to make art, this time at Penny's house. And the weather could not have been more cooperative--clear, sunny, temperatures in the 70s. Perfect for sitting out back and enjoying the gurgling sounds of her new fountain mixed with the song of birds.
This was only our second art day together, but we already seem to have developed informal guidelines. Whoever hosts the gathering chooses what kind of art we'll make and provides the materials, while the other two bring lunch. We make art for a couple of hours, eat some lunch, and then go back to our "arting" for another hour or so. Today we were together from 10:30 AM until about 3:30 PM. Penny is the only one of the three who currently has a full time job, but since she travels so much her hours are flexible.
Today was journal day. Penny gave each of us a different colored journal with the suggestion that we decorate its cover using her marvelous collection of papers, fabric, wire, beads, etc. In the box with fabrics were two items of clothing that Penny had bought but found she didn't wear for one reason or another; she intended to cut them up and use the material for art projects. After Sooz tried on one--a shirt--and I tried on the other--a shirt on Penny and a dress on me--Penny generously gave them to each of us to keep. Imagine, hand-me-downs at this age!
It was such fun to work on this art project at the table together, each one totally absorbed in her own creative process, yet with a sense of mutual support and connection. Then it was amazing to see how differently we each ended up using the same materials. I think you can tell from this picture how happy we were with our finished journal covers.
After a lovely Lebanese lunch and fresh fruit, Penny gave us the next part of our assignment: to start using the journal as a journal. She's been working with a book called Visual Journaling, and read aloud to us one of the author's suggestions. It was to come up with a specific intention or question, write it down, sit with it in silence, and then express it creatively in whatever way comes most naturally.
The intention/question that popped into my mind was "How do I feel when I swim?" Words and images seemed to appear from nowhere, and at the end, it titled itself, "Amazon Womon"! Both Sooz and Penny had similar experiences of their intentions taking them places they didn't expect to go. So it is with art, especially art done for yourself rather than for show.
We are all going to the
Michigan Womyn's Music Festival August 6-13, so will wait until
September for our next art day. Sooz is already talking about
our decorating masks of our own faces at that time. I am so fortunate
to have these women as friends.
SATURDAY, JULY 28, 2001
This was a day that was sprinkled with fairy dust at its start. Everything that happened had an air of magic.
Pat K. and I went to the Detroit Zoo--my first visit in 25 years--in order to see the Matrix Theater Company production of "This Once Was Paradise", an original play that tells the story of Detroit, its land and water, the creatures who have been at home here from the beginning, and the people's lives from before its "founding" 300 years ago through the present. Our friend Pat N., founder of the Windsor Feminist Theater, had sent out emails this week encouraging her friends not to miss seeing this play! She'd seen a portion of it last weekend in Southwest Detroit, the home of the community-based Matrix Theater Company, and had thought it was extraordinary. She was so right.
Now before I go too far, I need to say that tonight's journal entry is merely going to paint in today's highlights with a quick stroke of the keyboard. Not only was the day packed full of interesting encounters, but I have 60 digital pictures to choose from before writing my complete journal entry. It was a very visual day!
Among the magical moments of this day was being a sturgeon in the play, spending time with my sturgeon director Evaristo, meeting and talking with Inuk, the Inuit sculptor from Canada's Northwest Territories who was completing a mammoth granite polar bear for the Zoo's new Arctic Ring exhibit area, getting a close-up view of a giraffe and ostrich together just before the 6 PM closing time, and being challenged to race 7-year-old swimming whiz Alexandra after I'd completed 8 laps of the crawl at the pool this evening.
I look forward to filling
in the gaps with words and pictures tomorrow when I'm not quite
as weary as I am tonight. See you then!
SUNDAY, JULY 29, 2001
To return to my adventures of yesterday, it was rather like tumbling down the rabbit's hole as did Alice and finding myself in a different world. This world was made up of teenagers who were totally engaged in presenting the 300-year history of the land on which they live. Teens like my sturgeon captain Evaristo who directed me--the one he called "the queen of the sturgeons"--and my young companions on our 12 runs out into the Detroit River, represented by blue painted strips of cloth being waved close to the ground by Matrix Theater Company members. Evaristo, a gentle soul who loved these papier mache puppets with furry acrylic bodies as if they were the creatures they represented, who would sadly say to me, "Did you see them carry the beaver out? There are no more beavers anymore." Or "That tree cut down by the loggers just killed the wolf." His example had me petting the racoon when she lowered her head in front my scooter.
This play was written in honor of Detroit's Tricentennial and titled, "This Once Was Paradise". It was created and staged by members of the Matrix Theater Company, a community-based group founded and directed by Shaun Nethercott (to the left in this photo) and her husband. The group is centered in Southwest Detroit and has a wonderful mix of Latino, African-American, Native American and European-American teens and adults. This particular play, comprising three cycles of Detroit history, was collaboratively written by folks from all the ethnic backgrounds mentioned above. Yesterday was its first complete showing. The grounds of the Detroit Zoo provided the open air theater-in-the-round.
It started by showing how this strait of waters was home to the animals. In time, Native American tribes settled here, to be followed by the French Canadian voyageurs. At that time, there were so many sturgeon in the river that one could walk from bank to bank on their backs. Geese flew overhead, frogs sang their songs at dusk and monarch butterflies fluttered from flower to flower. The story follows the arrival by Europeans, their logging the old-growth forests, the time of slavery when Detroit was the last stop on the Underground Railroad into Canada, the migration of workers from the South to work in the new auto factories, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and on through the 20th century until today. However, this was not simply a history of people but of creatures like the deer, bear, beaver, racoon, eagle, sturgeon, wolf, frogs, butterflies and geese. At times the "stage" was filled with all species of life.
By the way, I have Pat K. to thank for taking these wonderful pictures. Sturgeons don't handle cameras very well with their fins.
After the play, we decided to wander around the zoo. It was a perfect day with sunny blue skies, low humidity and pleasant temperatures. I had not been to the Detroit Zoo since the mid-1970s. Although it was one of the first to create uncaged natural environments for the animals, I don't remember the grounds being this beautiful. They have an adopt-a-garden program for individuals and groups, so that a large portion of the grounds look more like a botanical garden than a zoo. Not just gardens, but many different kinds of trees as well, like this ginko tree that Pat and I both admired. And the old bear fountain I'd loved in the '70s was now refurbished and looked more graceful than ever.
I have to be honest, I've had discomfort with the idea of a zoo for some time. Taking animals out of their home environments and crating them to some far-off place where they are on show for the public does not fit with my world view. I try to see animals, birds, fish, insects, rodents and all creatures as being of equal importance in the scheme of life on this planet. Zoo-keeping has an air of domination over rather than cooperation between.
That being said, yesterday I chose to make my way through these feelings to a place of non-judgement and simple enjoyment. And I must say that most everything I saw pointed toward a consistent respect for the animals, their needs and comfort.
There's something about a zoo that brings out the child in us. The gorillas, lions, elephants, llamas, zebras, giraffes and ostriches, even peacocks wandering freely underfoot, touched some deep chord in my heart. As a child, these were among my favorite animals in the Washington D.C. National Zoo where my family and I spent many happy hours and days in the 1940s. I could almost taste the sticky pink cotton candy we used to buy.
And the Detroit Zoo offered an unexpected gift in its amazing diversity of people. I must have heard at least six or seven different languages being spoken, and seen clothing styles from across the globe. I guess a love of animals cuts across cultural and national boundaries.
But one of the most magical occurrences of the day happened after lunch. Pat and I had eaten pizza and a salad at a table outside the zoo cafeteria. We'd both mentioned being bothered by the sound of construction work nearby; I said it was like trying to eat in a dentist's office as s/he was drilling someone's teeth.
As we scoot/walked by the fenced-in construction area, I was surprised to see a man working on a sculpture of a bear, an amazingly majestic depiction of a polar bear. We started talking and Kevin told us he was helping Inuk, the artist who had been commissioned to create this sculpture for the new Arctic Ring area of the zoo. I then asked Kevin if he'd mind using my camera to take a picture of Inuk working. Well, Inuk really got into this, and climbed on top of the bear's head for the picture! He then came over to talk with Pat and me. We ended up having quite an extended conversation.
Inuk is an Inuit artist who lives in the Canadian Arctic, specifically in Taloyoak (Spence Bay). His parents and grandparents were artists as well. As a child he went to a residential school which he said made him the man he is today: "I was a fighter, a survivor." Today he works not only as an artist, but as one of the air travel controllers responsible for the 200 miles of air space around his home. He says the big airports are so far away that people in the Canadian Arctic have to take care of this work themselves.
When I asked how the Detroit Zoo had found him, he said that they'd asked the son of the film director, John Huston, to help them find an appropriate artist to make this sculpture for the new Arctic Ring area. He gave them photographs of a number of artists' work and the folks from the Detroit Zoo immediately said they wanted Inuk. He started working here in June and soon realized he'd need help to complete the sculpture on time. So he called Kevin to come down from his home in Bancroft, Ontario, and work with him here in Detroit; they had met at an artists' symposium in Ontario some time ago.
The sculpture is being carved out of Vermont granite which Inuk says is so dense that they've already gone through four $350 diamond-head drills! Kevin asked me if I had a back yard and I said, "Yes, a little one." He asked if I'd like some "bear debris" to put in my yard and, of course, I answered, "Sure!" So now I have a piece of white granite with spots like pepper sprinkled over it. A piece of magic.
The polar bear is completed now; yesterday they were just adding finishing touches. On Monday the press and media will gather to take photgraphs and interview Inuk. I wonder if he will say to them as he did to us that he makes art not for the money, but because art is for people to enjoy. "I'm a lucky man to be paid to do what I love."
Perhaps now you know why
yesterday I felt like Alice falling headlong into Wonderland.
MONDAY, JULY 30, 2001
I don't think I've told you, dear readers, what I've decided to do about the problems I was having with my laptop. When I last wrote of it, the monitor was acting up something fierce so I was either going to send it off for service or buy a new computer. After checking around, I decided against the new computer idea, at least for now, but had called and arranged to ship my laptop to the service center. At that time I'd bought a ZipDrive so I could back up all my files and programs as the service rep had recommended. The shipping box arrived and I was planning to wait to send it until right before I'd be going off to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival from August 5-13. That way I wouldn't have to be without it all that long. The thought of being computerless made me very nervous.
Of course, soon after all this hoopla, my monitor settled back down to its usual somewhat irritating pattern of the top third blanking out and then coming back when I simply moved the monitor cover around a bit. No different than it's been acting for the past two years. Isn't that always the way? You get in a dither about something and soon it reverts to its old way of being, maybe not perfect but what you're used to.
So I've decided to just let it go for now. I'll keep my old usable machine while keeping an eye out for something new and improved. But it's going to have to offer me darn good reasons to make the change. Transferring everything to a new computer and then configuring it to my liking is a big production. Isn't it true that we often stay with something that is a bother, but a known bother, rather than taking on something that is better but will take getting used to? I'm not sure I feel like taking on a learning curve right now anyway. Seems like I spend enough time just keeping up with my daily journal and its digital pictures, not to mention my email correspondence. I can't imagine sitting here at the computer any more time than I already do!
Last night I received a forwarded email from Bill Moyer regarding Genoa. He included an email he'd just received from Starhawk entitled "Fascism In Genoa". I am providing a link to the text of both and recommend your taking the time to read it. It offers a most enlightened critical analysis of what happened during the G-8 Protests on July 20-22 in Genoa, Italy.
I've just read a warning
about the latest internet scourge, the Code Red virus, that is
supposed to be let loose on an unsuspecting--well, more like suspecting--public
Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. You know, I may just avoid web business tomorrow
night. So if there's no new journal entry for Tuesday, July 31,
I'm sure you'll understand. As the old adage says, better safe
TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2001
It's 12:30 AM (August 1) and I've only just come on the computer. Remember how I said I was probably going to forego putting up today's journal entry because of the Code Red virus alert? Well, I stayed away until now but it was not easy. I even tried going to bed around 10 PM, but 2? hours later I was still awake. Just as I suspected, I'm addicted to my journal! So here I am feeding my addiction...
The day was most interesting. I drove over to Canada around noon to get a haircut. By 1:30 PM I was back in the States and at Dayhouse to take house duty. The little girls had just received some donated Barbie doll stuff so they were happily playing in their bedroom. But what was especially interesting today was the presence of Alexandra who is staying at Dayhouse for the next month.
