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This year I'd been better organized in my packing than ever before. Ed had totally packed Sojourner my new (used) handicap-accessible van on Saturday, and all that was left for Sunday was to shove a ziploc bag with my toiletries into my scooter backpack. At least that was all I THOUGHT would need to be done. But in the middle of the night, it occurred to me that maybe my tent's footprint--the waterproof nylon ground cover that keeps the tent from soaking up moisture from the earth--might have been among the items that had not made it back home with me from Fest 2003.
As I'd begun to pack a week ago, I'd discovered that my sleeping bag--a brand new pretty expensive mummy bag that could handle temps down to +20 degrees--and my new self-inflatable sleeping mat were missing. I'd replaced the sleeping bag with a cheap one that was on sale for $35 at our local hardware store, and figured I'd be comfortable enough with the mattress that had come with my Swedish folding cot. But I knew I couldn't do without a footprint, or, baring that, a heavy sheet of plastic cut to fit under my tent. I had seen the extended forecast that predicted showers on Tuesday and Wednesday and didn't want to take a chance of having a wet tent.
On Sunday morning, Eddie, my dear companion of 38 years, agreed to unpack my tent and see if the footprint was there. It wasn't. He went down to the basement, brought up the roll of heavy plastic with which we used to cover our screened-in porch during cold Michigan winters, and dragged it and my tent bag out onto our front lawn. Fortunately, the roll of plastic was wide enough to cover the entire surface of my 7.5'x9' tent.
If you attended Fest this year you can appreciate how I thanked my Eddie every single solitary night that I stayed dry--not warm, but at least dry--this week.
Around noon, I started out heading west from Detroit on I 696 (that would soon turn into I 96). The drive was easy; the weather fine. After four hours, I pulled into the Comfort Inn in Hart, Michigan, a now-favorite place for festi-goers to spend Sunday night so they can hit the Line on that 3.7 mile dirt county road bright and early on Monday morning.
After checking in and saying "Hi" to a good number of womyn, I scooted up to the beautiful bike path behind the motel. I'd first discovered it last August and had looked forward to spending more time there among the wildflowers, tall trees and orchards. A haven of peace and quiet before immersing myself in the energetic lives of womyn at the motel tonight and on the Land starting tomorrow.
On my way back to the motel, Lori and Terrie from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida came out to meet me in the parking lot. Their first words were, "We hoped we'd meet you here, Patricia!" Lori went on to say that since she and Terrie had first decided to attend Festival 2004 one year ago, they'd been reading my web journal and had especially enjoyed seeing my festi photo-journals. The pictures helped them--both festi-virgins--get a better idea of what life would be like on the Land.
That evening we hung out together, talking and eating pizza with dozens of festi-goers on the motel patio out back. When I asked Terrie what she'd been most looking forward to at Festival, she answered, "Meeting you." Wow!
We three arranged with Pele, one of Michigan's best known drummers, to get up early the next morning and meet at breakfast by 5 AM so we could caravan to the Line. A few of the younger women said they'd meet us there too. By the way, the dear womyn who were working the desk at the Comfort Inn agreed to set out the continental breakfast two hours early for us festi-womyn! And I had the unexpected joy of receiving a greeting card from Melissa, the sister of two of the motel workers, who remembered me from last year and wanted to apologize for having to miss seeing me this year.
After one last phone call
to my sweetie, I was in bed by 10:30 PM with my alarm set for
4:15 AM. I slept like a baby.
We got to the Line by about 6 AM, and were cars #91, 92 and 93 (not counting spaces). Once there, we joined our young friends and walk/scooted up to the Front Gate where we saw pink ribbons paint the sky over the Land. The womyn around me bared their bellies in anticipation of what was to come!
Walking back, Terrie and Meg methodically counted vehicles and spaces so we'd know where we were situated in the Line. For me, it was an utter delight to see so many old festi-friends and meet new ones along the way. Once back at our cars, we set up our chairs in the space I'd left for just such a purpose, and sat down to watch the passing parade. Of course, I already had my "chair" set up--Ona my scooter--thanks to Terrie who took care of schlepping her in and out of my minivan because there wasn't room to open the ramp on the passenger side.
After a couple of hours, the rain that had been predicted began to fall. It was just a drizzle at first, so inventive Terrie and Lori set up their monstrously huge--remember Elvira Kurt's joke about large tarps?--tarp between my minivan and the one in front of me. From then on we were cozy and dry even when heavier rains came. We could even offer shelter to womyn passing by.
