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THURSDAY, JULY 25, 2002
This was a lovely quiet day. I worked at the computer in the morning and early afternoon. Interestingly enough, I'm in the middle of several email discussions with friends about civil liberties, the ethics of giving, sexism, the Israeli-Palestinian situation and more. In one case there are three of us involved in discussing philosophical and social issues; I find this medium works well for such dialogue (trialogue?).
After writing Judge Hacker requesting bond for Rabih Haddad, I wrote him my weekly letter. I gather letters are his lifeblood while in solitary confinement. It's hard for me to imagine what it must be like to be alone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no music, no computer, no nature or even smells of nature. How long could I tolerate it? I don't know. He's been doing it for at least five out of the last seven months. And yet there is no bitterness in his letters, no hatred or blame. I wonder how he manages to keep his sanity and balance. I think he is an exceptional human being. If you'd like to send him a letter or card, I know he'd appreciate it. His address is:
100 E. 2nd Street
Monroe, MI 48161
About 3 PM I scooted down to the park for a swim. The pool was not crowded so I was able to have a lap lane all to myself. My 20 lengths of the crawl felt grand.
I returned home, got something to eat, took a shower and went back to the computer. I archived last month's journal entries, and while doing so, found a ton of computer gobble-de-gook in one of the entries. Have no idea how that happened but it helped me see why my journal was taking up so much computer memory. But it's all cleared out now.
After dinner Ed and I went for our usual walk/scoot by the lake, and then watched the next-to-last video in the BBC "Pride and Prejudice" series. We somehow never tire of watching it; the acting is superb and we eagerly anticipate our favorite parts. About 10:30 PM, I came upstairs and played with some wintertime photos: sun shafts over the lake, the icy harbor, looking north over the ice-covered lake, and a winter dusk.
See, I told you it was
a quiet day.
FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2002
Free As Rain
She opens wide her dry
chapped lips, thirst-caked
tongue stuck out in
gratitude, lapping up every
ounce of this gentle
morning rain. Leaves grow
fat and sassy; roots
suck moisture deep into
their pores. A song emerges,
a song of hope, a song
life. I sing in time to the
beat of rain on my red
teflon-coated poncho. My
arms glisten with drops that
seep swiftly into dry
skin. My bare feet tap a
jig on the scooter's floor,
happy to join the dance.
Soft grey clouds cover
a down comforter drawn up
over sleepy bodies by the
mother who loves every
child. The rain touches all; even
my brother unjustly held in
prison sees it through
the tiny window of his
cell. We are one,
a whirling mass of energy
circling the globe and
beyond. Rain helps us see our
commonality, the truth of
our interwoven existence
within this spinning home we
share. Rain is freely given and
freely received. May we remember
its wordless wisdom and share
drops of love and compassion
freely as the rain.
Ed and I went out to breakfast this morning, I on my scooter, he in the car. Rain, luscious rain, followed me home. This poem was born from its moist folds.
I took photographs today:
zinnia and tiger
lilies with their heads held high; my sweet Eddie;
my computer/ritual room with its altar,
Ed's great grandmother's rocking
chair where I like to read, my toy
corner with Mother's bugle; and my friend Lisa
who brought stories, fruit salad and barbequed tofu for an early
SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2002
It is now 9 AM Sunday and I am just putting up Saturday's journal entry. The delay was caused by my having too much fun! Last night (Saturday) Pat K. and I went to the Harlequin Cafe, an intimate jazz club only fifteen minutes from my house. Mulgrew Miller, the masterful jazz pianist, was there with his New York trio. I'd never before seen or heard this man but now that I have, I will do anything in my power to see him again. For you jazz lovers, imagine a mix of Tommy Flannagan and Oscar Peterson with something extra thrown in for good measure, that extra being Mulgrew's own original sound and fluid powers of improvisation. He was amazing! And not only Mulgrew but the two young men he had at his side on bass and drums. The energy between the three was electric. Anyway, we stayed for both sets--no way were we going to leave!--and didn't get home until 1:45 AM.
Now here's the journal entry I'd written on Saturday afternoon...
I must learn to look in new and different places to find what I need. Activism is worthy, but without balance it can burn your innards. Yesterday's experience of the rain started me on this search for balance. While scooting later in the day, I found my eyes drawn high into the treetops where their shining green leaves fed my soul. It was then a small step to let myself sit among the clouds. When I looked up instead of directly in front of me, I didn't even notice the flag-flying evidence of people's acceptance of the government's/media's promotion of unthinking patriotism. I could finally stop grinding my teeth in frustration over how differently my neighbors and I see things. I was lifted beyond such judgements into a sphere where politics do not matter, a place where hope lives and breathes in the cycle of nature.
Today, after my swim at our community pool beside the beach, I scooted over to the dirt road where I remembered seeing a decaying tree. How I needed to ground myself in this reality, the reality of life emerging from what looks like death. I examined that decaying tree trunk from many different angles, never tiring of its patterns, textures, forms and colors. I will share just a few of the images here, although it was hard for me to choose from among the multitudes.
Decaying tree one, two, three, four, five.
Looking clearly at what
is in front of my eyes is essential, but without taking time to
look up and deeply into the natural world around me, I will lose
my ability to focus. To be an effective activist I must be pro-active
on my own behalf.
SUNDAY, JULY 28, 2002
I worked on my book much of the day--finished the first draft of Chapter Four--and then got on my scooter to go visit Ed at his office. But before I got too far, I stopped to speak to Alex, our neighbor. He and his brother Steve have just torn down their old garage, and together with their Dad Jerry, are getting ready to build an addition to the house with a larger garage. At Alex's invitation, I scooted into their now-open backyard to take some pictures.
Steven is the creative genius who has turned this yard into a paradise, with lilies, echinacea, gloriosa daisies, dahlias and untold numbers of other species of flowers. A natural fountain/pond is under construction. There are sitting areas, one featuring Al's wooden sculpture of Pegasus ( he made it from their old swing set) and the other with inviting wooden chairs. The fellows just completed a trellis that draws you into the flower gardens. While there I saw a fly perched on one echinacea flower and a dead bee lying on another. After I'd finished my garden pictures, Jerry, Natalie and their dog CoCo came out to visit. We are truly fortunate to have such wonderful neighbors.
My next stop was Ed's
where he treated me to a bunch of fresh grapes. He said I looked
positively Bacchanalian as I savored each delectable morsel. And
then the rains began. There was no thunder or lightning, so I
just pulled out my red poncho and got back on the road. I sang
improvised rain songs the whole way home. What a lovely drenching!
It made the trees sparkle with delight. Me too. I have grown to
adore the rain.
MONDAY, JULY 29, 2002
Took a header today...luckily a back of the head-er. Saw some stars but only ended up with a knot on the back of my head and a bruised hip. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most serious, I'd give this a 4.
It all happened as I had pulled into the park around noon for my swim. My scooter's trouble light started flashing, the accelerator light went from fast to flashing slow, and Ona got so she would barely move. I thought it might be a problem with the free-wheel/normal lever, so got out of the scooter--first locking the seat in position--and leaned down to try to shift the lever. I was supporting myself with my hand on the seat when the seat lock gave and the seat suddenly twisted under my hands. I fell back, hitting my head pretty solidly on the asphalt. That's when I saw stars. A thoughtful young mother was driving by and asked if I needed help. I answered affirmatively. She got out of her car and dashed over to where I was lying on the pavement. With her help I made it back into my scooter seat, but the flashing light/no power problem remained.
Now it was the turn of the fellow at the main gate to yell over and ask if I needed help. I said, yes, could he get someone to come check out my scooter. He called the maintenance worker, Ding, who arrived on his electric cart within a couple of minutes.
What a nice guy. He checked my scooter battery leads and even tested the batteries. Batteries were OK but Ona was still under the weather. Ding asked how he could help and I said, please drive me home. So he got his truck and a young helper named Sean, lifted me bodily into the front seat--this vehicle stood about 20' off the ground...OK, only 10'--hoisted Ona into the truck bed, and Sean hopped in after. Ding drove me home--only three blocks--and deposited my scooter in the garage. I am most grateful to these two men and to the woman named Rebecca for their help.
I called Dave the service guru up at the Amigo factory in Bridgeport, MI, and told him what had happened (to the scooter, not me). He felt pretty strongly that the controller must have gotten wet when I rode out the storm yesterday, and that I'd better let that baby dry out. He said, "Don't even turn it on until the controller is totally dry, otherwise you can ruin it." OOPS. Guess I should have taken Ed's offer of a ride home yesterday instead of taking that joy ride in the rain. It was a real downpour.
Luckily I have La Lucha waiting in the wings so I won't have to stay at home waiting for Ona to dry out. My main concern is having my wheels good and ready for the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in two weeks. Couldn't live without a scooter up there. But if need be, we'll take Ona the 150 miles up to Bridgeport to get her all fixed up before then. And Ed's come up with the superior idea of bringing both scooters to festival and leaving one in the car just-in-case.
All shall be well.
TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2002
Tolerance. How does one get it and keep it? How do you have strong principles yet not impose them on others? How do you converse on anything but a superficial level with people who see things diametrically opposite to you without getting confrontational? Is there a way to live side-by-side with mutual respect and still hold totally different views on important issues? How can I personally get over my ten-and-a-half-month tendency to grind my teeth every time I see the American flag? How can I look at the face of the president of my country without turning away?
I'm being real honest here, maybe too honest, but these questions are not letting me rest. I think of someone like Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk from Vietnam whose work as a peacemaker was born out of his and his people's suffering during my country's war against his country. I think of how he has reached out to the people of my country with love and forgiveness. I think of Nelson Mandela who spent three decades in prison where he was tortured and then was able to come forth as a leader who reached out his hand to the white leaders who had ordered his imprisonment and torture.
How do people do this? Where do they find the deep wells of tolerance that would enable them to go beyond our natural human instincts toward bitterness and revenge? Is there some secret? If so, I want to find it because I'm getting tired of poisoning myself and my environment with negative thoughts and feelings. I've got to find some way to live more comfortably and peacefully in the world as it is today.
September 11 happened. It made people, and especially our government's leaders, fearful, and that fear has translated into violence towards and oppression of those whom they fear. Countries like Afghanistan and now Iraq. Individuals like Rabih Haddad. Religions like Islam. Anyone who looks to be of Arab descent, especially on airplanes. Groups and individuals who hold dissenting views from those put forth by the government and the government-informed press and media. It is not meanness but fear that fuels this unending war on terrorism. And my judgemental attitudes added to their fear does not do anything but fan the flames. If I say I am for peace, than I must become that peace myself.
I know I've written about this before; seems to me it was early on, perhaps late September. But my efforts to find that peace-within got lost in the struggle for dissenting voices to be heard, the need to work against the wars, losses of civil liberties, unjust imprisonments, escalating hatred of Middle Eastern and Central Asian people, governmental support of violent regimes. Just a never-ending list of struggles. The growth of tolerance, a subtle work, didn't have chance when my mind--and often my body--was racing here and there trying to put out one forest fire after another. Well, now I feel like it's time to allow new growth seedlings to get the sun and rain of my attention, especially the seedling of tolerance.
If anyone has suggestions, ideas, stories, poems, insights about this subject, I'd sure appreciate hearing from you. Just click on tolerance and send me a message. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I believe it takes a village to raise ourselves to new levels.
Speaking of a child, I had a wonderful encounter with little ones in Canada today. I was at Leesa's Hair Salon getting a much-needed haircut. Two of Leesa's children, Sarah and Michael, were watching a baby while his mother's hair was being washed. Baby Jacob began to cry and his Mom called over to the kids, "Just sing to him and he'll stop crying." Sarah and Michael were shy but I wasn't, so I started a little improv song about little boy Jacob, how he was crying but would soon smile, the poop in his pants, his sleepy eyes, and on and on. Within a minute he'd stopped crying and started to grin, which he continued to do the whole time I sang. I later told his mother she has a born musician there. Here's a picture of Sarah, Michael and Jacob.
Then, before taking the
tunnel home, I stopped at the park at the foot of Ouelette Street
in the center of Windsor. From there, Detroit
always looks its best. My wounded, wonder-filled city.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 31, 2002
The last day of July. Ah, this summer is melting away like an ice cream cone on a hot day; I'd best lick all around its edges to savor every drop.