Alex lived at the house for a year a couple of years ago. She was born in Germany but has travelled and lived in many countries since then. And of particular interest to me are her European experiences as an anti-capitalist activist. She was in Prague and most recently in Gothenburg, Sweden. A few weeks ago, she and a busload of her Socialist comrades tried to get into Italy to join the G-8 protests in Genoa, but were turned away at the border. What amazing eyewitness accounts she has to tell! Not only that, but as a writer she examines the broader perspective of the international events and attitudes in which these actions take place.
Can't you imagine I picked her brain all afternoon?! After awhile I realized she has so much to offer that I should not keep it to myself. I asked if she'd be willing to share her experiences and perspective with a larger group of activists and interested persons. She said, "Of course. That's what I do all the time!" So we've set a date for an evening discussion after I return from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. I'll send out emails tomorrow inviting everyone I can think of.
Since reading Starhawk's accounts of what happened in Genoa, I've been trying to discern how I can be of service to the movement. As I'd mentioned earlier, my days out on the streets of these large protests are numbered; it just doesn't seem safe anymore for a scooter-dependent person like me. But communication is something I can do. Like sending out group emails and putting up information like Starhawk's eyewitness accounts on my web site.
In addition to that, I
had an inspiration during my shower this morning. It occurred
to me that the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival is a perfect place
for anti-globalization activists to meet and talk. Women come
from all over the world and many of them are politically and socially
active in their countries. So if no one else has a workshop scheduled
that would gather activists together, I will do it.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1, 2001
It's hard to believe that it's August already. Last night when I couldn't sleep I started counting the water aerobics classes we have left instead of sheep. The number was smaller than I'd hoped. Of course part of that is my own fault. I'll miss four classes because of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. Today I asked Melissa, our instructor, when she would be leaving to go back to the University of Miami in Florida for her sophomore year. Sadly for me, she leaves the day I return to class on Wednesday, August 15. So this Friday will be my last class with her for this year. Where did the summer go?
Do you remember how endless summers seemed when you were a child? In those days we weren't scheduled up with this soccer camp or that swim team like the kids are today.
No, my memory is of lazy summer days with nothing to do except swim in the brackish water of the Chesapeake Bay, read biographies of women that I got from the county bookmobile that came to our beach community every two weeks, walk a hot mile to the country store for my favorite 3 Musketeers and Mary Jane candy bars and an ice cold Mountain Dew soft drink. Or maybe my friend Bee, my older sister Carolyn and her friend Louise, my younger sister Miss Em and her friend Betty would make up a play that we'd charge the adults a nickle to come watch at our improvised theater in front of the old well house on the common lawn.
Time didn't exist; days went on forever. Forever, that is, until all of a sudden Mom would be driving us into Annapolis, Maryland--45 minutes away--to buy new school shoes and a cotton dress, usually with a sash that tied in the back and puffed short sleeves, in preparation for the first day of school.
On Labor Day, we'd pack the car, close up the cottage (that we rented from Ma Schultz for 15 years) and drive the hour and a half to our "real" home in Falls Church, Virginia. That night always meant sleeping with just-washed wet hair on clean sheets in a bedroom that felt pleasantly strange. Street lights would shine in through open screened windows, our school clothes would be laid out neatly for the next day, and I'd be excited and scared to see my in-town friends again. Scared because they might have made new best friends over the summer while I was gone, and I might find myself on the outs (as happened a couple of times).
So as this lovely hot summer day unfolded, I felt especially grateful that it still was summer and that I was in our community pool doing the Irish jig, washing machine and cross country ski exercises with Melissa and my classmates, followed by 10 laps of the crawl. And as Sue kindly held up traffic so I could safely leave the park--as she's done all summer long--I couldn't stop whispering "Thank you."
My gratitude continued as Ed and I met his brother John and his wife Lorraine to celebrate John's 74th birthday at a wonderful Lebanese restaurant in the northern suberb where they live. To think John was 38 when Ed first introduced us, and I was a very young 23!
Where time simply didn't
exist when I was a child, the older I get the more elusive it
THURSDAY, AUGUST 2, 2001
"For it is important
that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give---yes, or no, or maybe---
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep."
from a poem by Willian Stafford, a Native American poet
A friend responded yesterday to the group emails I've been sending out with Starhawk's writings about what happened in Genoa; she ended her email with the stanza I've quoted above. Isn't it perfect?
Today I continued my attempts to be an awake person who sends clear signals. I spent several hours preparing handouts for the workshop I intend to give at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival next week. I'm calling it "Genoa and Beyond: Networking for Anti-Globalization Activists and Interested Womyn." I plan to give out copies of Starhawk's eyewitness account of the protests and her later reflections on what it all meant. I'm also including the following excerpt from a July 24 "Opinion" email message by Susan George:
The following is an excerpt from a 7/24/ message titled, "Opinion", by Susan George, Vice-President of ATTAC-France (Association for taxation of Financial Transaction to Aid Citizens) and Associate Director of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She is author of nine books, most recently, of The Lugano Report, Pluto Press. Interested readers can visit the Transnational Institute website http://www.tni.org/george/
The fact remains that this movement for a different kind of globalization is in danger. Either we'll be capable of exposing what the police are actually up to and manage to contain and prevent the violent methods of the few, or we risk shattering the greatest political hope in the last several decades. Whoever bears responsibility for what happened in Genoa--and it is massively on the side of the G-8 and the police, this broad, powerful, international movement, as irresistible as the tide; this movement of peoples united in solidarity that we've dreamed about can no longer go forward in the same way. It can no longer accept that anybody can do anything. A man has died.
If we can't guarantee peaceful, creative demonstrations, workers and official trade unions won't join us; our base will slip away, the present unity--both trans-sectoral and trans-generational--will crumble. We, the immense majority with serious proposals to make; we who believe that another world is possible, have got to act responsibly. Faced with the escalation of State-sponsored terror, we must figure out how to continue our demonstrations and direct action without endangering our people; how to avoid abandoning the terrain of the public space to the explosive ultra-minority. One thing is certain: we can't give up this struggle and we will not stop fighting against the huge injustices of present globalization, but we shall have to find new democratic avenues to wage this fight.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said, "Do not do what you would most like to do. Do what your adversary would least like you to do." I fear that today our adversaries are happy. As for me, I'm just trying to surmount the events of Genoa and not give in to despair.
I think her points are well taken. These are just the sort of issues and concerns I would like to hear discussed by my sister activists from around the world. Of course, if someone else is already presenting such a workshop I will be happy to simply be a participant; I just want to be sure something like this happens. It's too perfect an opportunity.
In addition to working on the handout, I spent time in our storage room going through my festival gear. I keep it all together in a closet so my preparations each year aren't too onerous. But there was an extra task today: to re-seal my tent with the waterproofing goop. Eddie set up my faithful Eureka tent in my bedroom; I stripped down to my nothingness and crawled inside to paint the seams. I was delighted to see that, with the help of my shower chair, I could still get in and out of the tent without too much trouble. That's always helpful!
I'm feeling excited about this, my eighth Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in as many years. The extended forecast for Muskegon, Michigan--40 miles from the Land--calls for a hot sunny week with temperatures in the high 80s F. But hey, that's better than a cold rainy week, which I've lived through as well.
I'll bring my cotton sleeveless sundresses, straw hat, sunblock, a sheet under which to sleep (I doubt I'll want to crawl into my sleeping bag!), a good supply of Avon Skin-So-Soft lotion for the bugs, a face towel to wet and place on my neck, a big bottle of water (there are water spigots all over the Land with great tasting water from underground springs) and my trusty battery-operated face fan that hangs on my chest like a necklace (it's quite effective). At hot festivals I've been extremely grateful for the accessible DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) showers. Nothing like cool water to take off the sun's sting. The strangest thing about the Land is that it must be the only 650 acres in Michigan without a river, lake or even a small pond! But we manage.
Just to give you plenty
of warning...Saturday, August 4, will be my last journal entry
until Monday, August 13. I promise to bring back lots of pictures!
FRIDAY, AUGUST 3, 2001
Such a lovely summer day. In the morning I scooted the mile down to Kinkos to copy my Genoa anti-globalization handouts that I want to take to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. On the way I passed by one of my favorite gardens. Then, after stopping at the drugstore and the bank ATM, I scooted back home in time to get ready for water aerobics class.
When I arrived at 12:45 PM, a few of our class members were already in the pool. I swam my warm-up 4 laps of the crawl and joined the class about 15 minutes later. It was my last class with our wonderful life guard/instructor, Melissa; she'll be going back to the University of Miami in Florida before I return from festival. This is lovely Melissa. I am so grateful to her for her encouragement and acceptance of my nervous beginnings with this class last year. It's thanks to water aerobics and Melissa that I can swim again.
Actually Melissa kindly took these pictures of me swimming 8 more laps of the crawl following class today. It feels so good to stretch my arms and reach into the water with confidence and strength after not being able to swim a stroke a year ago June! Today's 12 laps was my best yet.
After swimming, I got two of "Patricia's Cheese Pizza" slices and a large lemonade at the concession stand, and scooted down by the water to eat. I soon heard a little girl's voice yelling, "Hi there!" It was Elyse, my neighbor, with her friend Holly. Actually, it was soon Holly's little sister Christine and two ladybugs! Elyse and Holly had just been to a crafts class at the park's recreation center. The girls then decided they wanted a picture of themselves sans ladybugs.
I'm grateful to Heather, Holly and Christine's mother, for allowing me to take pictures of these adorable youngsters. I'm careful never to take pictures of kids without their parent's permission, especially to put up on the web.
Once back home, I had to say goodbye to Joe, our faithful painter/handyman. He still has to complete painting the screened porch, replace our cement front steps, install a new railing beside them, and add a new banister for me inside the house going upstairs. After almost a month working here, he's become a friend. Not only has he done an incredible job on the house, but he's been most thoughtful and helpful to me. For instance, he always got down off his ladder--or whatever he was doing--to help me and windchime walker up and down the front steps to the house. It's unfortunate that two of his sisters have MS, but that probably has added to his sensitivity to persons with special needs.
Anyway, Joe plans to finish our job next week while I'm at festival. What a hard-working, pleasant man to have around. And thanks to him and his workers, John and Todd, the outside of our house looks the best it's looked in the 30 years we've lived here. Next spring we hope to have him start on the inside.
I took a much needed nap from 5-7 PM and when I awoke the weather had changed. It still looked the same--sun and blue skies--but there was a coolness to the air. After our latest heat spell, this moderation of temperature is most welcome. Sure would be great if it would stay this way for next week's festival!
Ed and I took our usual walk/scoot after dinner. The lake looked peaceful as dusk began to fall. I took a picture of Ed and he took one of me. He calls it my "white teeth" picture because he says the new tooth-whitening toothpaste I've started to use is doing its job. I have to tell you that I have healthy teeth, but when I worked at the refugee coalition a few years back, a Russian refugee said to me, "You know, in Russia people have white teeth, not yellow like yours." Out of the mouths of babes and refugees!
After our walk we had a wonderful time watching the last in a 4-video set put out by BBC called "Wives and Daughters". It was a most enjoyable series based on an 1850 novel that kept us engaged throughout.
And now it's 1:30 AM and
I'm getting a bit bleary-eyed. Time for bed.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 4, 2001
Well, my friends, this will be my last journal entry for awhile. Tomorrow my little red Neon and I will travel clear across the state of Michigan to Muskegon on the coast of Lake Michigan, then head north 30 miles to the small town of Hart. From there we'll twist and turn down a series of roads until we come to a line of parked cars, vans, motorcycles and RVs on an unpaved county road in the middle of the woods. We'll take our place in line, and prepare to see old friends and make new ones. For that's what "doing the line" is all about.
For me, it means getting on Ona my scooter and going up and down the line speaking to everyone along the way. I'll meet "festivirgins"--first time festival goers--and perhaps show them an old festival program I plan to carry with me. I'll stop to visit womyn I know and love from former festivals or even from my life outside of festival. We'll catch up on what's new in our lives, maybe drum and sing a little, share some food, and even get a chair massage if the woman who offered it last year is back again.
The womyn closest to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival front gate--that will not open until 1 PM Monday--will have been there since Thursday or Friday, often having travelled from as far away as Florida, Canada's Eastern and Western Provinces, the West Coast, Southwest, South or New England. The large numbers of womyn who come from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and everyplace in between usually come by plane. Huge shuttle buses pick them up at the Grand Rapids, MI airport and bring them to festival on Monday. If they are workers--as 1000 womyn choose to be--they might have already been on the Land a week or even a month.