By 9:30 AM I was ready for a nap, so Terrie and Lori helped me get up into Sojourner, and I stretched out on the backseat with my pillow and blanket. Dear Eddie had arranged my gear so this would be possible. I slept soundly for two hours.
After another hour visiting with womyn and children under the tarp, we all got back into our vehicles in preparation for the Front Gate opening at 1 PM. From then until I arrived at the gate at 2 PM, it was stop and go. But the rain had turned into a downpour, making me feel uneasy about getting my gear wet before I'd even gotten downtown to the DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) camping area. How grateful I was to hear the words, "Welcome Home!" and see the rain stop at the same time!
It didn't rain again the rest of the day. Thank you, Goddess.
With the help of our wonderful DART loading crew, my stuff was soon unpacked, stacked in a pile by the DART shuttle stop, and all 10 items--including La Lucha, my night scooter--stickered with #21. It was now time for me to scoot over to the Orientation Tent, sign up for my two 4-hour workshifts--Wednesday & Friday Night Stage Security--and pick up my Festival program.
Everything went smoothly.
At DART Downtown I was greeted with cheers and had the good fortune of having two Gaia Girls staff workers--Kathleen and Christina--put up my tent and unpack my stuff. Our DART worker Jeanne came over and, with Kathleen's help, lay down carpet so my tent would be scooter-accessible. I was all set up by 5 PM.
I'd heard that the festi-organizers were counting on us womyn to paint Peace flags--patterned on Tibetan Prayer flags--for Wednesday Night's Opening Ceremonies, so I scooted over to the Community Center to do my part. I chose a green flag and painted spirals on it with multi-colored glitter-glue and wrote SALAAM at the bottom. Soon my stomach started to rumble. It was time to eat.
Monday night's supper was the usual: delicious womon-made hummous, cheese slices, lettuce & tomato sandwich makings. I visited with old and new friends and chilled out.
My next stop was to go see my dear sister Jo at Festi-Wear. On the way I was delighted to encounter the Raffle Goddess, Peggy Sue. And then I met up with Sheila and Pele and some Sacred Circle singing friends in front of Festi-Wear, and we started to sing. Off to our left, the late sun was shining on the tree tops at Night Stage. I was home.
At 9 PM it was time to go to the Community Center and meet the womyn from our online MWMF Bulletin Board. When I arrived, there were already at least 60 womyn in attendance! We went around the circle and introduced ourselves, then Soft Flower led us in a BB Trivia Quiz. After that, things got progressively more silly, until finally bellydancer/singer/songwriter Jamie Anderson got up on a table and showed us her rainbow bra, a gift from one of the womyn on the BB. We also welcomed Monika from Poland, a festi-virgin whom our BB womyn had helped get to Festival this year. After the "official" gathering, many of us stayed and talked in small groups. I was fortunate to meet up with a number of regular readers of my online journal.
I was in bed by 11:30 PM, tired and happy.
The sound of rain on a tent is unmistakable: plunk, plunk, plunk. And that's what I heard throughout the night and into the morning. Sometime after 9 AM, Sooz--my friend from home--appeared at the entrance to the tent and asked if I wanted some coffee. I don't drink coffee but invited her in for a visit. She sat in my scooter chair and we shared yesterday's adventures and our plans for the day. Sooz was on her way to a double workshift--8 hours--at the kitchen, and I had nothing specific on my agenda except to be on the Land with the womyn I love.
About 9:30 AM, Cat poked her lovely head into my tent and asked if I was ready to be "pinked." We'd met in the Line on Monday and I'd gone GA-GA over her magenta pink hair. We'd made a date for her to bring her Manic-Panic hair dye to my tent and give me a pink stripe down the middle of my head. I'd been hankering to get a mohawk but hadn't yet gotten up the nerve. A pink mohawk seemed just the thing!
After doing the job, Cat went off to her kitchen workshift with bright pink hands (we didn't have any latex gloves). I sat in my tent for a half hour to let it set, and then scooted off to the showers to wash it off. Oh my, but that steamy hot DART shower felt good! I came back to my tent, got dressed for the day--in my purple rain slicker as it was still drizzling--and waved at Ruth Barrett and Falcon River who were facilitating a Dianic Ritual Making workshop in the DART Workshop Tent across the paved path. Then I was on my way...