I did just that today. After several morning hours spent working on my book, I scooted down to the pool to join the afternoon water aerobics class for the first time this summer. What a perfect hot day to do so! Only problem is I'd forgotten what the sun can do to unprotected skin between 1 and 2 PM. Am I red as a berry tonight! But even so it was grand to be with my special friends Joan and Brigitte. Our mouths and minds get as strenuous a workout as our muscles during that hour in the water. If I do it again, though, you can be sure I'll be covered in sunblock.
On this last day of July I thought I'd take you to the pool with me, digital camera-style. Here are the lap lanes I swim in, and at the other end of the pool is the diving board which is in constant use. After the class plus a few laps, I scooted over to the concession stand for another piece of "Patricia's pizza." These are three of the young women who graciously help me there. I took my pizza to the playscape nearby and watched a circle of girls, ages 7-10, organize a game to play. They were pretending to be on a ship with lots of "Ahoy, matey!" and "Yes, sir!" The one that tickled me was when an 8 year-old said she didn't want to be Lookout. The 10 year-old leader said, "Oh OK, you can be a technical person; you program the computers." The times they have a-changed!
I am so grateful to the readers who responded to my request for help regarding my desire to learn tolerance. By the way, there was some question about my using that particular word. One reader thought perhaps "acceptance" would be more apt, but I'm sticking with tolerance.
Part of my attraction to that word is how the Southern Poverty Law Center has used it to combat hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation. For ten years, that worthy organization has made available to schools and communities a learning packet and magazine called "Teaching Tolerance." They now also have a web project called Tolerance.org that can be accessed online. When I looked up the word "tolerance" in my American Heritage Dictionary, the first definition was: "The capacity for or practice of allowing or respecting the nature, beliefs, or behavior of others." That is exactly what I want to develop.
Rima shared the story of a white man who struggled with the demands of his conscience that he be part of the 1960s sit-ins in the south even though it literally made him sick to do so. He just kept going out there every day until eventually he could do it without getting sick. As she said, "Maybe that's what it takes -- a decision to live as if you felt a certain way, even if you may not necessarily feel that way. And eventually, you will feel that way."
Her suggestion gave me
an idea. What if every time I saw a flag in front of a house,
in a window, flying from the antenna of an SUV, on a t-shirt,
swimsuit, beach towel, cooler or wherever, I would say
to myself, "I respect your right to hold views that are different
from my own." So today I started doing just that; it definitely
felt better than grinding my teeth. Actually I wish I had a nickle
for every time I had to say it on my two mile scoot to meet Ed
and Jack for dinner. Are there ever a lot of flags out there;
somebody is sure making a mint on this patriotic fervor!
Now if I just keep practicing this fine art of tolerance maybe
eventually I'll get the hang of it. T'would be nice.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 2002
The "dog days" of summer (July 15-August 15). I don't know why they're called that. On a day like today smart dogs wouldn't even go out. It was--and still is at 11 PM--HOT. After spending the morning and early afternoon doing what I could to fight Bush's plans to attack Iraq, I needed a scoot, badly. I went down to Ed's office where he treated me to a big cup of lemon-flavored ice water and a pail of cold water in which to plunge my feet. They both helped. But what helped the most was twenty lengths in the pool around 5 PM. Quite glorious, in fact.
Don't want to forget...here's a beautiful hibiscus flower that caught my eye on the way to visit Ed.
Then, after tonight's scoot beside the lake, Ed checked our mailbox. There was a small package from my friend, Susan, who lives in Sebastapol, CA. She and I have been part of a women's group in California for a number of years, and had talked on the phone last Sunday night. At that time, I'd told her about my plans to stay in Michigan for the winter so I could be part of the Carolyn McDade women's circle singing CD project. So what was in the package? A magical necklace with a globe-shaped pendant that has a picture of a bird in flight on one side and the word "SING" on a shocking pink background on the other. Her note said she couldn't resist getting it for me after she'd heard my news. What a dear woman!
I'm so glad that life is made up of such a mix of threads, for if it were all the color and texture of the activist threads that I wove this morning, it could get pretty discouraging.
I'm trying to do what I can to sound the alarm about the impending war against Iraq, but I don't really hold out much hope of stopping it. The president seems determined to attack this beleagured country in October even though there's been no provocation by either Saddam Hussein or his military. There are so many unanswered questions, like why now? What is their objective and how long do they intend to have troops in Iraq? What plan is there for getting them out? Why are Secretary of State Colin Powell and other top military leaders against this war? Why are almost all of our allies oppsed to it? Won't this destablize the Middle East even more than it is now? And won't the Arab countries hate the US even more after such an attack? What will it cost in human lives, both Iraqi and American? What will it cost the American people in dollars? The questions go on and on.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is currently hearing the Bush Administration's arguments to go to war with Iraq in October. Unfortunately, almost all the witnesses are in favor of war. So far, Scott Ritter, the former Marine and UNSCOM weapons inspector in Iraq for seven years, has not been slated to speak. Why? Because he is adamantly against going to war with Iraq. He says Iraq is of no danger to the US; it has no weapons of mass destruction of any kind. He also maintains this proposed war against Iraq is politically motivated. At a recent public appearance, Ritter, a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, was quoted as saying, "This is not about the security of the United States. This is about domestic American politics. The national security of the United States of America has been hijacked by a handful of neo-conservatives who are using their position of authority to pursue their own ideologically-driven political ambitions. The day we go to war for that reason is the day we have failed collectively as a nation." By the way, it was Scott Ritter's testimony before NATO that turned their unquestioning support of Bush's war against Iraq to opposition by 16 of the 19 countries represented. (See a most interesting article by William Rivers Pitt called, "The Coming October War In Iraq").
I have received emails from numerous organizations that are opposed to this war. Two that I found to be of particular interest were from MoveOn.org and the ADC (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee).
Not only did I send a number of group emails regarding this issue today, but I also telephoned the offices of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Joseph Biden and both of my Michigan senators, Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin. When I asked Senator Biden's Foreign Relations Assistant why Scott Ritter, a proven expert on Iraq's weapons capabilites, was not testifying at the hearing, he said that Ritter's supervisor on the UNSCOM weapons inspection team did testify yesterday. When I asked what he had said, it appears that he had added to the fearmongering by reporting that Iraq was indeed capable of continuing to produce weapons of mass destruction because the materials needed are indigenously available. And the drums of war beat on...
I've encouraged everyone I know to contact their senators and the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ask questions, to give their opinions and to request that Scott Ritter be allowed to testify. This may well be our final opportunity to have a say in what would most certainly be a disaster for Iraq, the US, the Middle East, the world and the planet.
In his talk at a Boston
law school building on July 24, Scott Ritter said, "The clock
is ticking and it's ticking towards war. And it's going to be
a real war. It's going to be a war that will result in the deaths
of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans and tens of thousands
of Iraqi civilians. It's a war that is going to devastate Iraq.
It's a war that's going to destroy the credibility of the United
States of America. I just came back from London, and I can tell
you this - Tony Blair may talk a good show about war, but the
British people and the bulk of the British government do not support
this war. The Europeans do not support this war. NATO does not
support this war. No one supports this war."
FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, 2002
Friends, I'm going to write and put up an early journal today. Pat K. is coming over soon and we're off to another night of jazz at Detroit's Harlequin Cafe. If it's anything like last weekend, we won't be home until very late. So what I want to offer you today are some views of what I saw on my scoot home after having had lunch with Ed. By the way, the heat wave broke last night and we awoke to a perfect summer day. I'm not feeling nearly so cranky!
Canadian geesenibbling grass beside the lake.
A biker peddling by these geese.
A view of the lake through the trees in front of the former convent/present day academy.
A napping bunny in the grass of someone's lawn.
Phlox flowers in bloom.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2002
To be accepted as a sister in a Muslim community is a tremendous honor, and tonight I am feeling deeply grateful that such an honor has come into my life. A year ago I had not one Muslim friend, and now I am privileged to feel loved and valued by countless persons who practice the Islamic religion. One family in particular has become as dear to me as my own. Life is such a mystery.
Today Rabih Haddad's Muslim community in Ann Arbor held a fundraising picnic at a Metro Park on the Huron River outside the city. The legal expenses for his case are terribly expensive, and need to be carried by the whole community. The work for justice for Rabih is not about an individual but about our communal loss of civil liberties. All of his supporters were invited, and I was happy to attend. It couldn't have been a more beautiful day--sunny and warm with no humidity, blue skies with puffy white clouds, and a gentle breeze to keep the flies away. The park itself is lovely; actually Ed and I used to stop there on long bike rides back in our serious biking days.
I arrived about 4:30 PM, just as folks were starting to gather. As has always been my experience with this community, I had no trouble getting help unloading and assembling my scooter. I was particularly excited because this would be my first opportunity in the seven and a half months I've known these folks to play rather than protest with them. All our previous encounters had been either inside or in front of the Detroit Immigration Court during hearings for Rabih Haddad and/or Sulaima and their children. It was good to see so many smiles on people's faces today. And the biggest smile was on the face of my dear sister Sulaima. OK, I wasn't exactly frowning myself, but that was after I'd heard her good news.
Sulaima and her four children had just gotten back from their first "contact" visit with Rabih since he was transferred to Monroe, MI from Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) two months ago. A contact visit is one in which the inmate and his visitors are in a room together without plexiglass separating them. Rabih could finally touch and hug his wife and children. Sulaima was positively glowing and I bet if I could have seen Rabih, he would have been too. An extra treat for me was finally getting to meet Oussama, their youngest boy. What a wonderful child! Sulaima is doing such a fine job of raising the kids while Rabih is unable to be with them. They seem natural, full of life and very normal for their ages.
Each time I am with this community, I learn more about their culture. For instance, men and women do not mix at social events, so there was a men's area and a women's area; children moved freely between the two. But many of the kids stayed closer to the women because we were in a pavilion right beside the river. The men cooked the lamb over in their area, and then we were served and ate in our own areas. Of course, when it came time to pray, everything stopped. The men gathered in their area and the women in ours, and they all prayed in the direction of Mecca. I recall them doing the same thing on the cold sidewalk at our January 10 demonstration in Detroit. To Muslims, religion is a way of life. I'm not talking fundamentalism, rather an integrated whole.
It was good to connect not just with Sulaima and the children, but with those sister and brother supporters I'd gotten to know at Rabih's hearings since he was jailed on December 14, 2001. Some of the people I remembered not by name but by their sign, such as Laurie (whose back is to the camera here) whose sign was a classic: "Toto, I don't think we're in the US anymore."
I send special greetings to Sulaima's family in Kuwait and Rabih's family in Lebanon. She was delighted I was taking pictures for my online journal because that meant both of their families could feel like they were with us today. As indeed they were, and always are.
As I got ready to put
this journal entry up on the web, I saw a brief news report on
my AOL home page saying that the US has refused Iraq's offer to
let the weapons inspectors come back into their country. The US
says, "It isn't about that anymore." Well, whatever
it is about, I know another way is possible. For today
women, men and children of different religions, cultures and world
views came together for a shared meal and shared conversation.
Mutual respect, tolerance of our differences and working towards
the common goal of freedom and justice for our brother Rabih has
helped us see our oneness in the scheme of things. We know
that peace is possible. May the leaders of countries take the
time to learn that truth.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 2002
Today I started getting ready for my annual week tenting with thousands of womyn at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. This icon of womyn's culture--now celebrating its 27th year--is perhaps my most anticipated week of the year. If you are new to my journal or want to be reminded of what the MWMF is like, just go to my Music Festivals page and click on MWMF 2001, or read Mosh Pit Mama, a true story of one of my favorite Michigan adventures.
There's nothing quite like the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival anyplace on the planet; that's why womyn from around the world save their money so they can attend at least once in their lives. If you have never heard of it, perhaps you've been travelling in exclusively heterosexual, mainstream worlds; if you were a lesbian or a bisexual womon, I'd bet you know all about the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival! I myself had lived in the state of Michigan for 28 years before ever having heard of it. But since attending my first festival in 1994, I haven't missed a one...and hope to be like our dear departed Ruth Ellis and celebrate my 100th birthday summer there!