Instead of sleeping in my car as I tried (unsatisfactorily) to do last year, I'll have the luxury of sharing a motel room with my two oldest festival friends, Bonnie and Kathy from Ohio. In the late afternoon, we'll drive into Hart in their van--after they've marked their place with shocking pink tape attached to posts in the ground--probably take a swim, enjoy dinner at the motel restaurant, take a hot shower, and sleep in beds for the last time until Monday, August 13. Then Monday morning, we'll get a good breakfast and drive back to "do the line" until the gates open at 1 PM. From then on, events move ahead in a rather predictable fashion.
You stop-and-go in the line for about 2 hours; then are greeted at the gate by womyn saying "Welcome home!" Someone takes your ticket, another woman fits you with a plastic wrist band, someone else directs you where to park to unload--for disabled womyn all unloading is taken care of by strong smiling womyn--and then you either go park your car where it will stay for the week, or if you use a scooter or wheelchair, a helper will do it for you.
If you're a DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) camper like I, each item in your pile of stuff is tagged with a number--last year I was #27--before you go over to the Orientation Tent to sign up for your two 4-hour workshifts in whatever area you want to work. The festival can feed and care for 5,000-10,000 womyn each year because the work is shared. After this business is completed, you receive this year's festival program book.
Back at the DART shuttle stop, you simply wait for your number to be called. When it is, you watch them load your stuff, get on the shuttle yourself and enjoy the mile-long drive downtown to the DART tenting area. It's always a treat to see all the womyn with their colorful tents and signs in the woods along the way.
Once at DART, a new set of helping hands carries your stuff to wherever you want to set up your tent. I'm fortunate that Roseannah, the DART staff supervisor, always reserves a special spot for me under the grandmother oak tree across from the DART workshop tent. The womyn who help at DART do anything that's needed so disabled womyn can feel comfortable at festival. I always ask that they set up my tent and then put my heavy gear inside it. From then on I can pretty well make it on my own until it's time to leave.
After my tent is up, I take time to unpack and organize this space that will be my home for the next week. After 7 years, I have it down to a pretty non-stressful system. By then, it's usually time to scoot over to the DART kitchen tent for a simple supper of homemade hummous, fresh salad and fruit. Most of us love that festival sticks to pretty much the same menus year after year. It's fun to look forward to special favorites!
After supper, I might visit with friends either at their campsites or sitting around our DART firepit. As I'm usually pretty tired, I'm apt to turn in early the first night. But first I like to take a hot shower in one of our two accessible showers and brush my teeth at the common outdoor sink and water spigot. I'll then plug in my scooter at the DART staff tent for its overnight charge, and walk with windchime walker back to my tent. I sleep very well at festival.
Have a grand week, my
friends. I'll be back late Monday, August 13. By Tuesday night,
I expect to give you--with the help of my digital camera--a view
into this grandmother of all women's festivals. Until then...
SUNDAY, AUGUST 5, 2001
I awoke to a bright sunny day with expected highs in the mid-80s. Eddie finished packing the car--to the gills, I might add--and off I went heading west from Detroit on I96 at 9:45 AM.
The drive was most pleasant with open windows and music--Margie Adams' most recent CD and the National Women's Music Festival 25th anniversary sampler--getting me ready festival. By noon the sun was pretty hot so I rolled up the windows and put on the AC; the music continued. Just before Muskegon on the western coast of Michigan, I headed north on M31 for another 30 miles, and took the exit into Hart. From past experience I knew that would be my last chance to call Eddie on my cell phone, so after gassing up the car at my usual station, I called my sweetie. I promised him I'd go out to the pay phones at the Main Gate once during the week to check in. Next stop, the line!
Well, after driving through the small town of Hart, then out on open roads through farmland and forests, I pulled onto the dirt county road 3.2 miles from the MWMF front gate. The end of the line was 2.7 miles in; it was 2:30 PM. I parked in the shade and got out of the car.
As I'd anticipated, a womon (festi-word for "woman"--heaven forbid the word "man" or "men" might be used to identify us!) appeared to help unload and assemble Ona the scooter so I could "do" the line. Thanks to Amy, I was soon out on that hot, dusty road, visiting old friends and making new ones.
"The line" is a Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (MWMF) phenomenon. Every year, womyn get here earlier and earlier to celebrate a pre-festival festival all their own; this year a womon with kids apparently started the line on Wednesday. The MWMF front gate does not open until Monday at 1 PM.
This is a two-lane county road with a speed limit of 55 MPH, so it is necessary to pull way over to the right, and be extremely cautious when walking up and down the line, which is the activity of choice. On years like this--when rain has been scarce--it is a true dust bowl.
Except for security workers trying to keep us safe and to the side of the road, there are no festival services on the line: no porta-janes, no food or water, no entertainment, no healthcare facilities, no childcare. What there is, is terrific community. Womyn come prepared with coleman stoves, coolers, tents, campers, RVs, books, battery-operated CD players, cards, tables, flowers for the tables, comfortable chairs, etc. They set up tarps to sit under or they camp out under the trees for shade, as did Turtle and Rose and their friends. Enterprising womyn like Drea and Jeny use this opportunity to sell handmade crafts. In their case, I heard voices calling "Anyone want to buy a womon?" before I saw them. Ona now proudly carries one of their wire womyn hanging from her front basket.
After visiting lots of festi-friends up the line, I returned to my car. Once there, I saw two womyn walking by with backpacks that obviously contained all their festival gear. I asked where they'd come from and they said they'd gotten a ride to the line from town. Turns out Moniela and Brenda were not from Hart, but from Vancouver, British Columbia! They had left Vancouver on Wednesday and had hitchiked all the way to festival. They were even festi-virgins. That's the way it is with MWMF; womyn from all over the world dream of attending. It is an icon, especially in the lesbian community.
Around 5 PM, I connected with Bonnie and Kathy, with whom I would be spending the night in a local motel. They were the first friends I made in the DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) tenting area during my first festival in 1994. I remember their kindness that year in inviting me to share their tarp at Night Stage performances and sitting with me at meals. Although we only see one another at festival, our friendship is a deep and lasting one. It doesn't hurt that Bonnie and I share a diagnosis of MS, so understand and support one another with that as well.
We left my car in line--Kathy marked the spot I'd saved for them in front of me with a line of shocking pink tape on the ground--and drove in air conditioned comfort to the motel in their elegant van. Did I mention that it was very very hot on that dusty road?
Well, it was heavenly
at the motel! We shared a large air conditioned room with two
queen-sized beds. Bonnie went next door to the Subway to get our
dinner, and we had a picnic in our room. The best thing about
this motel was the pool. Luckily Bonnie had told me ahead of time
so I'd brought my bathing suit. At dusk we went down to a lovely,
large indoor pool that was surrounded by windows looking out on
trees and sky; it was filled with festi-goers. I swam a good number
of laps and luxuriated in the element of water, knowing I'd be
away from it for a week. We went to bed early and slept well.
Bonnie's concern over her snoring proved unfounded; I was most
comfortable with their sweet sleeping sounds.
MONDAY, AUGUST 6, 2001
At the motel's continental breakfast this morning, a young girl asked me, "Are you going to the music festival?" I asked how she knew about festival and she answered, "I've been going since I was a baby!" In three days, she'll be having her ninth birthday on the Land.
Bonnie, Kathy and I got back to the line about 10:30 PM, two and a half hours before the gates would open 1 PM. By then cars were parked close to the backtop, 3.2 miles from the front gate. Before parking, we decided to drive those 3.2 miles to see how many cars were ahead of ours. Well, Bonnie not only counted every car, van, camper and RV, but every space that might have been reserved as theirs was. According to this method of counting, we were #278 and #279.
Back in line, Kathy kindly unloaded and assembled Ona--we'd recharged her overnight at the motel--and I was soon scooting up the road, checking things out. I enjoyed an impromptu guitar, fiddle and vocal performance by the Yeastie Grrls, and reconnected with Rebecca, a young womon I'd danced with at a Day Stage concert on the Land last year. I saw many other festi-friends along the way.
By 12:15 PM I thought I'd best go back to my car and get Ona packed away in readiness for the gates opening. As soon as it was 1 PM, I knew from past experience that I'd be in the car stopping-and-going for at least 1? hours before I got on the Land.
When I returned to my spot, all I had to do was ask a group of womyn for help and help was there. That's the way it is at festival; often help is offered before I even know I need it. Just the way we'd want the wider world to be.
Soon enough a truck of festi-workers drove by yelling, "Gate's open; get in your cars!" I didn't turn on my air conditioning but did keep Margie Adams piano CD playing to sooth any frazzled nerves I might develop while stopping-and-going for however long it would take to get to the gate. This was my view of the line of cars ahead of me.
The two hours passed quickly, and soon I was waved in the front gate and greeted by smiling womyn. One womon took my ticket and snapped on my lavender Michigan 2001 wrist band. Two more directed my car to the DART unloading zone, where a couple of strong womyn graciously unloaded and assembled Ona my scooter, and then loaded a huge wheeled cart with all my belongings. One of them parked my car while I scooted and the other womon wheeled my stuff over to the DART shuttle stop.
The process from then on is one I know well: 1) get each item in your pile of belongings stickered with a number (mine was #20 this year); 2) go over to the Orientation tent; 3) either watch the orientation video or not (I didn't); 4) sign up for two 4-hour work shifts (I decided to get it all done at once so I signed up for Night Stage Traffic Tuesday morning and Acoustic Stage Security Tuesday afternoon); 5) fill out an index card with your name, address, phone number and work shifts; 6) receive your festival program--what you live by for the week; 7) go back to the DART shuttle stop and wait for your number to be called; 8) watch your stuff as it gets loaded on Duck, Demming, Doris or Dottie, get on the shuttle yourself and enjoy the mile-long ride to DART downtown, your home for the next week.
The surprise this year was that my picture was in the program. At festival, that's like being on the front page of The New York Times. I found out later that I was in the orientation video as well. Gosh.
Everything went swimmingly and I was soon on Doris riding through the Land. As I'd expected, many of the ferns were dried up and browned out, and the leaves on the trees looked mighty droopy. I understand there had been no rain for 39 days.
Unfortunately my own tears watered some of the Land after I heard of the death of Laurie, my next door tentmate for years. What a loss to our community.
Roseannah, DART's strong and compassionate coordinator, was among the first to welcome me back. For five years that dear womon has tied an orange plastic ribbon with my name on it to reserve my special spot under the grandmother oak across from the DART workshop tent. Kristin, a new DART worker, was a delightful and generous-spirited helper who not only carted my gear to my campsite, but put up my tent and organized all my stuff inside it. I'd never before asked for so much help, but it meant I was not exhausted that first day and could truly enjoy the afternoon and evening. Here I am in front of my festi-home.
Dinner was delicous as always. I love their chick-pea hummous and salad, everything cut and prepared by loving hands. While I was eating, three friends from home--Mary, Jackie and Nancy--stopped by for a brief visit on their way to the showers. They looked as hot and happy as I.
After dinner, I visited with a lot of DART friends. I was happy that Laura, Linda, 12 year-old Kaya and her friend Hillary were my neighbors again, and that Natalie and Steph, a sweet couple, were tenting in Laurie's old spot. Melinda and her dog, Klark, were down the path in their usual location, with Andrea and her partner across from them. The neighborhood felt quite familiar.
Risa, a craftswomon and friend, came by to visit and ended up helping me fill out the raffle tickets that I bought from Yemaya. The festival raffle is a grand thing that not only supports MWMF but offers a lot of chances to receive "Oo, ah, fabulous prizes!" (a traditional chant as names are pulled during the Night Stage concert intermissions). The 135 craftswomyn donate the prizes, and a pair of festival tickets for the following year are also given away each day. But the ultimate prize is the festival quilt that is worked on by womyn during the year and by festi-goers all week long; it is always an exquisite creation. One year I won in the raffle. You might wonder what it was that I won? And if I said a "pocket rocket", would you know what I meant? But, hey, I won!
Here are Yemaya and Risa sitting in front of my tent, with the DART workshop tent behind them.
As it was still plenty
hot and I knew I had a long day ahead of me with my two work shifts,
I decided to hit the hay pretty early...after a shower, that is.
Fortunately, I'd gotten smart and brought a sheet so I wouldn't
have to crawl inside my sleeping bag. It was so still, I hardly
even needed the sheet.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 7, 2001
I beat my alarm getting out of bed today. Well, "bed" is a bit euphemistic; sleeping bag is more like it. But even that isn't exactly right; it was way too hot to go inside my sleeping bag last night. OK, I beat my alarm getting off the air mattress today. That's more accurate.
