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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.
I offer this Festival Journal
in loving memory of Kay Gardner who passed suddenly from this
earth on Wednesday, August 28, 2002. Here she is singing informally
in front of the Community Center with Linda, Jami and her beloved
Coco on Thursday, August 15, singing in full-hearted joy as she
so often sang with us all. May her spirit soar as high as the
notes of her flute and may she know, wherever she goes, that we
will never forget her. Namaste.
© 2002 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with proper attribution.