Next Sunday morning, August 11, I'll head due west in my little red Neon--packed to the gills--turn north at Muskegon on the shores of Lake Michigan and get off US 31 at a small town called Hart. I'll spend that night in a motel with my festi-friends Bonnie and Kathy, and by daybreak Monday I hope to be in the line on that unpaved county road, waiting with at least 1000 other womyn for Michigan's main gates to open at 1 PM. I won't return home until late Monday, August 19. It's the longest non-journalling time of the year for me, but I always return with lots of stories and pictures that usually take me another week to put up!
After eight years--this will be my ninth--packing for festival is a piece of cake. I keep most everything packed and ready in our storage room closet upstairs. It's just a matter of being sure my flashlight and lantern batteries are up-to-date, counting my paper plates to be sure I have the requisite twenty (some meals I use a tupperware container), checking to be sure I have enough plastic bags and twist-ties for my in-tent porta-potty...stuff like that. I have it down to a science as to what I need to be comfortable and safe tenting by myself all week in my turquoise-and-white two-person domed Eureka tent. I use a cotton rug so my feet don't slip inside the tent, and bring my shower chair to help me get up off the ground, and to sit on as I get in and out of the tent (it has a lip at the entrance flap that I have to negotiate).
I stay in the DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) tenting area, and receive all the help I need from staff and volunteers. Mostly what I need is for someone to carry my gear to the campsite where I've been since 1996, put up my tent and organize my stuff inside it. Then I need to plug my extension cord into the electric outlet in the DART office tent so my scooter can get recharged every night, and that's about it until the next Monday when it's time to strike my tent and prepare to go home. DART offers lots more services for womyn who need them, including a community sleeping tent, shuttle buses and sign language interpreters. We disabled are the best treated womyn on the Land with our own seating areas at the concerts, our own kitchen tent with tables and chairs (able-bodied womyn stand in long lines and then sit on bales of hay or their ubiquitous beach chairs), special lines at the snack tent and general store. It definitely pays to be disabled at the Michigan festival!
I think you can tell that I'm getting excited. It's not long now!
Oops, I almost forgot
Ed's photo portrait of his grape-loving
wife. That's what I meant last week when I called myself Bacchanalian.
MONDAY, AUGUST 5, 2002
I'd been wondering how I was going to live through another war against Iraq, but now I know. With the help of friends like Pat N., I can observe/judge/act in ways that will keep me sane.
That's the tool I heard her describe as we lunched together today. Now when Pat N.--my activist friend from across the river in Canada--and I get together, this is not your normal "women's lunch." Oh no, we discuss every political situation, idea, perspective that comes to mind...and since we both have quick minds and a way with words, it is like watching two squirrels chase one another up and down trees, across telephone wires and around the back yard. We never stop, except when a new thought gives us pause. What an amazing gift to have this like-minded, kindred-hearted sister during times such as these. I can handle anything if there's someone at my side with whom to practice critical analysis on today's fast-moving world events.
Pat brought with her a printout of a very interesting political email she'd forwarded to me after our last lunch two weeks ago. "Where Did All the Protesters Go?" by Mike Bygrave and published on July 14 in the Observer of London, is a well-researched and comprehensive investigation of the anti-globalization movement and where it is now. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to look beneath the post-September 11 rhetoric of the media and press, who longs to understand some of what is behind the smoke screen of the corporate and governmental cries of free trade, freedom of investment and free movement of capital. As activists say, "all those frees should make you suspicious." It is a long article, but if you print it out and read a bit at a time, I think you'll come away feeling it was well worth the effort.
In our discussion--which only got to page five today--we agreed it all boils down to economics. Who controls the flow of money and resources will run the show, and, at this time anyway, that is the US. Bygrave made an interesting observation that "America seems to have developed a system in which governments exist principally to promote and reward business." Haven't we seen that clearly enacted with Enron and other business giants that have taken Humpty Dumpty falls of late? Once we look beneath their bright exteriors, it becomes apparent that government interests kept them propped up artificially.
As well as economists, Bygrave interviewed a number of activists, from moderates to radicals. Pat and I were particularly taken with Amsterdam-based activist Susan George, who calls it the Global Justice Movement rather than Anti-Globalization Movement (originally named by journalists). Her definition for this hard-to-define, often splintered coalition of voices is "a movement of popular education directed towards action." Pat and I found that resonated with our shared experiences at the OAS (Organization of American States) protest demonstrations and teach-ins in Windsor, ONT two years ago and everything we've been part of since then. By the way, we intend to create a political subgroup within the women's circle singing CD project to discuss issues like these. Cultural transformation, that's what we're about.
And tomorrow we will meet
with two more sisters--Penny and Sooz--to create art. Yes, this
is how I will make my way through the minefield of current events.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 6, 2002
I've received emails from readers today wishing they could do as I did and take a day to make art with friends. Believe me, I wish everyone could do this! If they did, I suspect the pharmaceutical companies and therapists might lose some business: it is so therapeutic, at least the way we do it. No judgements or expectations, each person's art seen as perfect, just playing with your friends in the best possible way.
We started the day by singing since that is a love we share. We sang the chant "O Beautiful Gaia" which is the working title for the Carolyn McDade CD project we're all going to be part of. We then spray painted the small wooden boxes Penny had brought and let them dry while we sat down to a delicious lunch. We had Sooz's homemade potato soup, Penny's colorful vegetable salad, my bread (not homemade!) and Pat's homemade lemon squares. Food as art!
We'd gotten the idea for today's project from Penny. As part of an art therapy class at Wayne State University earlier this summer, she had decorated and filled a large wooden box with meaningful objects. The idea was to make tangible one's inner life on the inside and outer life on the outside of the box. When our women's book group met at her house in July, we'd gone bonkers over what she'd created. Penny offered to facilitate the project with our art group, so today she provided the boxes, assorted spray paints, glue gun and beads; each of us was to bring items from our lives to use in any way we chose.
I do love to see what happens when a group of individuals is given the same "assignment." Nothing turns out the same! For instance, as I'd gathered my items last night, I realized I needed to make a box that would help me make my way through this impending war against Iraq. The inside of the box, especially, would be filled with reminders of what gives me life and hope. So today I created a box that was deeply personal, using photographs and mementos of what Pat N. called "my journey." Penny used the outside of her box to show her attraction to intricate, sometimes worrisome yet always beautiful, life patterns; her inside was meditative with a spiral of pearls and a single candle against a sky-like background. Pat N. covered the outside of her box with a circle--"The circle is everything to me,"--made of sparkling beads and rhinestones with three dancing goddesses at the center. Sooz "wallpapered" the inside of her box and had a tiny council of beings along with a snakeskin, shell, stones and other natural objects. The table on which we worked soon became a wonderful hodge-podge of our different ways of being in the world. And we had the good fortune to be visited throughout the day by one of Sooz's beloved cat companions.
At the end of the afternoon,
we lined up our creations for a mini-art
show. Aren't we wonderfully unique?
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7, 2002
Not only did Ona and La Lucha, my scooters, get fixed today, but I had a lovely drive through Michigan's rolling green fields and spent time with interesting folks. Whenever my scooters need serious attention, I'm happy to drive the 105 miles to the Source--the Amigo Mobility Center and factory in Bridgeport, Michigan. It's worth every mile to have Dave, the man I call the "Amigo Service Guru", take care of my three-wheeled companions. I trust him totally, and with good reason, for he never fails to get my friends running properly again. This time he was assisted by Joe, who found the loose wire that was causing La Lucha to pull to the left. Dave's work was a bit more complex, what with replacing the control panel cover, replacing some wires and fittings, getting Ona a computerized diagnostic exam, and installing new batteries. Now she's all perky, just in time for the Michigan Womyn's Festival!
While waiting in the Mobility Center, I asked Debby, the receptionist, if she could arrange for me to meet Al Thieme, Amigo's founder and president. I wanted the opportunity to tell this man personally how much his RT and RT Express scooters have changed my life. What a pleasant man! He was delighted to hear my positive feedback and proved it by bringing a seemingly endless line of people over to meet me. First it was his daughter Jennifer, then an Amigo rider named Barbara, after that, DeeLynn, the new Amigo Art Director, and finally his wife and children who had joined him for lunch! I felt like a queen, shaking hands and greeting everyone with a smile. Believe me, this is a real family business, whether you're related by blood or by a shared zeal for Amigo scooters...which, by the way, can't be beat!
This is why I told Al
I should definitely be getting a commission. I wonder how many
Amigo scooters I've sold so far?
THURSDAY, AUGUST 8, 2002
Have you ever bought anything online? I haven't done it very often--actually I don't buy things very often--but I did buy my new digital camera online at www.buydig.com. If you recall, I originally got a lemon and had to send it back for a replacement. Even though it was beyond the specified return date, I had no problems. And so far my new camera is a gem.
Well, my latest online purchase has caused the owner of the company so much grief that he admitted in our phone conversation today that he's probably lost $200 worth of hair he's torn out! I don't see any of it as his fault. It had to do with back orders, distributor error and mistakes made by people in his warehouse. But his fault or not, Jerry Hutchins has done everything in his power to get this order to me before I leave for the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival on Sunday. Now he's even arranged for it to be sent FedEx Overnight Air at his expense so it will arrive tomorrow.
And the item? A new walker! My old one bit the dust a couple weeks ago when the back wheels finally broke off. I've been dragging it around ever since, scraping our wood floors and making a gosh-awful sound. As Ed says, that walker doesn't owe me a thing. I bought it in San Francisco in November 1996 and have used it every day since then.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving 1996, I'd ended up in the emergency room with a deep gash close to my eye. This was my third face-first fall in as many months. I realized then that I needed something more than my cane to keep myself safe. John at the organic grocery/deli where I'd fallen, said, "Have you considered getting a walker? My grandmother uses one and it really helps her get around without falling." I absolutely hated the idea but realized it was probably a smart choice. At that time I was subletting Steve's third-floor walk-up apartment so needed something I could fold and carry up three steep flights of stairs.
On Wednesday I ordered a walker by phone from a San Francisco drugstore that sold such things, and it was delivered that afternoon. After partially collaging it with colored craft paper, I took it out for a walk in the neighborhood later that evening. I was able to walk farther than ever before. It was then that I decided this walker was a friend not an enemy.
So now it's time to get a new friend, decorate her and take her on the road. The first thing I plan to buy is a new windchime at Coyote Moon's booth at the MWMF so Windchime Walker II will sound the way she should. Today I went to the drugstore and bought three packages of colored tissue paper--royal blue, aqua, and one with designs in purples, blues and aquas. I also got waterbased polyurethane varnish for rain protection. I'll take her picture as soon as she's ready. All this is assuming it really does come tomorrow. Cross your fingers!
Now, let me give some
free advertising to Jerry Hutchin's business, Medical
Products Direct.com. His selection of medical supplies is
excellent, the prices are great, and customer service is exceptional.
Tell him Patricia sent you.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 9, 2002
Windchime Walker II is safe and sound in her new home. She arrived at 1 PM, and within a half hour dear Eddie was putting her together. Our neighbor Jan came and kibbutzed while Ed worked and I offered encouragement. Here is Windchime Walker II in her undecorated state. After six hours of artistic labor--mine!--she looked quite different.
Whew! I'd forgotten what a lot of work it takes to collage a brand new walker. When you're simply refurbishing a walker that has a base coat of collage--or at least eight base coats as the original Windchime Walker had--you don't have to cover every inch. But the first coat needs to be pretty meticulously applied so that no aluminum shows through. It was 10:30 PM before I was done. Tomorrow I'll add at least two coats of waterbased polyurethane varnish to protect her from the rain. Now that she looks so pretty, I'm not sure I want to take her camping with me to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival! See what happens when you make a utilitarian object into a work of art?
This walker has a different feel from my first one. To be honest, she is a little quick for my taste. I had her set up like my old one with four wheels (the rear wheels have a braking capacity when weight is applied), but somehow these new wheels move much more easily than I'm used to. It almost feels like she might run off ahead of me, putting me at risk of face-first falls. If you recall, it was to protect myself against just such falls that I got a walker in the first place. She is also somewhat taller than my old walker.