I'm not real fond of setting an alarm at festival, but since my first work shift started at 9 AM and I had to scoot a distance to check in, I knew I'd best use a mechanical wake-up call. But the heat woke me up just fine. Yes, it was plenty hot by 7:30 AM.
I used windchime walker to walk to the outdoor communal sink to brush my teeth, then went to shower off my nightime stickiness. For once I was happy when the water cycled through its cold spell (there's no adjusting water temperature; it's either on or off). I continued walking the paved path through our DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) tenting area until I reached the office where Ona's battery light blinked her readiness to get on the road. That is where electric wheelchairs and scooters are plugged in for recharging every night.
My breakfast was blueberries at the DART kitchen tent and a grapefruit juice that I bought at the Saints, a food-to-buy tent across the main road (Lois Lane) from my campsite. I wasn't really very hungry. Soon it was time to scoot down to Triangle and check in at Traffic headquarters.
Each 6-day camper (festival runs officially from Tuesday-Sunday) is expected to sign up for two 4-hour workshifts during festival week. With anywhere from 5-10,000 womyn and children to feed, welcome, entertain, care for and keep safe, this is necessarily a communally-run endeavor. There are 600 staff and workers who spend from 2-5 weeks on the Land, and a handful of staff who work all year getting ready for festival. For one week every August, the MWMF is the largest city in Oceana County, Michigan.
This year, instead of taking two Night Stage Security work shifts during the week as I'd done in years past, I decided to get it all out of the way the first day. My morning shift was at Night Stage Traffic from 9 AM-1 PM, and my afternoon shift was Acoustic Stage Security from 3-7 PM. I just hadn't taken into account how hot it was going to be on that one day!
But even with the heat, I had a wonderful time at Night Stage Traffic. Meg was a delightful supervisor and it was the perfect spot--as I'd known it would be--to see everyone and everything. The work itself was pretty simple: stopping foot traffic when vehicles drove in or out of the Night Stage road. I even got to go over to the Belly Bowl for my first time ever--it is the workers' and performers' inner sanctum--to pick up some Gatorade mix for the womyn out at Shuttle Base in the parking lot. Gatorade was a prized commodity at this festival.
By 1 PM, I was feeling the effects of the heat. I'd already eaten lunch while working my Traffic shift, so figured what I needed was a rest. It was way too hot to even imagine going inside my tent, so I sat out under the trees and let Eddie's fabulous fan do its work.
This combination fan/water spritzer was a true treasure on the Land. Ed had bought it for me on the Saturday before I left for festival and I can never thank him enough. It got so womyn were buzzing around me like bees around honey, just waiting for a cool-down. As my friends said, it was a real girl-magnet!
After resting, I visited with my neighbors for awhile; Kaya even modelled her beautiful new dress for me. I took another cold shower to lower my body temperature and stopped by the Womb, our healthcare tent, for a cup of Gatorade to rebalance my electrolytes. I'd been faithfully drinking lots of water all day long and had worn my straw hat whenever I was in the sun.
It was soon 2:45 PM, time for my next work shift. One of the most restorative parts of the day was my ride through the forest of beautiful overhanging trees on the way down to the Acoustic Stage.
Again, the work itself was easy. The other two work shift womyn, Christine and Victoria, and Jai, the Acoustic Stage Security coordinator, and I sat around and talked in the shade until folks started gathering for the 5:30 PM performance. My jobs were to make sure able-bodied womyn didn't use the one accessible porta-jane that was reserved for differently-abled womyn, and to keep womyn from sitting on the stage side of the path. Victoria even went up to the kitchen tent to get our dinners, so I was able to eat on the job.
The performances by Alix Olson, a powerful feminist slam poetry artist, and by the Urban Bush Women, an ensemble who weave dance, theater and music into their culturally-aware original works, were breathtaking. This was partly why I had signed up for this work shift; it was where I would have been anyway.
But after working eight
hours in the heat--even easy jobs--I was one tired puppy. I visited
with friends for awhile, took another shower--my third of the
day--and went to bed early. I even managed to sleep through the
Tuesday night dance down at the Day Stage. And believe me, with
their powerful speakers blaring, that was a true indication of
how exhausted I was. Fortunately the night air had a lovely coolness
to it, so my tent was quite comfortable.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8, 2001
I was so happy this morning that, except for my required work shifts that were now completed, I'd decided to have an unscheduled festival. It was only the second of my eight years here that I was not going to 3-hour singing or drumming rehearsals every day. Much as I love both of these activities and the communities that form there, I felt the need to lay back and just float on the winds of happenstance. Of course, my definition of "laying back" might be different from most!
The first thing that happened was that I ran into Jamie Anderson on the DART path as I was scooting off to breakfast. Maybe you remember Jamie from my journal entries about the National Women's Music Festival in Indiana last June. She was the bellydancing, baton-twirling, folk singing, comic MC who helped raise so much $$ for the NWMF on Saturday night.
This morning at Michigan she was scheduled to offer a bellydancing workshop at the DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) workshop tent. When I'd read my festival program, I'd been intrigued by the prospect of bellydancing, especially as a differently-abled womon. But I had doubted that I'd be up and ready to move at 9 AM--after all, it was scrambled eggs morning (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) and I didn't want to miss that. So Jamie and I visited a few minutes before I went on to breakfast.
Food at festival is quite delicious, in my opinion. Totally vegetarian (with vegan options), locally-grown fresh vegetables and fruits, everything cut up by hand and prepared by 100s of womyn every day, hot things cooked over open fire pits. And because the menus are pretty much the same year after year, you can make sure you don't miss your favorite meals.
By the way, breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week are included in the price of admission, which is on a sliding scale starting at $290 for adults and a fixed price of $75 for children aged 3-16. That includes everything--performances, workshops, a weeklong film festival, dances, health and childcare, shuttles and tractor-run surries, you name it. If you were happy just drinking water--which is good tasting and readily available out of faucets everywhere on the Land--and could stay away from the Craftswomyn's booths, you could enjoy festival without spending a penny over the admission price. I appreciate that MWMF is committed to making festival accessible to all. There are a limited number of ticket subsidies for long-term low-income womyn and/or their children, and womyn 65 and older who are on fixed or no income can receive a 50% senior discount at the gate. That's why Michigan cuts across the cultural barriers of class and economic abilities.
So, after thoroughly enjoying my eggs scrambled with mushrooms, onions and broccoli, I scooted back to DART and joined Jamie's bellydancing workshop. What fun! There were only five of us in the class (she had over 100 at her afternoon Community Center class in the sizzling sun!), so we got a lot of individual attention. And she was great at adapting the moves to our unique abilities. For instance, sometimes I danced standing up as I leaned against my scooter, and other times I danced sitting down with my scooter seat turned to the side (giving me more room to move my arms). Whatever I could do was fine; that was true for all of us.
I haven't yet mentioned the weather conditions on this lovely sunny festival day. Can you believe a high of 100º F, and a very very humid 100º at that? So you can understand why we took a lot of water and rest breaks during our three-hour workshop! Even so, Jamie acceded to our request that she bellydance for us before the workshop was over. Such a good-spirited womon.
By now it was noon and time for lunch. I scooted over to the DART kitchen tent with my paper plates, fork and spoon at the ready; I kept them in Ona's backpack all week. This is definitely one of the advantages of being disabled at festival. Even on the weekend, when there were over 6000 womyn on the Land, I never waited in a food line for longer than 10 minutes. And the able-bodied womyn? Let me show you what their dinner line looked like one afternoon as womyn were getting their food to take down to the Acoustic Stage for a performance (usually scheduled from 4-7 PM). Of course, I've heard of womyn meeting new girlfriends while waiting in those lines!
Speaking of food, I wanted to show you the food preparation tent. This is where the kitchen work shift womyn stand around tables and cut bushels of tomatoes, celery, onions, shuck corn and clean broccoli, smash chick peas for hummous, and accomplish a multitude of culinary miracles. If you look closely, you can see cartons and boxes of fruits, vegetables, lentils and such piled around the inside of this tent. By Sunday, there's practically nothing left. Off to the left out of view is the refrigerated truck--as big as a moving van--that keeps things cold.
There's lots of silliness at festival. Some of it spontaneous and some orchestrated. One of the ways to keep up the morale of womyn who are asked to work hard on hot days is to teach them musical routines to go along with their jobs. At lunch on Wednesday we were treated to a silly song with kitchen utensil percussion by some members of the kitchen crew. By the way, when you go to meals there are no tables to sit at except for the DART womyn; everyone else either sits on bales of hay, the ground or in their ubiquitous beach chairs. Having a scooter with a comfortable, always-available seat was a real perk!
It was hard to keep from snapping pictures every other minute at festival, especially of the children. Every year it looks like we have more young ones, and they seem to take to festival like ducks to water. On this hot day, these two little boys asleep in their wagon definitely had the right idea. And then there was my new friend, Xunan, who fell in love with Ona's horn. All week long she'd see me before her Mom did and come running over to give it a few toots.
After lunch and one of my three showers on this blistering hot day, I scooted down to the Crafts area. This is where I buy most of my clothes and gifts. There were 135 craftswomyn this year selling drums, jewelry, clothing, books, CDs, paintings, graphics, photography, sculpture, woodwork, ceramics, fiber art, glass, healing stones, herbal products, custom-made shoes, massages, haircuts, temporary henna tattoos...just about any creative item or service you can imagine.
Every year I have certain items I must buy: the most important is a new windchime for whatever adaptive device needs it. Ona's windchime had lost one of its bells so that was my first stop. Cynthia of Coyote Moon Music makes the world's best-sounding and artistic-looking windchimes; I've been buying from her for years. So now Ona is sporting a beautiful new windchime that hangs from a piece of manzanita wood from Oregon and is rung by a Mexican agate and assorted stones.
While there my dear friends Amy and Jack stopped by to visit. We first met last festival when my didgeridoo helped soothe Jack in one of his infrequent crying spells. At that time, Amy was in the process of trying to adopt Jack after having been his foster mother since birth. His special needs were causing the state to drag its feet, but Amy was not giving up. In October I received a grand and glorious announcement that Jack and Amy were finally family in the eyes of the state. I could not get over how his strength and general good health had improved over the year. And, boy, did he love Eddie's fan/spritzer!
Another of my regular stops is Wing of Heron drums. Raven, her helper Paloma and I have known one another since I bought one of her handmade Ashiko drums in 1995. This year I needed a wooden stick to play the Nigerian cowbells I'd bought at the National Women's Music Festival in June; not only a stick but some lessons as well. One thing led to another--including my Detroit drum sister Ella stopping by--and we ended up with a pretty good drum jam right there in the crafts tent. To be honest, we did a lot of drumming and chanting about rain, hoping to invite water energy to join us on the Land.
When you've been to as many festivals as I--eight and counting--it becomes like a family reunion. And my primary family are the womyn who tent in DART. Like Helen. I've admired this womon since we first met in 1994. She has never missed since then so we've just gotten closer and closer. And being close to Helen means being close to her "boys", Trystan and Vashti. Helen and her service dogs live by themselves in a cabin in the woods on 40 acres of land in West Virginia. It hasn't been that long that she's had running water, electricity and a phone; she is still without a flush toilet. She and her girlfriend have been together for 14 years, but live separately. Helen is a true womon of grace and power.
After dinner, I scooted down to the Night Stage field to save a good place for tonight's opening celebration and performances. Wednesday is always the best attended concert on the Land, so even though DART womyn have their own seating area, it can get pretty crowded. While there, I ran into one of my favorite festi-sisters, Sparky.
For years, Sparky was a DART worker and I think she was the first womon I met at the Front Gate my first festival in 1994. This womon lights up the world with her smile, and has such a gentle, loving way about her that everyone feels welcomed. For the past two years, she's worked in the Worker's Kitchen, so we only meet occasionally. It's a treat when we do!
It was still over an hour before Night Stage would begin at 8 PM, so I scooted back to DART and hung out with the card players, Tangerine, Bea, Danielle and Marcia. I'd brought along a pint of raspberry sorbet from the Country Store, so I was a pretty popular gal. Ice cold sorbet plus Ed's fan/spritzer was the way to any womon's heart on this festi-day.
Even with the heat, my energy level was high. Probably the excitement of being back at festival. It continued to be like old home week when I got down to Night Stage before 8 PM. There was my dear friend, Ginni Clemmons the folk singer/songwriter, with whom I've been in email correspondence all year. As she lives in Hawaii, we only see one another at festivals. It felt particularly important to give her a hug this year because she'd just finished companioning her father in his transition through illness and death.
I tried to get pictures of the audience at Night Stage, but it was impossible to get them all in. I guess you'll just have to imagine 1000s of womyn with smiles on their faces, covering a large field surrounded on three sides by big old green trees. And after dark, spread out under a crowded canopy of sparkling stars in a midnight blue sky. Pretty darn idyllic.
The opening ceremonies and performances were wonderful. According to the performers, this Michigan stage crew is as good as it gets. From an audience point of view, it's heavenly.
Believe it or not, I still wasn't done after Night Stage was finished, so I scooted over to the August Night Café, the afterhours performance and snack space. While there I connected with another dear friend, Jo,and her old high school classmate, Joan. Jo, another womyn with whom I stay in close email communication, recently completed a Masters program in Boston, and will soon be moving to Germany to be with Chris, her partner. I met them both here on the Land a few years ago when they were workers at DART. The past two years, Jo has worked at the Festi-wear tent but we still manage to spend time together.
Tonight, Jo, Joan and
I shared cheese popcorn and conversation until we all decided
it was time for bed. I crawled into my tent at 1:30 AM and fell
right to sleep.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 9, 2001
In an interview later in the week for a Lesbian and Gay Quarterly article on handicap accessibility at MWMF, I was asked what is the most important part of Michigan to me. My answer? The womyn.
Womyn like Melinda, my longtime neighbor in DART. Believe it or not, she has been to festival 18 of her 20 years! Her mother, Liz, was a craftswomon and always brought her daughter with her. They still come to festival together, but things are different now. Five years ago, Melinda was in an accident that caused her to lose sensation in and the use of her lower body; three months later she came to festival for the first time in a wheelchair. It has been a privilege to see how this strong young womon has grown and flourished year by year. She gives Klark, her canine companion, credit for a lot of it. Here are Melinda, Klark and Rachel, her friend.
Another wonderful womon is Brenda. We first met at festival three years ago when she and her two sisters were festi-virgins. They've never missed since. Actually we see one another every so often at Detroit drumming events, but it's at festival that we really connect. Now, Brenda is famous for many things in the wider world--she's an expert troubleshooting labor negotiator who travels all over the country--but to me she's most famous here on the Land for a most unique habit. Brenda curls her hair every night at festival! Not only that, she wears full makeup. If there were a best-dressed award on the Land, my friend Brenda would definitely win it. And she has a great sense of humor or she wouldn't have let me take this picture! By the way, if you were ever curious about what our DART showers look like, you can see them up the path behind Brenda.
I had a hard time getting going this morning. The heat felt particularly oppressive and my body was like a lead weight. A cool shower helped but I was definitely not at my top form, so I just laid low. I visited with friends and then scooted down to the crafts area for awhile. Actually I was gearing up for the political activist workshop I'd seen in the program called "Women and the Corporate State". It looked like just what I'd hope to find here.
After an early lunch, I stopped at my tent to pick up the 30 copies I'd printed of Starhawk's eyewitness account and reflections on Genoa, and scooted down the paved path to Triangle and the workshop areas. On the way I passed Bush Gardens, one of 10 distinct camping grounds on the Land.
Actually Bush Gardens was used by Elvira Kurt, a most funny MC, in one of her routines on Night Stage. On her Top Ten List of how to tell if a womon was a Christian Right infiltrator on the Land, #6 was that she thought Bush Gardens was named for the President!
I arrived early--the workshop was scheduled to run from 1 to 3 PM--and was surprised to find so many womyn already there. On this extremely hot day, I'd wondered if folks would be up for discussing such a heavy topic. How wrong I was! We ended up with over 50 womyn, young and old, working class and professional, white and womyn of color, urban and rural, experienced activists and womyn who wanted to be educated, from Italy, France, Australia, Canada and the US.
Two activist/organizers from Toronto, Anna Willats and Helen Victoros, facilitated the workshop. I was most impressed with the description they'd written for the festival program:
WOMEN AND THE CORPORATE
Talk, learn and teach about privatization of public services, the growing money gap between rich and poor/white people and people of color, use of police to repress people/defend owners, what's happening internationally, how to work in solidarity and fight back strategies.
They began with a brief presentation and then opened the floor (more like the ground) for discussion. Well, might I say we needed 5 days, not 2 hours! Such different perspectives, so much lived experience, information, websites to explore, groups to hook up with, issues to address. Anna and Victoria had their hands full just trying to make sure everyone who wanted to speak had the chance to do so. Even though we merely scratched the surface of this mammoth topic, I think all of us felt energized and educated by our time together. We agreed that we needed way more time than this, so we encouraged one another to offer more workshops next year. Actually the ideal would be to have a week-long Intensive so we could really delve into the issues and create a strong global network. Festival is the perfect place to do so.
There was one white-haired womon in the circle with whom I particularly resonated. It felt like our perspectives were in tune with one another and that our activism came out of similar places within ourselves...besides she obviously had her feet on the ground and a great sense of humor. Later in the week, Pat and I met on the path, reconnected immediately and agreed to work on presenting a proposal for just such an Intensive workshop next year. Her experience as a history/women's history high school teacher and longtime activist should fit well with my decades of group facilitation and current commitment to the anti-corporate globalization movement. I was especially encouraged when I heard her say, "We need to turn Michigan into a movement!" My sentiment exactly.
After the workshop I scooted over to Triangle, near the Crosstown tractor stop, to wait for a DART shuttle to take me out to the pay phones. It was time to call my sweetie. Fortunately, the Land is still not cell phone-friendly. I hope it never is.
While waiting for one of the 7 phones to be free, I met Eileen. I must say she had some of the most artistic tattoos I'd yet seen on the Land...and believe me, there were lots to see. Then after having had a good conversation with Eddie, I met Luanne, who was the next in line. Here's a photo of Luanne talking to her father in one of the tiny stand-up phone cubicles. Just wanted to show my sweetie what this looks like.
My, it was hot waiting for the shuttle to return! Even though we'd heard there was a thunderstorm on the way, there was no hint of it yet. All I could see, taste, touch was dust everywhere. The idea of rain felt like an impossible dream. But the day wasn't over yet.
When I returned to DART downtown--thank you, "T"--it was time to go to dinner. By now, the sky had clouded over and the winds had picked up. It looked, smelled and felt like rain was finally on its way. One of the DART workers said the storm had just hit the Front Gate. On my way over to the DART kitchen tent, I was Chicken Little, shouting, "The storm's at the Front Gate! Storm's at the Front Gate!"
There was a line of womyn waiting to get their food so I pulled in behind them. If indeed the stormwas at the front gate, there was no way I was going to get under the kitchen tent before it hit. But either the storm was extremely slow-moving, or my Chicken-Little information was premature because I managed to get under the tent and get my food before the sky fell.
What a glorious storm! Womyn were out dancing in their bare skins beside others who were bundled up in serious rain gear. Funny juxtaposition of images. Our DART kitchen tent was packed tight as sardines, which was actually loads of fun. My friend Kim enjoyed it because she got to hold Jessica's adorable baby boy, Jedidiah.
The rain continued for over an hour. During that time, some of us were treated to the best show of the week (in my humble opinion). Two lakes quickly developed in front of that large food preparation tent I'd showed you yesterday. Around the one closest to the tent, a circle of womyn and children formed. They were playing some kind of game like Rabbit Finds A Hole. In the middle of the lake closest to us, there was a pick-up football game.
Have you ever seen human bodies completely coated in mud? If not, I'm afraid you won't be able to imagine what we saw during the next hour. Oh, how I wish I could show you the photos I took, but if I did my site would probably be censored. But let me tell you, they are my favorite pictures of the whole week!
The circle players had a nice game going until one womon--isn't it always the way?--picked up a handful of mud and let it fly. It soon turned into a free-for-all. Then they started mud wrestling. All the while, the football players were muddy, yes, but still intent on their game. Not for long. All of a sudden, the mud wrestlers attacked the football players and that was all she wrote. No, actually, the football players soon went back to their game, just looking lots muddier than before! The next game was for the mud wrestlers to capture clean womyn who were walking by. They weren't rough on them, just determined to muddy them up. Fortunately those of us in the DART kitchen tent were off limits. Good thing.
You know, I went to the Night Stage performance that night and I'm sure it was good--they all were--but I can't remember a bit of it. The mud show is so vivid in my mind that it's hard for anything else to compete.
I do remember that that
night we had our first fire in the DART firepit. It was good to
sit with the womyn and sing and talk like we've done so many years
before. And what great sleeping weather! I even crawled inside
my sleeping bag for the first time.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2001
By Friday, I had heard of the deaths of three of our most powerful DART womyn. I've already written of Laurie, my next door tent neighbor, whom I heard about in the shuttle coming onto the Land on Monday. When I later asked Robyn about Linda, whom she and her daughter Kate always assisted camping in DART, I learned that she too had died. Such sadness.
Linda was fragile in her body in the years I knew her, but with such a spirit of life and determination that her presence was unforgettably strong. She was here again last year with her friends and her loving canine companion, wheeling around the Land in her electric wheelchair with a smile on her face. I will always see her in my mind's eye at the Acoustic Stage in a state of bliss as she listened to her favorite womyn performers.
And then I heard of the death of Connie. How grateful I was that she had managed to come to festival last year. It was such an undertaking for her, but apparently was at the top of her list of enjoyable things to do. Last year she had two assistants to give her 24-hour care, a hospital bed, a lung-suctioning machine, oxygen and two tents for all her medical equipment.
I remember standing beside her bed having a good visit with her the last day of festival. Even though it was harder than ever for her to speak--she needed to be suctioned and given oxygen every few sentences--Connie was still full of projects! For instance she was asking every DART camper to fill out an index card with contact information so she could create a network for us to stay in touch. As an early disability activist, Connie had written and published books on the subject, and was a popular speaker and workshop facilitator. I'd benefited from her grace and wisdom my first year at festival in 1994 when I took a workshop she presented. It was the first time I'd allowed myself to come face-to-face with my new identity as a disabled womon. What a privilege to have had Connie as a model.
This morning we awoke to a gorgeous crystal clear sky and mild temperatures. Everything looked fresh and new after yesterday's rains. I dressed and scooted over to breakfast. Yum! A scrambled eggs morning! When I got back to my tent, I saw my didgeridoo friend and teacher, Merribeth, setting up for her noon workshop in the DART workshop tent. Setting up was a very big project as she'd brought at least 20 didgeridoos for the womyn to use. Merribeth runs a store in Indianapolis where she sells a wonderful assortment of artist-made items, including didgeridoos from Australia and the Southwest United States.
Her concern that not many womyn would come to "Learn To Play the Didgeridoo for Fun, Meditation and Healing" proved unfounded; more than 35 womyn joined us for at least part of the two hours. And they loved it,as you can see in this photo. And I loved it because Merribeth used me as a subject to show how to do a didgeridoo healing. Here are Merribeth and Ruth, her helper, showing us how to blow this amazing instrument.
After the workshop I scooted over to the Day Stage to catch Mz. Fishe and the New Groove. Well, they really got down and so did I! It was a blast to dance again with Rebecca--my dance partner from last year's festival--while I leaned against Ona the scooter for support. I did lots of dancing this week, some standing and some sitting. Either way, my body just couldn't stay still!
Friday was my big music day. Following the Day Stage performances, I scooted back to my tent to get my special plastic food container. I wanted to take dinner down to the Acoustic Stage performances scheduled to start in less than an hour. While in front of my tent, I snapped this picture of my neighborhood. Doesn't it make you want to be there? It sure does me.
I then stopped at Melinda's tent and hung out for awhile--as I often did--with her, Helen, Andrea (another power-filled womon on wheels), Liz (Melinda's mother), Phoenix, Denise, Chris, Rachel and other friends. Melinda's tarp-covered "front porch" was a favorite gathering place for a number of womyn in my neighborhood. We had most interesting discussions, some of which addressed subjects wheeled womyn know well, like how to handle bowel/bladder surprises and how to keep guide dogs working the way they should. I learned a lot from our discussions, humor and honesty being their trademark.
Soon it was time to scoot over to the DART kitchen tent, fill up my covered plastic container with savory casserole, three bean salad, tossed salad and corn on the cob, and make my way down to the Acoustic Stage.
I had missed most of Lucie Blue Tremblay's set but what I heard was wonderful. Then we were offered an unexpected treat. Usually we've at least heard of the festival performers even if we haven't seen them ourselves, but the next act, LAVA from Brooklyn, NY, was new to us all.