When I mentioned my concerns to Ed, he came up with the perfect solution. He replaced the rear wheels with what they call "gliders." They are plastic caps that fit over the original rear legs and make it easy to glide the walker over the floor, carpet, sidewalk or ground. It also has the advantage of making the walker shorter. Now she looks good and feels safe.
You may notice that I anthropomorphize my walkers, but they really are my friends. Without their assistance, I wouldn't be walking at all. That can make you feel pretty fond of an inanimate object.
Before the new walker
came, I worked on my Concert of Colors journal entries from 2002
and 2001. They now have their own web pages and are linked to
my Music Festivals web
page. I wanted to let the hardworking and inspired concert organizers
at ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services)
and New Detroit see what the Concert of Colors--now in its tenth
year--means to those of us fortunate enough to attend. In my email
to them I wrote that "When we come together as one family
in beautiful Chene Park, then I know world peace is not only possible
but happening here and now."
SATURDAY, AUGUST 10, 2002
OK, my friends. I'm all packed, Ed has loaded the car and I plan to hit the sack early. This is my last journal entry until the night of August 19. Tomorrow I'm off for a week of tenting with at least 6500 womyn and children at my beloved Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. For those of you who might be new to my journal, I'll give you some links to check out here on my own site, links that will give you a better idea of what this festival is about than I could ever describe here. If you go to my Music Festivals page and click on the link to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival 2002, and then go to my true story, Mosh Pit Mama, you'll have a pretty good idea of what my life is going to be like for the next week.
See you late on Monday,
August 19. I promise to come back with LOTS of pictures and stories!
SUNDAY, AUGUST 11, 2002
I leave Detroit by noon and after an easy drive, arrive at the motel in Hart, Michigan about 4:30 PM. Two longtime festi-goers open the front doors for me and then go out to my car to get my overnight bag and cooler. It's already like being on the Land.
Because the county sheriff had put the kabosch on the traditional days-long Line on that dirt road outside the festival gates, women had booked every motel room and spots in campgrounds for miles around. The rule was that you couldn't start the Line until daybreak Monday, the day the front gates were scheduled to open at 1 PM.
Bonnie and Kathy arrive
soon after I, settle into our room and watch some TV. I hang out
for a couple hours beside the large indoor pool, read and talk
to women. About 8 PM I go to our room and after a short visit
with my friends, turn in. I set my alarm clock for 4:15 AM so
as to get an early start to the Line which is about 20 minutes
away. I tell Bonnie and Kathy I'll hold a place for them in line
so they can sleep in. I'm so excited that I wake and sleep fitfully
MONDAY, AUGUST 12, 2002
The alarm goes off at 4:15 AM and I'm in the car driving on a still-dark road by 5 AM. Oh, is it dark! County roads don't have street lights, and for parts of the trip, there is not even a white line in the middle of the road. At least they're paved. I meet two cars on the way, but except for that, I feel like a solitary traveller on the road of life. It is quite magical with the big dipper and abundant stars overhead. The scent of skunk sends me back to childhood car rides where I always loved that smell and could never understand why everyone else complained about it.
About a mile and a half from the turn onto our familiar dirt road, I see cars behind me, five of them. This next turn is hard to find even in the light of day so now I feel under pressure to perform. After all, five cars are following me. Happily, I make the turn without trouble. Now I see the red tail lights of a vehicle ahead. We drive and drive down this road. I'm shocked to see how far we get before encountering the Line. Turns out I'm car # 54! That is my best ever. For example, I arrived at the Line at 2:30 PM on Sunday last year, more than 22 hours before the front gate would open and I was car #237. I think I like this sheriff and his new rules.
I see women with flashlights walking up and down the road, checking to see who's there and how far they are from the gate. I recline my seat a bit and close my eyes to take a little cat nap. It's 5:30 AM and still totally dark.
When the fingers of dawn start to push through the trees, I get out of the car and look around for someone to help take Ona my scooter from the car trunk and assemble her. Now I'm ready to check out the line myself. The first women I ask say, "Of course." Michelle, Angie and Max do the job handily and with gentle humor. That's the way it is at festival: all you have to do is ask and help is there.
By the way, if some of my pictures make it look light out, that's only because I brightened them so you can see people's faces. For instance, it's still pretty dark when I arrive at the front gate and take this picture of Kyeong and Ona. I have a brief conversation with Kyeong who tells me she's from Korea, new to the US and excited about being at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival for the first time. A festi-virgin. By the way, when I ask what her name means, she answers, "A zillion girls!" She says her father named her and didn't know the destiny he was preparing her for.
I meet some experienced Line sisters like Erin, Stacey and Miriam, who have coffee going on the stove and are reading, knitting and chatting. Then I see a car and a loaded motorcycle from Georgia. I stop and introduce myselkf to Corella, Michelle and Jenny. When I ask Jenny how long it took her to drive her motorcycle from Atlanta to Michigan, she smiles and says, "Well, I took the long way around." As in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota-type long! I soon see Linda selling raffle tickets up and down the Line. I stop her and buy my usual batch. Not only is it a way to support the festival, but the raffle is amazing with its hundreds of craftswomyn items, two free tickets for next year's festival drawn every day at Daystage and Nightstage, and the prize-of-all-prizes, the festival quilt that womyn prepare for months ahead so that festi-goers can finish it during the week.
After eight years of attending this festival, the Line is more like a reunion than something to wait in. It always goes too fast for me. I mean, how could I not want to spend time with my friend Leah and her sister Shanat? Leah has celebrated most of her birthdays on the Land; this year she turned ten last Thursday. Double numbers! Then I meet an online friend from the festival bulletin board. Dear Juli and her partner Danica have come to find me in the Line so Juli can give me the fan/water spritzer she bought for me at her Missouri Kmart. It is just like the one I used and broke at last year's super hot festival. She also gives me a lovely tie-dye sack she made--"I think they are your colors." If you look at the picture again, I think you'll see that she is right!
I soon find my old and new friends, Sooz and Mary. They tell me they left Lum (two hours north of Detroit) at 1 AM and car-caravaned with my friends Lisa and Nancy, and a friend of Sooz's from Windsor, Ontario. Sooz is definitely ready for a nap, so Mary and I start walk/scooting up toward the front gate. It is Mary's first festival so she is excited to see and do everything.
At Deidre and Brandy's car, we join a happy group who are enjoying the huge wedding cake Deidre brought to share (it's her job, not her wedding). Deidre and I sang together for a couple of years in the One World Inspirational Choir, so I encourage her to lead us in a song. What a great beginning to festival!
Mary and I continue along the dirt road past the front gate in an attempt to find Camp Trans. This is an alternative transgender camp that has been in existence since the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival organizers determined in 1992 that the festival was restricted to womyn born womyn. It has not stopped being a controversial issue. Transgender M to F (male to female) persons feel that they have a right to be part of the festival because they are womon-identified, whether post- or pre-op (post or pre-operation to change their sexual organs). The other "side" believes that since the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival is a clothing-optional environment with open showers and little privacy, it is essential to make it a safe place for all womyn, especially those who are survivors of male-inflicted sexual abuse. As I say, it is a complex issue, but the MWMF organizers have remained clear in their boundaries for ten years now.
Anyway, we never do find Camp Trans; it's obviously too far up the road. But representatives from the camp walk the Line talking to folks, handing out a Camp Trans newsletter and inviting everyone to join them for music and discussions during festival week. I somehow doubt if the transgender/MWMF controversy will ever be resolved in a way that satisfies everyone, but that's how it is with complex issues.
Once back at my car, I stay there to eat brunch. In my cooler I have an Odwalla juice (surprise, surprise!), hummous, meatless grapeleaves and a box of Triscuits. I enjoy a lovely tailgate party and visit with womyn as they pass by. In no time at all, Mary is at my side and the festi-workers are riding by in a truck, shouting, "Gate's opening in a few minutes!" Mary has agreed to drive my car onto the Land so I won't have to disassemble my scooter just to put it back together again on the other side of the gate. I must say the womyn at the front gate seem to get a kick out of seeing my little scooter toodling along amidst cars, trucks, SUVs, vans and RVs. I just laugh and say, "I drove it here all the way from Detroit!"
The first words you hear as you pass through the front gate onto the Land are, "Welcome home!" For festi-virgins and experienced festi-goers alike, there is a sense of being at home among womyn. You don't have to be a separatist to value being away from men for one week a year.
After 27 years of fine-tuning the process, things run very smoothly. One womon smilingly takes your ticket or you go to the Box Office to buy one. Another puts the plastic festi-bracelet (red this year) on your wrist. Someone else directs you to whichever lane you are to enter to unload your gear. If you're a DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) camper, you pull into a special place where womyn cheerfully unload your gear and put it over by the DART shuttle stop. Every item is stickered with a number--I was #8--and put in a pile so it will be easily identified. You then head over to the Orientation tent where they ask if you're allergic to bees or any insects, give you an index card where you print your name, address, home phone, and the workshifts you will be signing up for in the tent next door. There's a short orientation video that you can watch or not, depending on your familiarity with festival. In the workshift sign-up tent, every camper who is staying the full six days must choose two four-hour shifts to do sometime during the week. Although there are 600 workers already on the Land, festival cannot happen unless everyone pitches in. The choices are endless--after all, this is the largest city in Oceana County for one week every year--including kitchen (which they encourage everyone to choose for at least one of their shifts), childcare, the Womb (health care), the Oasis (emotional support), orientation, security, communications, transportation, garbage, DART, workers' kitchen, the various stages, etc. After handing in your index card, you receive your festival program, which will be at your side all week.
I spend more time than usual in the Orientation tent since I am with Mary, a festi-virgin. They offer special assistance to womyn who are new to festival. While there I meet another festi-virgin named Joy. She and I are about the same age, committed political activists and hit it off right away. When I hear she has health limitations, I encourage her to camp in DART.
As soon as Mary and I get back to the DART shuttle stop, our stuff is ready to be loaded. My old friends Sandy and Kristin heft my gear onto the shuttle with help from the driver Moe. I back Ona onto the lift, park myself in the stuffed shuttle that also has Mary and two other womyn perched in its seats, and we start the mile-long journey to downtown DART. On the way, Moe entertains us with a wonderfully irreverent song called "Flag Decal."
The Land looks green and healthly, not like last year when the ferns were all browned out. And even though it is only about 3 PM on opening day, Bush Gardens and Bread & Roses camping areas are already sprouting a lot of tents.
When we pull into DART downtown, that's when I really feel I'm home. I've camped in DART every year since my first festival in 1994, so I've known a number of the workers and sister DART campers for eight years. When they see me and my scooter descending on the lift, the womyn let out a cheer. Pretty heartening, I'd say! A new festi-worker, Travis, loads my gear on a cart and follows me over to the spot Roseannah, the DART coordinator, always saves for me. This time Travis and Roseannah suggest we set up my tent a few feet closer to the road so I'll be on more level ground. I thanked those womyn every night when I didn't slip off my air mattress as I'd done in years past. Camping on level ground makes sense!
Travis works with me for a long time putting up the tent, unpacking my gear and setting it where I want it inside my nest, blowing up my air mattress and finding more stakes to secure my rain fly. Let me tell you how grateful I was on Monday and Tuesday nights when we had drenching rains. Thanks to Travis, I had a totally dry tent all week.
When my "house" is in order, I scoot over to dinner. Monday night's meal is simple yet nourishing, with deliciously chunky chickpea hummous and vegetable sandwich-makings, and fresh fruit. I then go to the DART office tent to visit friends. Longtime DART campers Kate and Helen are workers for the first time this year, and although I can tell Helen is weary, she still makes me laugh. We have lots of catching up to do, especially when I learn that she's been though a major health crisis this year. I am grateful to hear she's doing pretty well now, so well in fact that she and Kate have just returned from a three-month, 15,000 mile roadtrip all the way into Alaska from their home in West Virginia.