WOW!!! These five women pushed every movement envelope imaginable. From the trapeze to group acrobatics on the stage, they held us spellbound for over an hour. When they finished, the entire audience jumped to its feet and screamed for so long that two of the performers came back onstage with their cameras to get a picture of our enthusiastic response. No wonder their director, Sarah East Johnson, has won both BESSIE and OBIE awards for her work with LAVA. They are not to be missed.
Well, it wasn't over yet. The next performer was one of our favorites, Evelyn Harris. Maybe you heard her when she was with Sweet Honey In the Rock, but since going solo, Evelyn has really come into herself. And I particularly enjoyed seeing our One World Inspirational Choir accompanist, Esther Blue, performing with her on piano and hearing Gabrielle Schavran on the cello. It was an exquisite performance.
After the final curtain call, I was feeling so mellow I just sat in Ona savoring the beauty I'd just experienced. Jamie Anderson came up to chat and asked if I'd like to join her and some other womyn who would be bellydancing with Ubaka Hill's Drumsong Orchestra here at the Acoustic Stage on Sunday. Of course I said yes.
So a small group of us--I was the only wheeled dancer--worked out a simple routine. Luckily we were only going to dance for one number so it wasn't that big a deal. We then rehearsed with the Drumsong Orchestra who were having their sound check. How ironic that the year I'd decided not to be part of either the choir or the Drumsong Orchestra, I was going to be performing anyway! The quirks of Nature.
I then scooted over to the Night Stage...after picking up my obligatory snack and apple juice. I think this night it was cheez puffs. By the time the sun had set it was so cold that I scooted up to the Festi-wear tent (unfortunately, Jo wasn't there right then) and bought a fleece pullover, my first item of Festi-wear (clothing with the MWMF logo) ever. And was I glad I had it when I decided to stay for Le Tigre, a feminist, punk, electronic band from New York.
In recent years, Michigan has been actively trying to bring in performers that the young womyn like, and this was one such group. Actually, I liked them too. And I wasn't the only one. Dancing right beside me in the DART seating area--there were only three of us left--was a womon named Alice. Now Alice had the bummest knee I've ever seen but that didn't keep her down for a minute. We talked a little between the songs and I came to find out she was exactly my age (59), from Grand Rapids, MI (100 miles from the Land) and had not attended a festival since the 1970s. What a feisty womon!
We stayed and danced until
the bitter cold end. I then scooted up to the DART firepit and
hung around until I got sleepy. Back in my tent, it was so chilly
that I stayed in my clothes and snuggled deep inside my warm sleeping
SATURDAY, AUGUST 11, 2001
I did something today that I'd never done before: I actually got up in time to watch the start of the Lois Lane wheelchair/running race. This is a traditional Saturday morning event that I'd heard from inside my sleeping bag for years, but had never seen. But, durn it, my friends were going to race in the wheelchair division at 7:30 AM and I just had to be there to cheer them on.
Melinda and Klark got off to a strong start, with Helen and Andrea not far behind. It was Andrea's first race and I really admired her for trying it. I knew from years past--when I'd used my 3-wheeled bike on the Land--that they were going to encounter some tough inclines. Well, the order of finish was Melinda, Helen and Andrea, but in my book they were all winners. And the way they cheered for one another one proved that.
After the wheeled womyn had completed their race, it was time for the running womyn to meet their own challenges. The start was rather crowded, but by the time these womyn had covered 5 kilometers on hilly dirt roads, things had thinned out a bit. We had a festi-clown coordinating the spectators so the finish was a lot of fun for everyone. Here's an early finisher named Nicky running through our balloon-coiffed crowd.
On my way back to DART--we'd been at the Community Center--I ran into a festi-friend whom I'd not yet seen this year. Julia had stayed in DART last year (her first festival) and we'd spent time together at meals and at Night Stage. A most interesting womon. Well, this year she had spectacular news: she's the Green Party candidate for Mayor of New York City! So if you're a resident of NYC, be sure to vote for Julia Willebrand.
By now it was time for breakfast so I scooted over to the DART kitchen tent. Once there I was delighted to meet up with friends from home. This was Janis's first festival and she'd brought her young daughter Sierra whom I knew from Notable Women chorus rehearsals. Turned out Sierra was loving festival and was particularly excited that she'd be celebrating her eighth birthday on the Land tomorrow morning. They were planning to leave mid-day so she could also be with her Dad for part of her birthday. Here's Sierra wearing (in her own unique way) the balloon hat I passed on to her.
While enjoying my scrambled tofu with vegetables and an interesting conversation with Naomi from the Bay Area, I heard what sounded like live music nearby. At first I thought it must be a sound check at one of the stages, but it didn't really sound like that. Naomi was the one who knew what was going on: it was a music jam at the kitchen rehearsal tent. Well, nothing could stop me from scooting right over to check it out.
Once there, I was invited to join the jam using any instrument I wanted. Since my Nigerian cowbell was hanging on Ona the scooter's handlebar just waiting to be rung, I chose that. As the morning wore on we ended up with a regular band--trumpet, sax, bass, guitars, mandolin, keyboard, harmonica, drums, tambourine, penny whistle and cowbell! We even had some vocals. I want to thank Zéalla Flores for offering this amazing workshop.
By now it was about 12:30 PM. I had business in the crafts area, so started to scoot down there. How happy I was to run into the Redheads Parade! I just had to join that. What most folks don't know is that before my hair turned white, I was a strawberry blonde, in other words, a redhead!
This is an annual parade that goes through the crafts area, the Day Stage audience, over to the kitchen tents and ends up in the Community Center. It is always lead by a lovely redheaded Raffle worker, and we pick up redheads as we move from area to area. There are traditional chants--like "Red on the head; fire in the bed"--and is open to redheads by birth and by choice. I added my own personal chant of "White head, born redhead!" Here are some of the redheads assembled back at the Community Center. Sure wish I'd taken their picture in the sun where they looked positively dazzling!
After that excitement I scooted back over to the crafts area. I was trying to decide whether to try to find some sharp outfit to bellydance in tomorrow, or to have my body painted and just wear my sarong. I was happy to elicit the help of my new friends from DART, Liz and Jody. Though officially MWMF festi-virgins, these womyn knew what was what. Of course the fact that they were longtime participants and workers at West Coast women's music festivals, meant they fit right in here.
Although there was an outfit they favored, I decided to check out the bodypainting option before buying anything new. But first, I wanted to go sit in front of my tent and chill out for a little while. It had already been a pretty full day and there was lots more to come.
Once there, another new friend stopped by to visit. Melanie from Toronto is an activist who had been introduced to my web site by a sister activist in Windsor, Ontario before coming to festival (her first). We had a good time talking about the Organization of American States (OAS) demonstrations in which we'd both participated in Windsor over a year ago. And she encouraged me to explore the bodypainting option because of her positive experience with a brand new henna tattoo. Festival organizers do not allow any permanent tattooing on the Land, but temporary henna tattoos are very popular here.
So, after Melanie went on her way, I scooted over to the tree under which Jane and a couple of other womyn had been bodypainting womyn all week. Penny and Janis, my friends from home, were sitting there with a good number of other womyn. Janis had already been painted earlier in the day, and Penny was patiently waiting her turn. There was one womon being painted at that moment; here is a backside view. Wish I could show you the full paint job, but again I'd probably be censored or something. Too bad. Their art was gorgeous.
The line of womyn waiting to be painted was very long, but Jane kindly offered to paint me tomorrow morning at 9 AM in the Community Center. That decided it for me as to what I would wear (or not wear) for my bellydancing performance!
I stopped to watch a great game of hackysack. I swear I'll never get over being in awe of the agility of womyn like these. They make it look easy and I know it's not.
It was now time to pick up dinner--Penne Pasta Puttenesca, corn on the cob, steamed broccoli and tossed salad--to take down to the Acoustic Stage. I missed most of the wonderful guitarist Mimi Fox's set, but was in time to experience Linda Thomas Jones and Ibu Ayan, a talented ensemble of percussionists, dancers, singers and actresses. They performed a dynamic mix of Yoruba and South African chants, Brazilian sambas, gospel hymns and spirituals, plus an original lullaby written by Linda Thomas Jones for her new grandbaby. And next up was the womyn's music icon, Cris Williamson. Though I'd recently seen her perform at the National Women's Music Festival, I was deeply touched by her beauty and sincerity here in this magical glen. Nonetheless, I left before her curtain call because I didn't want to miss a minute of the annual Gaia Girls Parade.
All week long, girls aged 5 and older have had their own activities at the Gaia Girls Camp, which is on the womyn's Land but in its own area. Boys from ages 5-10 go to a separate camp called Brother Sun; they are only allowed on the womyn's part of the Land through the age of 4.
Very soon, here came the girls, their mothers and caregivers, drummers, stiltwalkers (womyn from a weeklong intensive workshop) parading together down Lois Lane from the Gaia Girls Camp to the Night Stage. This was a highlight of the week for us all. In the parade we also saw, for the first time, the Festival Quilt that womyn had been working on all week (and others had been preparing all year), a quilt that would be raffled off at the Saturday Night Stage.
There was one more place for me to go before scooting down to the Night Stage. I'd heard that Lucie Blue Tremblay, the beloved womyn's music singer/songwriter from Quebec, had given our DART womyn an impromptu concert last night, and that she'd promised to do the same again before Night Stage this evening. What a sweet moment to share with my festi-sisters, and what a thoughtful thing for Lucie Blue to do.
The Night Stage performers--Zrazy, a fabulous duo who mix Irish music and jazz, Nedra Johnson, the R&B guitarist who blends her African heritage with terrific funky rhythms, and finally, the punk rockers, Amy Ray and the Butchies--all put on great shows. But you might not be surprised to hear that I ran out of steam before the music did. Last night's dancing buddy, Alice, couldn't believe it, but there it was.
So I scooted back home
to DART where Jaime, one of our wonderful workers, walked with
me to my tent and then drove Ona back to the office for her overnight
recharging. Somehow the thought of using windchime walker to walk
from the DART office to my tent seemed beyond my weary body's
abilities tonight. And even though there was a dance at the August
Night Café that started after Night Stage, I never heard
SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, 2001
I had set my alarm so I'd be up in time to meet Jane, the bodypainter, at 9 AM as we'd agreed, but my body woke up on its own. I even had time to get some scrambled eggs with vegetables first. I knew this would be a long day with few opportunities to eat, so was happy to stoke my body-furnace before I got in the swing of things. It was rather chilly as you can see by the way the womyn sitting around the DART firepit were dressed. And I soon would be quite un-dressed. Brrr!
I'd already decided that I was going to live this day without my camera. Sunday at festival is such a sacred day that I just wanted to be there, rather than be looking for photo-ops. Besides, I couldn't imagine finding even one more picture that I'd be willing to delete from among the 82 allowed by my photo card. I'd already been through them countless times trying to free up some space. Of course, as it happened, I did end up deleting a few more and adding to my stash, but most of those I can't share here. Bodypainting necessarily means your body is bare. But don't worry, I'll give you one little eye into the process.
Jane was right on time and we got started immediately. I thought I had a busy day ahead! Jane was off to give a breast-casting workshop and then would be going down to the Acoustic Stage to paint members of the Drumsong Orchestra before their performance. She had mixed a royal blue with silver so I had a regal single-color paint job. I wish I could show you the entire finished product, but here's the belly dancer she painted on my belly.
Luckily the sun had warmed things up a bit by the time we finished, so I scooted over to a sunny spot in front of the crafts area to sit and let the paint dry (she uses acrylic paint). What happened next is what I spoke of later when folks asked what had been my most prized "Michigan moment".
I was sitting very still so as not to smear any of the images on my body. An orange and black swallowtail butterfly came and landed on my right breast. It quickly flew off, spiralled in the air above me, and came to settle on my left breast over my heart. And there it stayed. I watched it close its wings so the dusky underside showed, and then leisurely stretch them out completely with orange and black glistening in the sun. After timeless time, it flew off, spiralled above me again and landed briefly on my left leg. This butterfly continued to flutter around me until I was completely dry and had to scoot on my way.
As my intuitive friend Turtle said when I told her the story, "You are going to undergo a major transformation of some kind this year." In earthbased spiritual traditions like Native Americans practice, the butterfly in all of its cycles symbolizes change. I thought of her words later in the day when I saw a caterpillar crawling on the ground beside me at the Healing Circle. And even more so when Teresa, my DART helping hands, found another caterpillar crawling on the bottom of my tent as she took it down on Monday morning.