During our visit, the
skies go dark and rain begins to fall. Thunder, lightning and
drenching rain actually. I wait until it lightens up before
I plug in Ona my scooter for her overnight recharging, and walk
home with the help of windchime walker. I turn in early, dry and
snuggly in my little nest, happy to be here on the Land once again.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2002
The sound of rain falling gently on my tent lulls me to sleep. I awake to morning mist and womyn's cries of recognition as they meet on the path. I use my always-welcome camper's porta-potty, slip on my dress and Birkies, put whatever I might need during the day into a small pile on my sleeping bag beside the tent opening --I don't want to have to get back in my tent until bedtime--unzip the flap and emerge from my turquoise-and-white cocoon using my shower chair to transfer safely. It is my first full day on the Land this year and I am already grateful for all that is to come.
Windchime Walker and I slowly make our way to the DART sink where I join the womyn brushing their teeth. My way is made slower yet because I stop every few feet to greet old friends and meet new ones. I see lovely Lady T (Tianda), a friend with whom I've shared emails during the year, along the way. She is dressed in her festi-best.
I finally reach the DART office tent where I unplug Ona my scooter and take off for the DART kitchen tent where granola, blueberries and yoghurt await. After breakfast, it's time to take my first run through the Craftswomyn's Bazaar. This is a favorite part of festival; it is where I buy almost all my clothes and gifts.
I stop first at Mimi Baczewska's booth where she sells her handsewn reversible hats, drum stuff, belly bags, coloring book calendars and crochet necklace pouches. I buy one pouch for me, one for Windchime Walker II and one for Ona the scooter. I also add a small purse to Ona's basket decorations. Mimi and I first met at a singing improv camp put on by Rhiannon in the Northern California redwoods. It was February 1995. How far we have each travelled since then! I always look forward to catching up with her during festival.
By the time I've perused the crafts area it's already time for lunch. That's the way it is at festival; I go from one meal to the next without knowing where the time went. On the way to the DART kitchen tent, worker Helen introduces me to Theresa who has come to festival for the first time by herself. We go to lunch together and sit at a table where the conversation is lively. It almost always is!
By the way, I love festi-food. It is totally vegetarian with vegan options, all fresh and healthy. If you've been to Michigan long enough, you know what's coming each day; the menu rarely changes. For instance, breakfast on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday is scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onions and broccoli; Thursday and Saturday is scrambled tofu. Tonight's dinner will be nut loaf and today's lunch is cheese or veggie sandwiches, chickpea and feta salad, tossed salad, with peaches and bananas for dessert. This kitchen workshift of wonderful womyn has spent the morning washing and chopping vegetables to make today's lunch. It's pretty easy to feel grateful.
All day long I connect with festi-friend after festi-friend. We may only see one another once a year but our connection remains strong. Two of my favorite people are three-year-old Jack and his adoptive Mom, Amy. We first met in 2000 when my didgeridoo helped sooth this little boy during one of his infrequent crying spells. We've seen one another at every festival since, and keep up through emails during the year. Amy's been great about showing me Jack's growth by sending digital pictures. And this year I get to meet Amy's new partner, Jennifer, who "just happened" to be Jack's teacher. Such a happy family!
There are many young families at festival these days...and lots of children, like face-painted Amelia. Where we were predominantly middle-aged in the early '90s, the festival organizers decision to start bringing in performers who would appeal to younger womyn has turned the tide. That, plus the lesbian baby boom, has lowered the average age of festi-goers dramatically. I love seeing young life and energy on the Land, especially the tattooed, pierced teenaged and young 20s crowd. They expand our consciousness and challenge our assumptions.
Speaking of expanding consciousness and challenging assumptions, the workshop I attend this afternoon does both. I'd come to festival hungering to be with politically-minded womyn like myself, and I am not disappointed. Deborah Jacobs, the director of New Jersey's ACLU, starts the week off with an excellent intensive workshop called "Civil Liberties in the Age of Terrorism." Thirty womyn gather to discuss this chilling topic, two-thirds of whom are under 40. I find that so encouraging! Our small group studies the topic "Domestic Surveillance" using materials Deborah provides and bringing to the discussion our own thoughts and experiences. Then representatives from each small group presents our reflections and concerns to the larger group. It is just what I need and want.
Alix Olson, an outstanding spoken word artist, continues this political thread in her performance on the Acoustic Stage at 5:30 PM. This is the second year we've seen her at festival and I can't think of any other spoken word artist who impresses me more. Her creative skill, informed presence, critical analyses, commitment to truth, energy and fire change hearts and minds. She introduces her grandmother who is in the audience; her pride in Alix is evident. I'd be mighty proud too if she were my granddaughter. The whole audience shows their appreciation when she is done.
Halfway through the next act--Dance Brigade--the skies darken and I turn tail and scoot up the Acoustic Stage road hoping to make it home before the rains come. I just barely make it. A gang of us hang out comfortably in the DART living room tent while others are not so fortunate. It doesn't hurt that Darlene, Leslie, Bea and Tianda have their bag of treats with them!
As soon as the rain lets up, I hear screams in the distance which signal a Michigan Womyn's Music Festival tradition has begun. Leslie and I walk/scoot over to the kitchen area, and yes, there they are--the mud wrestlers! We hang out for a goodly while, delighting in the show. And we aren't the only ones enjoying it; there must be at least fifty of us cheering the wrestlers on. As long as they don't come after us, we're happy.
After visiting a few more
friends, I trundle home to my
nest, grateful that it is still cozy and dry. I can hear the
Day Stage dance going on but am content to turn in early. I fall
asleep almost immediately and sleep soundly.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2002
I awaken to what sounds like my alarm, but isn't; it's an insect buzzing outside my tent. Its "alarm" goes off just five minutes before my electronic model is scheduled to perform the same task. A lot more gently, I'd say.
This morning is the "After 9-11: Emotional, Creative, Political Responses" workshop put on by Chris Cuomo of New Yorkers Say No To War. I'm trying not to miss any of the political workshops. This is new for me. At previous festivals I've only attended weeklong intensives like MWMF Chorus with Elizabeth Seja Min in 1994, Ubaka Hill's Drumsong Orchestra 1995-98 and the One World Inspirational Choir with Aleah Long in 1999 and 2000. Last year I laid back and didn't commit to any intensive workshops, but did take Jamie Anderson's "Bellydance for DART Womyn" which was a hoot! But this year I know what I need and that is to be with globally aware sisters at every opportunity.
I scoot over to the workshop area near Triangle only to discover the "After 9-11" workshop has been moved to the Community Center tent because of the threat of rain (which never came). A number of us walk/scoot downtown and find Chris Cuomo already set up and waiting. Unfortunately the Salsa and Latin Dance workshop is being held on the dance floor right outside the Community Center making it a real challenge to stay focussed on this heart-wrenching topic, not to mention trying to hear one another. But we do our best.
Chris gives a brief introduction. In it she shares the responses to September 11 of her New York community, which includes Eve Ensler and other creative activists. Since September, 40-60 New Yorkers who say no to war have met every Thursday for presentations by educators, activists, analysts, artists and anyone who can expand their knowledge and dedication to the work for peace. Chris then asks each womon in the circle--about twenty of us--to tell our names, where we're from and to share our responses to 9-11 and what has happened since.
Even with the salsa beat blaring in our ears, this is powerful stuff. Two young women are New Yorkers, one of whom was right there when it happened. Her story is horrifying and sad. Much healing remains to be done. Another woman, a Midwestern firefighter, shares how she went to Ground Zero on September 12, worked there for three days and is now suffering from severe mercury poisoning. She has no anger about this but her partner, an RN, does.
The rest of us tell our stories of having been changed in ways that we don't always understand. Many express a sense of powerlessness and despair. Obviously Chris had her finger on the pulse of womyn when she chose to offer this workshop at the festival. We only have enough time to skim the surface of our concerns but it feels like all I can handle in one sitting. Chris wisely introduces a song that we sing together, part of which--"How can I serve you?"--is sung with sarcasm and makes us laugh. That helps.
My friend Sooz and I try to process what we've heard as we head off to lunch. We sit at a table with filmmakers from Los Angeles. Natalie, her assistant Rebecca, and Michelle let us see a short documentary through the magic of a hand-held camcorder. Ah, high tech delights even at fest!
After lunch, Sooz goes back to her tent and I decide to scoot around taking festi-pictures. First on my list is the Watermelon Tree, a Michigan institution. At the beginning of the week it is surrounded by so many watermelons you can't get near its trunk; by Sunday it is bare. Next up is the kitchen tent where about sixty womyn are cheerfully chopping vegetables for tonight's dinner of chickpea eggplant spinach ragout, tossed salad and steamed broccoli. Outside the kitchen tent are the firepits where food is cooked all week long. Just look at those piles of wood!
Not far away is the Kitchen Rehearsal Tent where the One World Inspirational Choir is holding its daily rehearsal. By the time I get there, Aleah Long, the director, and Esther Blue, the accompanist, are auditioning solo parts for Sunday's performance at the Acoustic Stage. I'm delighted to hear the clear soprano voice of my young friend Leslie as she auditions for a part.
Even though I'm not singing with the choir this year, my heart practically bursts with joy as I open my mouth and join them in the songs I know. I stay until their rehearsal is over. Happily, a dear friend from WoMaMu (Women Making Music) is here from Northern California; it is her second festival. We walk/scoot over to the Countree Store where Lisa treats me to an ice cream bar.
I then scoot down to the Crafts Bazaar, always a fun place to hang out when you have spare time. Out front I see an old choir friend, Akushka, and Angela, whom I'd crowned Queen of the Mudwrestlers during last night's excitement. Next I run into one of my favorite craftswomyn, a rainbow-headed womon named Gail. We connect each year at both the National Women's Music Festival in Muncie and this one, so always have stories to share. She tells me about her partner's new scooter and how it managed to pull a trailer with all their craft gear and her on it too. That is SOME scooter!! We'd talked at National in June about scooters and how to choose one best suited for your needs. Turns out she found a rebuilt one that was affordable and it's working better than she could ever have imagined.
By now it's time for me to pick up my socks, neck scarf and sweatshirt in preparation for tonight's Opening Ceremonies, and to go get my dinner. I'm delighted to happen upon Carolyn Gage, the lesbian feminist playwright with whom I worked in the Reader's Theater at National in June. We enjoy a delicious dinner, stimulating conversation and take photos of one another. Here's my picture of Carolyn and hers of me.
At 7:15 PM I make my way down to the Nightstage. It's time for me to check in for my workshift, Nightstage Security. I want to get there early so I can request a good spot to see tonight's Opening Ceremonies. I've heard it is going to be political with Women In Black and everything; I don't want to miss a minute of it. Katherine assigns me to the Tower area which is center stage. My job is to answer questions about the different seating areas. We have a smoking area to the back of the field, "chem" areas where womyn are allowed to drink alcohol and wear scents, and "chemfree" which means no alcohol or scents. I'm also to make sure the aisles stay open. You understand that everyone brings their own short-legged beach chairs and/or blankets to sit on. It's a pretty fun job because I get to see everyone, not to mention having the best seat in the house.
Oh, how can I describe what we see, feel, experience in the next hour? It is just what I need. We are invited to enter a meditative state while Ruth Barrett, the Dianic Priestess, chants, Ubaka Hill plays the drum and Kay Gardner plays the flute. In silence, Women In Black walk toward the stage from every corner of the field, carrying signs that say it all. Then Krissy Keefer and the Dance Brigade speak of the sufferings of war and our hunger for peace through spoken word, movement and drums. As it unfolds I bring consciously to mind Rabih Haddad still in prison, his wife Sulaima al-Rushaid and their children, the terrified people of Iraq, the suffering Palestinian, Israeli and Afghani people.
Womyn cheer, clap and
cry out their appreciation. I am sure there are those in the audience
who do not agree or appreciate what is being said in this, the
most political Opening Ceremony I've ever seen, but for once,
FOR ONCE, we peace-choosing anti-war people are the dominant culture.
We are the ones with the voice, we are the ones saying
publicly what we've longed to say aloud all these months. It is
enough for me to live on during what will surely be ever-harder
times. I will not forget a moment of this, the greatest gift the
Michigan Womyn's Music Festival has ever given me.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 15, 2002
I awaken to the sight of sun-dappled ferns outside my tent window. It's going to be a beautiful day. I let myself soak in bed (bed?) awhile longer and savor the sounds of womyn's laughter and voices calling out "hellos", taped music coming from the August Night Cafe, the friendly growl of tractor-drawn shuttles with the drivers calling out the stop near my tent--"Cra-afts!" It is only Thursday and our time here still feels richly abundant.