After Turtle--my official "dresser" for performances--had tied my sarong below my belly, I was ready to meet Jamie Anderson and the other bellydancers at Workshop Area 1 at 10:30 AM for our final rehearsal. Happily, our numbers had grown. We looked pretty spiffy, if I do say so myself. We went through our routine until we all felt comfortable with it. As the Drumsong Orchestra's performance was scheduled to begin at 11:30 AM, it was soon time for us to walk/scoot down to the Acoustic Stage. Jamie and I had a good talk on the way. I sure do like and respect that womon.
Once down in the Acoustic Stage glen, we met up with more of our dancers. What a beautiful group of womyn! Our dress went from traditional bellydance attire to bare breasts and flowing skirts to bodypaint and sarongs. And there was dear Jane moving through the crowds of performers with her royal blue/silver paintbrush, offering to paint whomever wanted painting. Jane was not the only one; another womon was adding lavender to the mix. Oh, we fairly sparkled!
Sunday is very special at festival. You could say it's our idea of church. Womyn who have spent at least three hours a day in Ubaka Hill's Drumsong Orchestra and/or Aleah Long's One World Inspirational Choir, offer to the community the fruits of their time and talent. First the drummers--usually close to 200 womyn--and then the smaller but no less power-filled choir perform on the Acoustic Stage before 1500-2000 womyn. Following these performances, there is an open Healing Circle for all who need to be healed and who want to share healing with others. Kay Gardner and participants from her weeklong intensive workshop, "Singing in Sacred Circle", join with the drummers to facilitate this sacred gathering on the Acoustic Stage lawn.
Well, what can I say about our bellydancing performance? Words can't begin to tell what it was like to be in front of thousands of smiling faces and cheering voices. The more we shimmied and bounced, the more they screamed. Pretty durn fun! And Ona and I did our part, you can be sure.
But fortunately we were only on for one number, so for the rest of the drumming and later, the singing, I could simply close my eyes and float on the wings of sound...or boogie down, as need be. To say many more words would diminish its wonder.
I will say that several times during the performances, I scooted away from the crowd onto the dirt road where I could still hear the music but all I could see were summer breezes rippling through heavy green leaves and puffy white clouds dancing across the bright blue sky.
In years past, I'd let my body get depleted of food and water during this Sunday marathon of song and healing. But not this year. Before the Healing Circle formed, I scooted up to the DART kitchen tent, refilled my water bottle and made a peanut butter (organic, of course) and honey sandwich and got a banana to go. Better to be late and nourished than on time and hungry or thirsty.
As I was learning to take care of myself, so were Kay Gardner and the Healing Circle facilitators. Instead of forming the circle in the blazing sun as we'd done in years past, they set it up under the huge grandmother oaks at the entrance to the Acoustic Stage. It had always seemed strange to come from a healing circle with a sunburn! But you'll see later that Sunday sunburns were still in the picture.
Again, I'm not going to try to put words to what happened under the sheltering arms of those mighty trees. We were each healed, whether lying in the center of the circle, going around from womon to womon offering healing, or holding the energy of the circle in the pulsebeat of our drum, the breath of song or the presence of silence. It went on as long as it needed to...and not a minute more.
While scooting slowly up the dirt road that cuts through a leafy green forest, I met Susa, the mother of a little girl who had been at the center of the Healing Circle. It was one of those graced moments when everything fits together and you know you are in exactly the place you are meant to be. We sat beside the road and talked for at least half an hour.
After eating a delicious dinner--curried lentil stew, banana yoghurt raita, sesame kale and tossed salad--I scooted over to the crafts area. Cynthia of Coyote Moon had asked me to return to her booth on Sunday afternoon; she wanted to give my new scooter a gift. Well, Ona now sports a beautiful new necklace made of driftwood, beads and stone. Thank you, dear Cynthia.I also had some present-buying to do for my sweetie...a beautiful deep-voiced windchime for his office.
The sun was lowering in the western sky when I decided it was time to remove my costume. That meant going to the DART shower and scrubbing until my skin was no longer blue but red. At first I thought the red color was from my vigorous scrubbing--acrylic paint is not all that easy to wash off--but I soon saw something that knocked my socks off (if I'd been wearing any). I had a fantastic body tattoo! Wherever there had been blue paint was now white, while everything around it was a bright shade of pink. A negative image of the original design.
Well, I'm here to tell you that I've never in my life been more excited about a sunburn. Everyone I showed it to was amazed, even longtime festi-goers, even Jane the bodypainting artist. Of course I was running around flashing my body tattoo everywhere I went after that. Wish I could show you but I'm afraid you'll just have to use your imagination.
Sunday night is the final night of festival. There is a traditional Candlelight Concert at 9 PM at the Acoustic Stage. One enters through a path lit by luminaria (candles sitting in sand in small paper bags), and instead of applause, the acceptable response to each song or dance or poem by the festival performers is an audible sigh. The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, like any country, has its own--often unwritten--set of cultural expectations. Ruth Barrett, the well-respected Dianic Priestess, facilitates the concert, while Falcon, her partner, leads the flame-bearers who illuminate the stage. It is a tender, dramatic ending to a week of living in Womyn's World.
I say "ending", but that's not completely accurate. The final activity of the night is not quite so silent; it is a big dance with DJs, loud music and red, green and blue-lit treetops at the Day Stage. I did my share of dancing until the sky was lit by electricity of another kind. And then I barely beat a rousing thunderstorm that dropped buckets of water on this parched Land. My harbor in the storm was the DART office where I had fun hanging out with some of my favorite workers. Here's my final festival picture. It is of Debra, Maria, Deborah (from the UK), Kristin and Valerie (a former DART worker who was visiting).
When the rain let up I walked home to my tent for the last time, this year anyway. Happily, my thoughtful neighbors had put everything I'd left outside my tent into the DART workshop tent for safekeeping, so I would not have sopping wet things to pack up tomorrow morning. Thank you Laura, Kaya and Linda.
This is my final journal
entry about the 26th Michigan
Womyn's Music Festival. Although I've written them after the
fact, I hope they capture the flavor of this extraordinary event.
For me, it has been an opportunity to experience the magic in
a way I couldn't do when I was in the midst of it. I am deeply
MONDAY, AUGUST 13, 2001
Welcome back to my online journal! Now, don't get too excited. Yes, it's going to be updated tonight, but just barely. It's now about 10:30 PM; Ed's just finished unloading my car--a gargantuan task--and I'm feeling pleasantly sleepy.
After eight days of tenting on the Land, it's a bit strange being indoors. No fresh breeze making the leaves chatter, no looking to the sky to gauge the weather, no sounds of cicadas singing loud choruses from the trees, no close-woven blanket of stars overhead, no firepit to sit around and talk and sing, no drums beating in the distance, no women's voices and laughter on the paths, no live music on the winds.
Ah, this is going to take some getting used to.
All that being said, it is wonderful to be home with my sweetie. An inside shower is going to be a treat. Flush toilets are a marvel (we use porta janes on the Land). And a real live bed? Well, that is hard to imagine!
So tomorrow I'll begin the process of downloading my 82 digital photos, choosing which ones to use, and then writing a journal entry for each of the days I was gone. In the meantime, if you want to get an advance taste of what you might see, simply click on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival web site.
See you tomorrow. I've missed you!
BTW, don't get spooked
if you have trouble accessing my site or find no journal updates
tomorrow. My web host is relocating to a different network operations
center on August 15 and has warned that my site might suffer some
down time in the process. Things should be OK again by August
16, if not before. And maybe I'll get lucky and have no problems
at all. Whatever happens, please come back!
TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2001
After sleeping 13 hours--gee, a bed feels great to stretch out on--I got up just as Ed was coming home for lunch. We visited at the kitchen table, and I shared some of my festival stories. After lunch I came upstairs to my computer where I worked until dinnertime. It was such a treat to look at each of my 82 pictures from the festival!
At 6:15 PM I closed down the computer and got on Ona to ride down and meet Ed for dinner at our favorite family restaurant. What a beautiful, clear, sunny day. After enjoying a gardenburger, potato soup and green salad--and most of all, our conversation--I scooted home via the lake. After almost 10 days away from the sight of big water, that lake seemed to hydrate my eyes. I met Ed halfway and we scooted/walked home together.
You know, everyplace I went today, I was met with broad smiles and welcoming words. Could it be that the festival's open heartedness has rubbed off so that even so-called strangers feel invited to connect with me? As they say, we receive what we send forth.
I have to tell you about the wonderful additions to our house that Joe accomplished during my week away. Not only are there now railings on both sides of the three (new) cement steps out front, but there are also banisters on both sides of the stairs going to the second floor where my bedroom, computer room and bathroom are located (by my own choice). I feel so safe and supported here!
Tonight I worked on writing
journal entries for Sunday, August 5 and
Monday, August 6. I'll add more tomorrow.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2001
What a delight to be back in the water today! Brigitte, Janet and I had a most interesting discussion while we were doing our water aerobics. It was about the medical profession's propensity to prescribe anti-depressants, and our discomfort with the whole idea. After class I swam my usual laps of the crawl, at least eight of them.
I later saw Brigitte in the park with her grandchildren, Stella and Max. They are visiting from their home in Paris, France. The children are bilingual so I asked for a mini-French lesson. They tried to teach me how to say, "My name is Patricia", but Max says there's no such name in French, so we changed it to Patrice. They then taught me how to say, "What is your name?", "Good to meet you" and "You're welcome". I shared my lemonade with them and they shared their red tongues (from eating candy) with me. Tomorrow the family is driving to Kansas City to visit Brigitte's other daughter; I hope to see them when they return next week. Needless to say, their grandmother is thoroughly enjoying their visit.
I've been working with
my festival pictures and am feeling a bit overwhelmed. I'd hoped
to write two days of journal entries today but gave that up when
I found I'd taken 16 pictures on Wednesday alone! Think I'll stick
with Tuesday, August 7, and work on Wednesday's
journal entry tomorrow. Can't let myself be tyrannized by my need
to get things up in a hurry.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2001
Another computer day. My, these festival journal entries are quite a job, but a most enjoyable one. Writing about and preparing the digital photos for each day gives me the opportunity to relive each moment. When you're in the middle of such a rich experience, it's easy to slide from activity to activity without taking the time to savor them. So now we are up to Wednesday, August 8, a very full day with lots of pictures.
You know, keeping this online illustrated journal has given me back so much more than I ever expected. For one thing, my Eddie reads it faithfully and somehow manages to hear my stories in ways he never could before. I received an email from him today that read in part:
the more i think about it the festival is something precious: real camp outs for adults & the absolute sex exclusiveness is absolutely essential. how many women feel put down by the atmosphere of contemporary values, can really come out and be themselves in such an environment
As supportive as he has been about my going to festival these 8 years, I don't think he ever really understood it until now.
I also love the way the journal, and especially the pictures, allows people to feel not only special but "famous", as young Max, the Parisian 8 year-old from yesterday's journal (remember the red tongues?), put it. His grandmother, my water aerobics friend, Brigitte, emailed me today sharing how delighted Stella and Max were with their pictures in yesterday's journal. Apparently they printed them out and sent them off to family and friends in France with a message from Max about the "new friend with a digital camera who rides in a little car."
As I sat at the computer
much of today, I was delighted to see, hear and smell the wondrous
rain that gently soaked our parched earth. It was the first such
rain I can recall since early June. And my forsythia bushes whose
droopy leaves looked so pathetic yesterday are again perky and
green. May it continue.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 17, 2001
It's 1:30 AM and I've just finished writing the festival entry for Thursday, August 9. I can't tell you how I'm enjoying reliving that wondrous week!
But now I'm too tired
to do justice to today. May I please tell you about it tomorrow?
I really feel like it's time to go to bed. Thanks for understanding.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 18, 2001
I'm afraid my work on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival journal entries has left me with little time or energy for my daily entries. But after finishing today's work on Friday, August 10, I just have two more festi-entries to go! Then I can get back to living today as it deserves to be lived.
Yesterday I went to Dayhouse for a massage with Pat (gifted woman!) and to take house duty for a few hours. It had been two weeks since I was last there. How Pat's garden has grown! They're already eating fresh-picked tomatoes, beets, cucumbers and peas. There's nothing like vegies that have never seen the inside of a refrigerator.
One of our little girls had had her sixth birthday this week so I brought her a firefly hand puppet and her sister, a small malachite frog. Big success! She was especially taken with the firefly's tiny-voiced rendition of "Happy Birthday", but later came up to me with a puzzled expression, saying, "It's forgotten how to talk." I assured her that it was probably waiting for her to teach it how to talk in her own language.
After a fabulous dinner of fresh Michigan corn on the cob and vegetarian nachos, it was time to prepare for Alexandra's presentation at 7 PM. If you remember, I'd asked Alex to speak to local activists about her experiences at the demonstrations in Prague and Gothenburg. She had written the following description for me to email to interested persons and groups:
"The Truth About Prague, Gothenburg, Genoa..."
Come hear Alexandra, a member of the CWI (Committee for a Workers' International) who is working on the European Committee of the section in the Czech Republic. The CWI is committed to helping rebuild a fighting, socialist workers movement which can sweep away capitalism, not simply protest against its inequities.
Alexandra writes, "No criminalisation of anti-capitalists! Throughout Europe the clashes around the summits have been utilized to unleash a propoganda savage against the growing anti-capitalist movement in general and socialists in particular. Concerted attempts are being made to link anti-capitalism with destruction and vandalism in an effort to criminalise the opposition to capitalist globalization."
Come hear her eyewitness accounts and join in the discussion with local activists and interested persons.
I am purposely omitting her last name because Alex already has had enough hassle from the authorities in her country without having her name plastered here.
What a fascinating account she gave of what really happened on the streets of Prague, Gothenberg and Genoa. Nothing like what the mainstream media would have one believe. I was especially interested in what she saw of the use of infiltrators among the anarchists, the violent acts they instigated with police protection, and how they walked away free while peaceful demonstrators were attacked and jailed. Apparently there are still demonstrators imprisoned in Prague, Gothenburg and Genoa. But the main difference between these cities is that only in Italy are there mammoth ongoing solidarity rallies and marches in support of the jailed demonstrators. The Italian workers and unions are already strongly organized against corporate globalization and capitalism.
Alexandra's primary point, as I heard it, was the need to go beyond demonstrating and to involve the workers and unions everywhere in the fight against global capitalism. It is time, she says, to move from the streets into the factories and schools. And to do that one must be part of a larger movement. What she sees in the US particularly, is the tendency to demonstrate as individuals or in small groups. That is not only unsafe but ineffective. The change that is needed can only happen within the framework of an organization that goes beyond fighting against the old way to fighting for something new. For Alexandra, that organization is the International Federation of Socialist Workers.
We had a very small group of folks who gathered with us last night, but as I always say, the ones who were meant to be there, were there. I am deeply grateful to Alexandra for sharing her stories and knowledge.
Today Pat came over in the afternoon for a swim and a little quiet time. It's such a gift to have a friend with whom you can go ahead and do what you need to do (write my festival journal entry for Friday) and trust they're happy doing what they want to do. I certainly do value our friendship.
We then shared a simple
meal of crab cakes and spinach pies (both of which Eddie brought
home for me) and drove down to the Detroit Institute of Arts to
see an excellent Chinese movie, Zhang Yimou's "The Road Home".
Such a tender tale of lasting love. I was home before 9:30 PM
and sat and watched a little TV with Eddie before coming upstairs
to continue working on my journal.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2001
Sometimes I end up in places where I have to pinch myself to believe that I'm really there. It's usually when I'm among people whom I admire greatly. And so it was today.
The Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit (CPR) had a fundraiser for their slate of City Council candidates at Elena Herrada's house in Corktown this afternoon. This is the group that sometimes meets at Dayhouse; I've attended three of their meetings in the past few months. Though I've not been an active member of CPR, I still wanted to help support their three candidates and the platform on which they're running. Besides I always learn so much when I'm around this grassroots coalition of community activists.
Do other cities have such powerful voices raised against the corporate tyranny that governs their local governments? Charles Simmons, one of our City Council candidates, is a journalism professor at Eastern Michigan University and has long worked against the hazardous environmental abuses in Detroit's neighborhoods. He writes about CPR and his candidacy:
This is a call for all Detroiters to join in the effort to build a grassroots people's movement for empowerment that will help develop our city from the ground up and ensure the interests of working people, neighborhoods, youth, senior citizens and small businesses over the interests of major coroporations.
The CPR slate of candidates has pledged not to accept any corporate contributions for their campaign.
This puts me so much in mind of what Alexandra was saying at her talk at Dayhouse on Friday. It is just this kind of group effort that will change our world. As Charles Simmons said today, "We are not politicians; we are agents of social change. We're not talking about winning an election; we're talking about changing the quality of life for our community."
Maureen Taylor is another CPR candidate for City Council. A community activist since the 1960s, Maureen's special area of advocacy is welfare mothers, especially the thousands who will be kicked off welfare in Michigan on October 1 as a result of five years of so-called "welfare reform". She is particularly concerned that there has been no mention made of this fact by any member of the Detroit City government or by the media; it is an invisible disaster waiting to happen.
Our third candidate is Abayomi Robert Norfolk, a respected alternative journalist, former teacher, professional researcher and media consultant. I always appreciate the global dimensions of Abayomi's concerns; it is his daily Pan-African News Wire that helps keep members of our CPR Listserv informed about issues of justice throughout the world. Just last Friday he was part of a Detroit delegation that went to Philadelphia to support Mumia Abu-Jamal at his appeals hearing.
Now, those are our candidates, but every one of the men and women who gathered at Elena's house today are involved in transformative social action of one kind and another. We had a radical architect, director of a justice institute in Detroit, Green Party organizers, lawyers, teachers, students, other candidates, social workers, labor organizers, journalists, a minister and a nun...to name a few. We were of African-American, Asian-American, Latina/Latino and European-American backgrounds. Though many of us were at least middle-aged, we had two college students in our midst. The majority were Detroit residents, but there were a couple of suburban folks present (myself among them). And I'd say it was probably half women and half men, a good representation of the general population.
Although it was a fundraiser for the CPR candidates, there were no speeches per se. Everyone had an opportunity to speak, just as one would hope and expect in a grassroots movement. Believe me, if there were a such a thing as a human solar power plant, that's what we had generating in Elena's dining room today.
I'd like to print a few more pictures to give you a flavor of this amazing gathering. Each picture has a number of people in it and I'm not going to be able to identify everyone, but here's a smattering of names: Elena Herrada, Ann Marie and Sue, Lasker Smith (running for the Treasurer of Ecorse, MI), Gloria House, Alan Stirling with Gary Herring (another Detroit City Council candidate) on the window seat, General Baker, Lou Novak and Priscilla Dziubk (Green Party organizers), Brenda Smith with Roxie Herrada (one of the college students) at the door.
I have one more picture from today. It happened that the street Elena lives on was quite familiar to me. Ed's father, who died in 1978, spent many many years--and many $$--on that street at a used bookstore run in their Victorian house by Mrs. and Miss Claes. A woman Pat and I both know, Gerry Sellman, now rents the house across the street from the former bookstore. Before we went to Elena's, she kindly showed us her lovely garden.
A message to my festi-friends:
tomorrow I'll be bringing you the journal entry and pictures for
Saturday, August 11. As you can see, today had its own story.
MONDAY, AUGUST 20, 2001
Oh, it was SO hard to leave the house today to go to water aerobics class. Not that I don't enjoy it--I do--but it was quite chilly with threatening dark clouds overhead. Very unswimmerly weather. Well, I went anyway and was glad I did. Not only did I aquasize for an hour, but also swam 10 laps of the crawl. If one stayed submerged, it was very comfortable (the pool is heated on days like this). It just took a bit of gumption to get out.
But I did and even stopped to take another picture of my favorite lap lane. There were no more than 4 people in the whole pool while I did my laps. Foul weather friends! Actually it had warmed up by then and the sun was occasionally making its way through the cloud cover. As I was getting ready to scoot into the locker room, a woman asked if I'd like her to take a picture of me (she'd seen me taking pictures of the pool). So now you can see what I look like after my workout.
I spent a few hours on the computer before Eddie brought dinner home from a carry-out place. A little after 8 PM, we went out for our usual walk/scoot by the lake. There was a beautiful pink sky to the west and sailboats coming into harbor in the east. A lovely night.
So here's the next installment
of journal entries detailing my experiences at the Michigan Womyn's
Music Festival, Saturday, August 11. Only
one more to go!
TUESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2001
Well, it's done. I've just finished writing the last journal entry--Sunday, August 12--describing my time at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival 2001. As much time as it has taken--most nights I've not gone to bed before 3 AM--I will definitely miss it. Reliving every day, especially with the digital photos to help remind me of things I might have forgotten, has been a gift. What a rich experience!
Now maybe tomorrow I can
finally start to unpack my bags.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2001
This was the first day I'd really relaxed since before heading off to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival on August 5. For some reason, I'd pushed myself pretty hard to complete those festival journal entries, probably harder than necessary. But I didn't want to let it go too long for fear I'd forget things. Now that they were finished, I could turn to activities I hadn't done in a good while...like reading. This afternoon I finally finished Margaret Atwood's excellent novel, The Blind Assassin. Then I took a two-hour nap and didn't wake up until Eddie came home at 7:15 PM.
But I did do one non-relaxing thing: I went to the pool and swam my usual 10 laps of the crawl. Again, I definitely did not want to go swimming today. It was even greyer than Monday; it actually started raining as I left the garage in my scooter. But it was time for my water aerobics class, and since the pool will be closing on Labor Day, I didn't want to miss any classes.
Well, as it turned out, not one of my classmates turned up so there was no class. But that didn't stop me from working out on my own. There weren't many of us in the pool--three boys when I got in, and no one else when I got out.The lifeguards were bundled up in sweatshirts and long pants, sitting on their elevated guard stands under open umbrellas. I heard one fellow mutter, "This is ridiculous!" The gentle steady rain continued unabated, just what our thirsty earth needed.
As I was getting ready to leave, a young woman lifeguard asked in a concerned voice, "How are you going to get home?"
"On my scooter."
"But it's raining!"
"I can't get any wetter than I am already!"
But let me tell you how incredibly good my nice hot shower felt afterwards.
One of the joys of keeping this online journal is hearing from friends and readers who respond to what I've written. Today I received emails from two wise women offering their own interpretations of what my festival butterfly visitation might have meant.
From Rima in California: "Perhaps the butterfly was about not just change in the year to come but also the transformation you've already experienced in the pool, becoming Amazon Womon.
And from Joan in Alberta: "Maybe the beautiful butterflies of your words are flitting here and there throughout the world, touching gently the hearts of so many helping them blossom in their own ways."
Thank you, dear women.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 23, 2001
I can't seem to get away from festival! Last night I came up with the idea of creating a new web page called, "Women's Music Festivals" and including links to my journal entries for this year's National Women's Music Festival and the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. That way anyone who's interested can find them easily. I'd put the new page up in my Home Page table of contents.
Of course, this idea meant preparing a web page for the MWMF journal entries. And of course, that meant going through and editing them again. Gawd! Those things are hu-mun-gous! It took me several hours to make my way through and to clean them up. But if you want to read about the festival starting at the beginning and going to the end--in proper order, for a change--simply click on this link, MWMF 2001.
Next, I'll do the same for National Women's Music Festival entries. Then I'll write the introductory page. Bit by bit by bit...
After spending most of the afternoon at the computer, I was ready to get up and out of here. The morning fog had cleared and sun was streaming in my upstairs window. I called Eddie and suggested we meet at our favorite family restaurant for dinner, got on Ona and took off.
It was about 5:30 PM and everything seemed touched by gold. Our neighbor's garden, the lake at the end of our street, my sweet Eddie when we met out in front of the restaurant...maybe even Ona and I.
Ah, summer. I don't want
it to end.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 24, 2001
This was one of those late summer days that you want to bottle and keep for the long winter months. After my water aerobics class and laps swimming, I did the best I could to "bottle" it by photographing some of my favorite parts of the park.
The shaded green picnic area. Boats in the harbor. The view of blackeyed susans on the path to the gazebo. Looking back from the farthest point of the lakeside walkway. The gazebo as seen through a stand of flowers. The fishing area and fisherman Paul with reel in hand.
On my way home I happened upon my friends, Holly and Elyse. Before I left, these two girls had transformed themselves into a couple of frogs. Maybe if they're frogs, they won't have to go to school next Tuesday! Although at their age, I think going back to school is a definite plus.
The rest of the afternoon was spent preparing and then putting up the new web page that I'm calling My Women's Music Festivals. It feels good to have the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and National Women's Music Festival journal entries and photos all in one place. Maybe it'll encourage more womyn to join us next year. I hope so.
And now to bed.
©2001 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.