I get dressed, go brush my teeth, and on the way to pick up Ona my scooter, I see Karen, a DART worker, being kissed by Serenity, Gillian's little girl. They are obviously both smitten with one another and as many times as I try to capture the kiss with my camera, I can't click fast enough. Finally I ask Karen, Serenity, Grandma Kim and Gillian to pose for a group portrait. By the way, this is the little one who moved for the first time in utero when she felt the vibrations from my didgeridoo blowing on her mommy's belly at fest 2000. Although this is the first time I've seen her in person, I feel such a heart connection with this child.
By now it's too late for me to go to breakfast--the workshop I want to attend has already started--so I scoot over to the Saints tent--passing by the ubiquitous line of portajanes--to buy some grapefruit juice to tide me over. When I arrive at the "Empowered Disability" workshop in the DART tent, Andrea and Melinda are already facilitating a lively discussion. The issues being raised relate to ways in which the festival could be more accessible to womyn with disabilites. Among the priorities mentioned are a paved path down to the Acoustic Stage and one out to Triangle and the workshop areas. Mary Kay and Peggy share how they waited down at the Acoustic Stage for an hour in the middle of Tuesday's rainstorm before being picked up by the only DART shuttle that can handle her rather large scooter. If there had been a paved path, she could have gotten back home to DART on her own.
We realize that adding pavement to the Land is not popular with the festi-organizers. They have great respect for the Land and resist anything that might violate its integrity. But as womyn who love festival and want to keep attending, we believe our request for more pavement is legitimate. Even the upside-down carpet that is used for accessibility in certain areas is quite difficult for womyn in manual wheelchairs to negotiate. We agree that if the majority of festi-goers were made aware of our need for change, they would support us. Helen suggests a few ways for us to raise their awareness.
We brainstorm a list of changes we'd like to see instituted, prioritize the list, and volunteer to work on specific tasks during the year. We want to come to next year's festival with a plan of action. How empowering it feels to work together on such a project! So often, as disabled womyn in an able-bodied world, we must fight our accessibility battles alone. Here at festival we are part of the DART community that is respected and valued as essential to the whole. I always find my identity and self esteem as a womon with a disability strengthened here at Michigan.
The workshop ends at noon--although we could have gone on for hours--and I scoot over to the Community Center for a quick errand. On the way I stop to listen to Kay Gardner, Coco, Tami and Linda who are singing a beautiful song in Spanish. They have just come back from Kay's weeklong intensive workshop, "Singing in Sacred Circle."
I'm ready for lunch since I'd missed breakfast. Today's menu is minted apple salad, chickpea and feta salad, and plums, peaches, apples or bananas for dessert. As has been happening all week, I sit at a table where the topic of conversation soon turns to what is going on in the world since September 11. Joy, my new friend from Orientation on Monday, is an important part of our discussion. Never before in my experience have politics played such an important role at festival, but as we all agree, never in our lifetimes have we known such a sense of global crisis.
Now it is time to go call Eddie. I had promised to call him once during the week and this seems to be the best time. Thankfully the Land is not cell phone friendly--I hope it never is--but that means it is a real project to make a phone call. The only public telephones (eight of them) are out by the parking lot near the front gate. It is a mile from downtown and usually involves waiting in line. I always allow two hours for this project.
After my share of frustrations, I finally get through to my sweetie, but by then I'm not very sweet myself. After our call, though, I am lucky enough to catch a DART shuttle bus almost immediately. And the best part is that "T" is the driver! She and I met last year--also on my trip out to the phones--and hit it off from the start. She is a very funny womon. Here is "T" after she'd let me off at downtown DART.
I am happy to be back in time to go catch Alix Olson perform again on the Acoustic Stage. I can't get enough of that womon!
On my way from the Acoustic Stage to dinner (today is everyone's favorite--burritos, spanish rice and corn on the cob), I run into my friends Suzanne and Carrie from San Francisco. They just got to the Land this morning and seem very happy to be here. I can humbly take credit for encouraging them to come; this is Suzanne's first festival. It's so good to see them.
When I return to DART after dinner, the workers tell me they've just been informed that a big storm is only forty miles from the Land and is heading this way. Folks start scurrying around letting down tent flaps and securing things, while I scoot off to the Nightstage Security tent to tell them that I will not be reporting for my workshift tonight if it is raining. I've learned through experience that Ona does not like to be driven in drenching rain (she goes dead and has to dry out for days). Along the way, I call out like Chicken Little, "The sky is falling; the sky is falling!" After Monday's and Tuesday's storms, folks take my warning to heart.
Come 7:15 PM, there is no rain so I report to my workshift. Instead of requesting a good view of the stage, I ask for an assignment close to the exit so I can turn tail and run if/when the storm hits. Katherine puts me at the gate between the performers/workers area and the Nightstage field. My workshift partner and I are to check the color of wristbands so that only workers and performers (and DART womyn who need to use the accessible portajane or want to get on the DART shuttle) pass into the restricted area. So we're looking for green, blue and black-and-white striped wristbands; red and plum are verboten.
I like this job. You don't see the stage worth a darn but that doesn't mean you can't get up and dance, which I do to Laura Love whom I love and Le Tigre, a funky group with a great beat. Patty Larkin, the other performer tonight, is a superb guitarist/vocalist who doesn't need to be seen to be appreciated. Besides, I get tons of hugs from workers and performers like Edwina Lee Tyler, Ubaka Hill, Toshi Reagon, Jamie Anderson, Aleah Long, Yaniyah and others. And they call this a workshift?
There is one sad occurrence tonight. A worker is injured while surfing the moshpit. She is taken out by stretcher and transported to the hospital by ambulance. We learn later that she returned to the Land on Friday and had healed enough in a couple of days to be up and about. As much as I adored my moshpit experience in 1995, I'm now feeling it is too risky to our womyn to continue.
Of course that storm never
does come. I told you, I'm just like Chicken Little! But
that means I can go get some cheese popcorn (yum!) at the Community
Center, and check out the Open Mic at the August Night Cafe. Before
it starts, I meet an interesting womon named Traci; we talk for
awhile, and I soon realize it's time for me to hit the hay. So
FRIDAY, AUGUST 16, 2002
Another beautiful day--bright blue skies and warm-but-not-hot sun. I join the teeth-brushers at the DART sink (our showers are in the background). On the way to breakfast--a scrambled eggs morning--I take a picture of folks washing their hands and filling their water bottles from one of the countless water spigots that dot the Land. The plumbing crew, made up of womyn like Travis who helped put up my tent on Monday, is to thank for our access to fresh well water. Couldn't have festival without them!
This morning I plan to attend Penny Rosenwasser's "Women Waging Peace: Israel/Palestine" workshop at Media Tent 2 at 10:30 AM. The program describes it as: "Slides and stories of Israeli women working to end the occupation, and Palestinian women fighting for their self-determination."
Although I've never met Penny, I feel a deep bond with her. In 1993 I found her book of interviews called Visionary Voices: "Women on Power; Conversations with shamans, activists, teachers, artists and healers" (aunt lute foundation press: 1992). It had a profound impact on me and the choices I've made since then. On April 5th of this year, I stood in solidarity with the San Francisco Women In Black at the corner of Montgomery and Market. During the sharing after our silent vigil, an email was read aloud. It was from Penny Rosenwasser, who was at that time on the West Bank with an international peace delegation. As I say, this womon and I share a herstory even though we have never met.
My friend Merribeth Fender's workshop, "Healing With the Didgeridoo" starts at 10 AM at the DART Workshop Tent across from my tent, so I join them for a few minutes. Merribeth kindly gives me a quick didgeridoo healing because she knows I can't stay. I didn't know how much I was going to need that healing in order to handle the feelings that would be generated by Penny's workshop. I remain grateful to Merribeth for fortifying me for what was to come.
I scoot by the country western dance class on my way down to Triangle. The Media Tent 2 is filled with womyn when I arrive shortly before 10:30 AM. I manage to scoot into a good spot so I can see the screen on which her slides will be shown. Penny starts on time, introduces herself and the womyn who will share their stories later, tells us the slide presentation is from a trip she made to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip ten years ago but that she intends to update it verbally with information she gained in her most recent trip in April 2002.
Image after image of courageous women follows, not just courageous but suffering. It is hard to take in, especially when one realizes that things are much much worse now than when these slides were originally taken. Penny's commentary is filled with information and powerful quotes. After her slide show, Penny turns things over to Amy Laura and Bob who were also part of a delegation that went to the West Bank in April 2002. They tell us stories and give us more information.
During the workshop I manage to jot down a few sentences of what is said, but unfortunately don't get the names of the Israeli and Palestinian women whom they are quoting. What I write is:
"The source of all the problems is the occupation."
"Injustice was committed in my name and I did my best to stop it."
"This is what democracy looks like. Democracy is tanks. Democracy is curfew. Democracy is occupation."
"Time and time again if the answer is war, we're not yet asking the right question."
Just a few of the facts that are shared are that 80% of the people on the West Bank rely on the UN for food, there are 400,000 Jewish settlers, and that water is everything.
A period of questions and answers follows. By now I feel like I am drowning in a swamp of emotions and information. On my way out of the tent at noon, I take all the handouts on a table in front. I will need time to assimilate what I have seen and heard. On our way to lunch, I tell my friend Sooz, who was also at the workshop, that I am riding on overload. After four days of pretty heavy workshops and political discussions, I need a break; I need to play!
After a delicious lunch of pasta salad, yam and coconut salad and tossed salad, we head over to the Day Stage. I want to dance! We are lucky to happen upon Alexis Suter and All You Can Eat who really know how to get folks jivin'. We find a spot in the shade where everyone has to walk by us. I see lots of friends including Diane, Traci and their baby Isabella from Night Stage Security. Sooz sits for a few minutes but soon Mary comes along and we three get up and boogie down! It is just what I need.
After Day Stage I take a run through Crafts. A number of womyn come up to tell me how touched they were by my festi-journal 2001. I'd posted a link to it on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival online Bulletin Board in July, and apparently it helped lots of womyn prepare for fest, especially those who had never attended before. I also saw an old festi-friend, Ramonajane, who is a longtime member of what she calls my Faithful Readers Club (of this journal).
Back at my tent, I see the same furry friend who has been on my front flap since yesterday. Makes me feel right at home. I put away my purchases--my We'Moon 2003 calendar and the tie-dyed socks Pat N. asked me to get her--and scoot off toward the Acoustic Stage. On the way I find Risa handing out the 400,000 origami stars she had spent three months making as free gifts for festi-goers. Isn't that amazing?
When I get down to the Acoustic Stage it is hot enough that I search for shade. I find it at the top of the hill. While there, I'm visited by another friendly creature: a cricket. But my attention is riveted to the stage where one of my all-time favorite performers, Mary Watkins, is performing her unique blend of improvisational compositions on the piano. After awhile I scoot down closer to the stage; I just have to soak up every note with no distractions.
After Mary, the MC Ubaka Hill comes onstage to introduce the next act, the Hundredth Monkey. It is their first appearance at festival and I am most intrigued by their movement and spoken word piece about Julia Butterfly Hill.
By the time they are finished, it is 6:45 PM, fifteen minutes after the kitchen officially stops serving dinner. But I get lucky. The main kitchen is still open when I get there, so I scoot in line and serve myself savory casserole, three bean salad and corn on the cob. It tastes positively yummy.
I scoot back home to pick up heavier clothes in case the night turns cool. On the DART path I run into my next door neighbor, Franco. She's in a manual wheelchair so I offer her a "ride" down to the Night Stage. She takes me up on it and we get lots of hoots and cheers on the way. I do love making a grand entrance!
This is the first Night Stage performance that I haven't worked so I'm finally able to sit with my DART sisters in our section to the left of the stage. I park in the back so I can get up and dance. The field is full of womyn for as far as my eyes can see. After all, it's Friday night and many of the weekend folks have arrived.
Bitch and Animal are up first with their own saucy brand of humor, politics, spoken word and outright rockin' music. I'm glad to be in a place where I can stand up and dance without getting in anyone's way. By the way, I've discovered that if I hold onto the top strap on my scooter seat's backpack, I can dance with no fear of falling. That's the same strap Franco held onto for her ride.
Next up is a favorite of mine: Cheryl Wheeler. Although it's her first Michigan festival, I've seen her at National and last April in Berkeley, CA at a concert sponsored by Freight and Salvage. She is an amazing musician with original lyrics that can make you split your guts laughing or get misty-eyed with tenderness. She positively wows this audience! I'm sure we'll see her here again.
The final act is the one that will stay with me as long as I live. Toshi Reagon and Big Lovely (Judith Casselberry, Ann Klein, Jen Leigh, Stephanie McKay, Deborah Piccolo and Debbie Robinson) have everyone on their feet before this night is over. Not only do they play the best-ever dancing music, but what Toshi has to say about what's going on in the world and our need to keep struggling for peace with justice hits people between the eyes. There's nothing like music to transform hearts and influence minds.
After all that, it is
sweet to sit around the DART bonfire under a starry sky and sing
with my sisters. I go to bed wrapped in a cocoon of strength and
SATURDAY, AUGUST 17, 2002
My alarm goes off at 7 AM and I lie in bed/sleeping bag trying to talk myself out of getting up. But when I hear the sounds of my wheeled sisters preparing for the Lois Lane Run, I roll--literally--out of bed and start the day. I want to cheer them on and take photos for posterity. There's a nip to the air but it looks like another fine day.
This time we have five womyn in the wheelchair division--Andrea with her service dog Mary Louise, Helen, Melinda and her canine companion Clark, Kate and Phoenix. Kate and Phoenix--both in borrowed wheelchairs--take off first, followed by Andrea, then Helen, and finally Melinda in her new jet-propelled electric chair. Spirits are high and competition is at an all-time low. These womyn don't care who comes in "first"; they're in it for the fun. If you look at the smile on Andrea's face as she crests the last hill on her way to the finish line, you can see what I mean. Here's a group portrait of our DART racing team on their way to celebrate victory with welcome cups of coffee.
By now I'm wide awake and ready to continue making like Brenda Starr, ace journalist. I first take a portrait of Eileen and her service dog KC Jones, then scoot over to the DART office tent where Sandy and Chris are on duty. Across the paved path from them are some of my sisters sitting under the DART smoking tent, and here comes Stevie, Rebecca and Rachel joy-riding Rachel's mother's scooter. I keep a close eye on the time because I have a movie to attend this morning.
"Radical Harmonies", a documentary about the women's music cultural movement, premiered at the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Film Festival this June. Soon after, I received emails and phone calls from friends telling me that I'd appeared in the movie a couple of times. I then remembered having been interviewed by a filmmaker here at the festival in 1999 for just such a movie. She'd asked many questions about what it was like to be a disabled womon here at Michigan, and had concluded by asking what I saw as the heart of this festival. I remember saying "It's the womyn. The Land is wonderful but the womyn are what bring me back year after year. For here we see what it is like to live in the kind of world we dream can exist." That was one of the clips they used.
The movie is superb! And it is especially sweet to see it here here in a crowded tent full of so many womyn who have helped create the story that is being told. We cheer, laugh and cry as the film progresses. I find it strange to see myself as I'd been three years ago--waist-length hair and with a different consciousness--but I still get misty-eyed every time I hear what I have to say; it is so much from my heart. By the way, you can order copies of "Radical Harmonies" online at The WomanVision/Women's Music Project web site.
After the film, Sooz, who was sitting near me in the tent, and I walk/scoot over to lunch. On the way I get two festi-photos: one of the glorious Garbage Crew who help keep the Land clean and environmentally friendly; and the second of the womyn and girls who are currently working on this year's festival quilt. The quilt is a festi-tradition. It is created some months before festival by a coordinator and volunteers, and then completed by any festi-goers who choose to add to it during the week. On Saturday night--tonight!--it will be the Grand Prize in the Raffle. I've often thought if I ever won it, I'd keep the quilt for maybe six months and then donate it to a women's shelter or women's center. It would be too significant to keep to myself.
Today's lunch is another of my favorites--carrot salad and cous cous salad. Sooz and I sit with my friend Carolyn Gage and Adrian, a womon I'd seen around and about during the week and had wanted to meet. As so often happens at festival, it turns out that Carolyn and Adrian have much in common; this is an important connection for them both. While Sooz, Carolyn and Adrian talk, I receive a visit from a sprite named Saravady who falls in love with Ona's pink Clarabell horn. I've known her mother, Kitt, for years here at festival, and am always touched by the loving gentleness with which she and her partner are raising their culturally-diverse children. They live now in Hawaii so we don't see one another every year. It is a gift when we do.
As we sit there talking, the trees around us start swaying mightily and the skies cloud over in a threatening manner. I take off for home but on the way decide that if it is going to rain, I'd rather be listening to music with a gang of womyn than staying dry all by myself. So I turn off at the Day Stage area and scoot under the DART tent on the hill. It is packed with folks who have the same idea.
Well, it does rain for about ten minutes, but not enough to stop Linda Thomas-Jones and Ibu Ayan from performing and womyn in the audience from dancing in the Day Stage field. As soon as the rain stops (temporarily?), I scoot down and join them. As you now know, I do LOVE to dance! While boogying down, I notice the Dianic Priestess/Guardian Falcon walking around with her eyes closed and her hands outstretched to the skies. It soon becomes evident that she is conjuring magic to keep those still-dark clouds moving on their way. After the Day Stage performances end, I thank her for helping to keep us dry. She smiles shyly and says, "We can all do this if we choose." Here's a picture of Falcon with her loving partner Ruth Barrett.
Even there at Day Stage, one sees reminders of the Women In Black message of peace. This year's unbroken thread of political/social/global consciousness makes my heart dance and my spirit sing. It confirms what I have known all along: I am not alone in my struggle for peace.
Next on my long list of wonderful places to visit today, is the Crafts Bazaar. I want to order copies of "Radical Harmonies" for myself and my womyn's community. Not surprisingly, lots of womyn also see this as a good time to shop. I run into my dear festi-friends from Ontario, Pat and Jeannie. We first met in the Line in 1995; it was their first festival and my second. None of us has missed a festival since. While wandering around, another old friend--this one is now 12 years old--asks me if I have any idea how she could make a little money. I tell her, "Sure! If you bring my dinner down to the Acoustic Stage, I'll pay you for it." A mutally beneficial arrangement.
I look at my watch and see that it is 4 PM, time to head down to the Acoustic Stage. Figuring I might not get back to my tent before the Night Stage, I stop to pick up my cotton jacket and a neck scarf for later. While there I see my friend Deb driving the tractor-drawn shuttle down Lois Lane.
The Acoustic Stage glen is jam-packed with womyn. I just catch the final moments of JUCA's performance, but am in time to see LAVA. Last year was their first Michigan festival and they positively blew us away. These womyn do things with their bodies that seem impossible even as you're seeing it with your own eyes. This year's performance is equally powerful. But who raises the roof--if there were one to raise--is Edwina Lee Tyler, the grandmother of womyn's drumming. I say "grandmother" knowing that Edwina is a few years younger than I, but it's true nonetheless. And what Edwina can do with an audience is something to behold! It's always different but you hold your breath knowing something is going to rock you to the core.
She starts out playing with members of her original performing group. They get us up and dancing, even sparking a spontaneous line dance through the audience. But what happens when Edwina goes it alone is what will stay with me as long as I live.
In usual Edwina-style, she descends from the stage and starts making her way through the audience, drumming and grunting rhythmically as she walks. A voice calls out from behind me, "Edwina! Come over here! Edwina, over here, womon!" It is Precious, a glorious DART sister whom I've known and admired for years. She almost didn't make it to festival because of the grief she is feeling over the loss this summer of both her brother and her sister. This wise womon knows what she needs: a healing from Edwina. At first it seems as though Edwina doesn't hear her. But then, even though she is all the way across the field, she suddenly turns and says, "I hear you. I'm coming." And she does.
What happens next is almost too sacred for words. Let me just say that when Edwina stands directly in front of Precious--the womon she calls "Mom"--and beats her drum while looking deep into Precious' eyes, time stands still and the earth shakes. Actually I, and I suspect many of us, literally vibrate for hours after. Can't you see it in Precious's eyes after Edwina has returned to the stage? These are moments that make any suffering life sends your way fly from mind and fill you with gratitude for all that is. This is my "Michigan moment" for 2002.
When Edwina stops playing, I scoot up the path towards the Night Stage. I have missed the Gaia Girls Parade for the first time ever but have no regrets; I was where I needed to be.
My California friend Lisa joins me down in the DART seating area and we both jump to our feet when we hear the Latin beat of Orchesta D'Soul. We don't sit down until they're done. By now, the sun has set, leaving rosy reminders in the sky. I see many friends including Marcia who is wearing a brand new bodypainted message that is an offshoot of a joke that had started around the DART bonfire last night.
Speaking of jokes, one of my favorite comics, Elvira Kurt, is tonight's MC and has us in hysterics as she goes down her yearly list of "Ten Ways...". This year it is "Ten Ways to Know We're On High Alert." It feels great to laugh at some of this year's stupidities. Her jokes about the most dangerous weapon of all--our nail clippers--has us screaming!
Soon it's time for the final Raffle drawing of Festival 2002. When the quilt is displayed, my friend Lisa runs up close enough to get a good picture of it. By the way, that's Elvira sitting on the stage.
Holly Near, one of Womyn's Music's most enduring and signficant performers, comes up next. Not only does she sing many songs from "Edge"--her CD that I played over and over after the US started bombing Afghanistan--but she powerfully addresses the global crisis now at hand, and entreats us as womyn to stand together for the cause of peace and justice. It is an uncompromising rallying cry for action. Again, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude to be here among womyn who think, say and do what gives meaning to my life. And then Funky Up Here--Judith Casselberry, Deborah Hawkins, Ann Klein, Jen Leigh, Vicki Randle, Debbie Robinson, Yvette Scott, Evelyn Harris, Aleah Long, Toshi Reagon and Alexis Suter--rock us away on the wings of Soul and Rhythm & Blues. Ain't nobody sittin' down for this one!
Are you surprised to hear
I forego the late night Day Stage dance and fall asleep as soon
as my head hits the pillow?
SUNDAY, AUGUST 18, 2002
Sunday is different from any other day of the festival week: it is when the drumming and singing sisters who have worked and played together since Tuesday share their gifts with the whole community. It is also the day for our Transformational Healing Ritual. If you're like me, you stay in the Acoustic Stage glen from 11 AM until at least 3 PM.
I never miss Sunday breakfast;
not only is it a scrambled eggs day but it's likely to be my last
meal until dinner. This morning, not only am I happy with the
food but delighted to eat it with my good friends Jennifer, Amy
and Jack. And Jack
is delighted to meet up with his good friend, Indigo.
On my way home
to DART I find myself already feeling nostalgic about leaving
tomorrow. The nostalgia intensifies as I turn the corner onto
street." It's always hard to see festival end.
In addition to good food and special activities, Sunday has also become my own personal bodypainting day.
Throughout the week, Jayne and a number of artists have been working from sunup till sundown at The Painting Tree. If you recall, last year Jayne painted a bellydancer on my belly before I performed a number at Sunday's Acoustic Stage with Jamie Anderson and her pickup troupe of bellydancers. After spending hours in the sun that day, I discovered the gift of a negative body tattoo of said bellydancer on my belly; it stayed with me for eight months! Much as I enjoyed having such an unusual souvenir of festival, this year I decide to coat myself with sunblock before Jayne paints me again. OK, I'm chicken!
While awaiting my turn, I feel like I'm at an art exhibit. There is Jen's ocean that her friend Erin has just painted so lushly, and the peace dove in Gaia's trees that Jayne is painting on PJ's back. When Jayne turns to me and asks what I might want her to paint, I reply, "The earth with a peace dove, please." It's always good to put your body where your mouth is!
Jayne's painting evolves into a glorious statement of peace; she even adds a dove in flight across my chest. I proudly scoot down to the Acoustic Stage, conscious that my politics are emblazened on my body; I don't need to say a word.
The Drumsong Orchestra is in the middle of its set when I arrive. Many womyn are on their feet, clapping and dancing. I soon join them. Every year Ubaka Hill manages in only five days to pull together anywhere from 100-200 womyn, experienced and beginning drummers alike, into a unified whole that electrifies the audience; this year is no exception. These womyn are really rockin'! But Drumsong is about much more than just beat and rhythm; it is born out of a global consciousness that respects all life on this planet and seeks to transform more than to entertain. That is the leadership Ubaka brings to it. The message this year is stronger than ever, and again I am grateful to hear my views and perspectives voiced from the stage. This will nourish me during the wars and injustices to come.
The final performance features the One World Inspirational Choir. I don't know how Aleah Long, the director, Esther Blue, the accompanist, and this community of womyn and girls do it, but they somehow manage to transcend anything I've ever heard them do. Their voices are as pure as rain, as soft as a cloud, as penetrating as the noonday sun; they transport everyone who has ears to hear and/or hearts to receive. When my 13 year-old friend Leslie sings her solo, the earth stands still. It is a moment I will not forget. This is the perfect entry into that inner space where healing can occur. And soon it is time for the Transformational Healing Ritual to begin.
It's never easy to describe what happens there; in fact it's impossible. For each womon and child, the experience is exactly what they need and are able to receive. I can only describe how it looks and feels to me.
Up on the Acoustic Stage hill under the shade of the grandmother oaks, those who want healing sit or lie on blankets spread in the center of a large circle of womyn. Healers move through them offering whatever form of healing is theirs to give. It might involve reiki, touch, energy movement, toning, the didgeridoo, rattles or others whose names I do not know or ones that have been uniquely crafted by each individual healer. If it involves touch, they are to first ask the womon's permission. Everything is gently and respectfully done. The womyn who hold the circle, chant, drum, tone or remain silent. Some, like I, offer our healing energies in not-so-visible ways. Kay Gardner has been a key figure in our Healing Ritual since it began in 1994 or 1995. The womyn who have been part of her weeklong intensive workshop, "Singing In Sacred Circle", bring their wonderful energies and voices to this ritual. They heal by the sounds that come from their open hearts.
For me, it is always transformative. This year I stay to the outer edge and consciously inhale energy from within the circle and exhale healing back into it. I place my bare feet on the earth so as to ground myself and the energies that are swirling around and through us. For most of the time, my eyes are closed. Even though I am not in the center, healers come to me. I experience them first through the loving shake of a rattle, next through the drone of a didgeridoo that sets up vibrations throughout my body, and finally through the warmth that spreads from someone's hands held near but not touching my back. As the didgeridoo moves along my chakras, I "see" three images flash in sequence: an eye, a mouth, a heart. The words, "See, speak, be" well up within me.
There comes a time when I know I have given and received all that I can. After offering silent thanks and a blessing, I quietly scoot back into the "world."
And this Michigan world is pretty active on Sunday afternoons. Even though I must say goodbye to sisters who are leaving, many of us stay on the Land until Monday. After all we still have Sunday's Day Stage Comedy and tonight's Condlelight Concert, not to mention a dance on the Day Stage field under the stars. Lots more to go!.
When I arrive at the Crafts Bazaar about 3:30 PM, it is buzzing with womyn doing last minute shopping. Feather, from whom I bought my birthday earrings at the National Women's Music Festival in June, is here and I stop to visit. Her assistant, whose name I unfortunately can't remember, graciously takes the time to clean these lovely earrings that have been in my ears for two mouths now. She makes them sparkle like new. Soon it is time for the Day Stage Comedy to begin.
There are four womyn slated to perform. The first, a womon who performs under the name Carlease!, emailed me before festival asking if I could possibly take a digital photo of her performing. I am happy to do so. Besides, this womon is funny!
After watching the comedy, I go to dinner; Sunday's lentil stew is one of my favorites. I return to DART and get in the shower--my second of the day--to wash off my bodypainted message of peace. It flakes if you try to sleep in it. Last year I learned that acrylic paint doesn't come off easily, so I've brought a body-scrubber to ease the process. It works great.
By now it's time to get ready for the Candlelight Concert.
Again, words are inadequate to describe what happens at this most gentle of ways to close festival. You enter the Acoustic Glen in silence--well, almost silence--with the stage lit only by candles hanging in sconces on its wooden walls. Performers who have been with us throughout the week walk onto the stage and sit in a row of seats as torchbearers come in single file down the path from the oak trees at the entrance. Throughout the concert, two womyn stand face-to-face on the ground in front of the stage, holding blazing torches of fire.
Each performer arises from her seat to offer her gift, whether it be a song, instrumental, poem or dance. No applause, just audible sighs express our gratitude and appreciation. We are then sent forth into the starry night, again in silence.
This year something happens that no one will forget. During one of the sharings--an exquisite hula dance--a huge meteor streaks from one end of the night sky to the other, right above the trees behind the stage. I cannot see it nor can the womyn onstage, but it seems the majority of the audience do. There are audible gasps and they break into spontaneous applause.
I now believe that star
signalled the imminent passing of our beloved Kay Gardner.
MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2002
I had to click on my computer calendar to even see what the date is; that's how far away from such things I feel after a week of camping with thousands of women and children at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. A few things that now seem strange are: needing to know the date at all, sitting in front of a computer, turning on a radio and an electric light, flushing a toilet, being in a house with walls, windows and a roof, driving a car with air conditioning (which I quickly found I could not tolerate--open windows and fresh air being much more what I was used to), eating anything resembling meat (or seafood in my case), being in a place where the weather is not a huge consideration, breathing air that--even with a window open--seems somewhat stale, knowing I'll sleep in a bed tonight instead of on the earth in my air mattress-supported sleeping bag, not hearing women's voices talking, singing and laughing, no drums in the night, no sound of tractors driving by or Clarabell Clown horns beeping through the windows of DART shuttles, not going to an open air concert under the stars and dancing to my heart's content. I am a stranger in a strange land.
And it affects more than what I see, hear, touch, taste and smell; it's a certain consciousness that is different. So different that ten minutes after leaving the Land, my heart literally seized up as though caught in a vise. No, I wasn't having a heart attack; it was more like an attack of the heart. After having spent a week where the dominant culture was for peace and against war, where fighting for justice for all persons of all races, nationalities and religions was the norm rather than the exception, my heart contracted when I saw signs of the old flag-waving, follow-the-leader patriotism. It's going to take me awhile to reacclimate myself to this what-seems-to-me unnatural way of being a member of the human family. But I trust I will never lose the inner knowing that out there in far-reaching places across the globe I have sisters who see, think and feel as I do about what is happening in our world today; the knowledge that I am not alone.
Now don't let me give you the wrong idea: not everyone at the Michigan festival saw things the same way. Not by any means. I heard a couple examples of the same kind of prejudices and hostility toward those seen as "other" that have become common in the US and across the globe; it's just that they were not accepted as normal behavior at festival. These hatreds were addressed communally and individually with respect and sensitivity. I had to deal with my own negative responses in relation to it, and with the grace of the community and the searing magic of a shooting star, I found myself able to move beyond my personal unpeacefulness and littleness of spirit. When one is part of a community that offers hope and stirs determination, it is hard not to be transformed.
As this week proceeds, I will be writing my festi-journal 2002 with words and many, many photographs. Actually I may have to do a little legwork to get all my photos downloaded as my Fuji digital camera is unfortunately acting up again. But whatever I need to do to finish downloading these photos, I will do. I can't wait to see them myself!
And now to bed. A real
bed on legs, with a mattress, sheets and a cotton blanket. I think
I can live with that ;~)
TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2002
The good news is that I managed, after a couple hours working with my bummed-out camera, to download my pictures from festival. The bad news is that I'm too pooped to finish my Monday, August 12 festi-journal entry tonight. I'll put up the Sunday, August 11 entry and what I have from Monday, and complete it tomorrow. I'd also like to do Tuesday's entry tomorrow as well, but we'll see.
As you know, I adore going to events like the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, but when I return home I really have my work cut out for me. As long as I don't push myself, writing these stories and putting up the pictures is a lot of fun. It's a way of reliving things at a slower pace.
Besides working at the
computer today I went for a brief swim. The only reason it was
brief was that a little one must have puked or pooped in the pool
because after I'd completed a mere five lengths, the pool was
closed and everyone had to get out. Even that little bit felt
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2002
Good thing I'm so busy with my Michigan festi-journals that I'm not taking photos, because my camera's going to the shop tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get it back in time for the Labor Day weekend and the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival that Pat K. and I always attend. If not, I'll buy a cheap digital camera as a backup. It's becoming apparent that my Fujifilm Fine Pix 2800 is great when it's working but a real bother when it's not.
I spent much of today finishing my Monday, August 11 journal entry from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. I've now put up a special web page for my festi-journal 2002 so you might want to go to
to read the unfolding saga of my adventures at this year's festival. Since I came home with 135 digital photos, there will be lots to look at while I wait for my camera to get fixed. By the way, this new web page is not yet linked to my main web site so you might want to bookmark it for future reference. When all my festi-journal 2002 entries are complete, I'll put a link to them from my Music Festivals page.
Fortunately I didn't sit in front of my computer this entire beautiful day. I scooted down to meet Ed for lunch, and then went for a late swim. This time I got in all of my 20 lengths, but when it came time for me to get out of the pool, the disabled lift didn't work. A lifeguard drove my scooter to the shallow end of the pool and she and her supervisor helped me climb the stairs out of the pool. Not easy, I must admit.
After I'd taken a shower and dressed, I came outside to the sound of waves crashing on the beach and the sight of a big orange full moon rising out of the clouds over the water. It was so lovely that I scooted along the lake for awhile and just happened to meet my sweetie who was on his nightly walk. We agreed we are very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.
I came home to surprise
Sushi, a gift from Eddie. We watched part of an Italian video
and even though it's only 11 PM, I am ready for bed.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2002
I'm afraid that for awhile
my daily journal entries are going to be pretty boring. I mean
how interesting is it to read that I spent the day at the computer
writing another of my festi-journal entries? Well, if you go to
my Michigan Womyn's Music
Festival 2002 web page and check out the entry for Tuesday,
August 13, I think you'll enjoy yourself!
FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 2002
Besides working on my festi-journal--Wednesday, August 14 is done!--I went to Circuit City and bought a back-up digital camera. Having a camera is as important to me as having a scooter. When one is in the shop, I need another to fill in the gaps. Like having both La Lucha and Ona.
My new camera is an Olympus
D-380, well-reviewed online and inexpensive. Now I'll be able
to take pictures at Monday's vigil for Rabih Haddad in front of
the Monroe County Jail. And also on Tuesday if his asylum hearing
goes forward as scheduled. I realize that once these things happen,
there's no going back to take pictures later. This journal is
my work, paid or not. It's important to me that I do it as well
as I can.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 24, 2002
This was a lovely day, one in which I did more than just work on my festi-journal 2002. Of course, I did that too. Now I'm caught up through Thursday, August 15.
After I'd finished my work at the computer, I went to the park and swam a delicious twenty lengths of the crawl. There were few people in the pool so I could comfortably stretch out in a lap lane all by myself. After showering, I scooted back home to find our friend Pat K. up from her nap. She had come over around 3 PM, prepared a Japanese eggplant casserole for our dinner, and crashed on the couch. We're always delighted to have her spend her day off with us; her life/work at Dayhouse, the women's transitional shelter in Detroit, takes a lot of energy. It's important for her to get away at least once a week.
Tonight's dinner was her birthday gift to me: the eggplant (from her garden) casserole and sweet potato quesadillas were a gourmet treat. Pat is a fabulous cook!
Eddie did the dishes while Pat and I watched the 1995 video "The Fantasticks" with Joel Grey. She had never seen it and I never tire of seeing it. While we were watching, we had a surprise visit from Linda, one of the neighborhood "kids" who had grown up in our home back in the 70s. She and I ran together every day for two years so became very close. It's been years since we've seen her, although her husband Tim and I email occasionally. They have a little one on the way--Leo--who will join two-year-old Sam in November, all going well. At 40, she looks much like she did at 20, while I, at 60, look significantly different than I did at 40 ;-)
It is now 11 PM and I'm
getting ready to go to bed. I feel wonderfully tired after my
© 2002 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.