First stop was the Craftswomyn Bazaar. Not only did I want to check out the wonderful crafts and visit with old friends, but I knew I could find a mirror there to see my new "pinkness." But first, I saw my young friend Rachel and asked her to use my hair wax to style my hair into a mohawk. As a teen, I figured she'd know what to do...and she did.
And that was the start of Fest 2004 for me.
I'm here to say that if you want to bridge the so-called generation gap, simply "pink" or "blue" or "purple" or "green" your hair. It cuts through all the crap that divides us. What fun! From Tuesday on, I got smiles, thumbs up and raves from hundreds of young womyn about my pink mohawk. And not just young ones either. Elders and mid-life womyn loved it too. Of course if you go this route, you'd best be comfortable being the center of attention. It comes with the territory.
After that, it was time to find Jayne the bodypainter and see what she was up to. Well, it was too cold for full body painting but Jayne was doing a brisk business in face painting. I met three young womyn--Beth, Miranda and Morgan--who had GLORIOUS face paintings. And now that I remember it, there WAS one womon who had bared all to receive a full body painting. BRRR!! But I was happy to let Jayne create her magic on my face. As it turned out, my face painting stayed until Saturday when I took my second-and-final shower of the week. All I had to do was sleep on my right cheek--which I do anyway--and only wash one side of my face. That worked fine.
Since I hadn't gotten up for breakfast, I was soon ready for lunch. Chickpea & feta salad, cheese or veggie sandwiches and tossed salad. YUM!! There's nothing like fresh festi-food made with loving hearts and hands. I sat with Carol, my O Beautiful Gaia singing sister from Massachusetts, and she kindly taught me some of the songs I'd missed at Colleen and Linda's Sacred Song Circle that morning. Gerri--a scooter sister--was at the next table and joined her voice to ours. And Esther from Manitoba--a 27 hour drive BY HERSELF!--sang with us too. Very sweet. As we sat under the DART kitchen tent singing, the rains poured down. Little did we know that was just the beginning.
But rain couldn't keep us down. After awhile we dispersed and I scooted back to the Crafts area to take care of my only Have-To-Get item, a pair of Willow Moon tie-dye leggings for my friend Rima in Berkeley, CA who had celebrated her 60th birthday in July. I bought a pair for myself as well, figuring they would be great for working out at the gym. Then I scooted around the Crafts area visiting friends and checking things out. Back at DART, I did the same. My yearly Intensive Workshop is spending time with the womyn!
Mealtimes at Fest seem to come around quickly, and I'm always surprised at how hungry I am. Tuesday's dinner was a favorite of mine--nut loaf, fresh green beans and tossed salad. By the way, all festi-food is vegetarian with vegan options. Totally healthy and extremely yummy.
Soon it was time to scoot down to the Acoustic Stage to see the performance poet C.C. Carter, and a solo show called "Filler Up!" by Deb Filler. The MC was Elvira Kurt, one of the funniest womyn on the planet. By now everyone was attired in plastic of one kind or another. All those lovely, funky festi-outfits would have to wait. Warm and dry was the fashion-of-choice.
C.C. Carter's performance was stunning! And for me there were some surprises. First of all, my festi-friend Deirdre was singing back-up for her, and secondly, Karen, a DART staff supervisor, was playing the drums with two womyn from Chicago. Deirdre's soulful singing of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless child" brought tears to many an eye, and the drummers had us rockin' to the beat. Of course, C.C. had us ALL in the palm of her hand.
Deb Filler was new to most of us, but has had success Off-Broadway and in Europe. We could see why. What a pro! Even in the midst of a downpour, the audience gave her the love and attention she deserved.
A couple of weeks earlier, Janette had started a thread on the MWMF online bulletin board about holding a goddess ritual on Tuesday night at Fest. Monday night there had been a meeting that was open to anyone who wanted to participate in the planning. At 8:30 PM on Tuesday, even though rain was still very much a possiblity, 100-150 womyn gathered in the Goddess Grove down on the Night Stage field to ritually celebrate the start of our week together. The ritual included invocations, chants, drumming and the opportunity for each of us to minister to one another. The air signs smudged us with sage. The fire signs rubbed their hands to create heat and offered that heat to each womon. The water signs touched our foreheads, hands and hearts with cleansing water from their water bottles. And the earth signs helped ground us in the earth beneath our feet. In conclusion, we spiralled ourselves into a dance that had no beginning and no end.
As sometimes happens, I'd felt a special connection with a womon, whom I later learned was named Laurie. She'd been standing beside me earlier in the ritual and had asked some questions, explaining, "This is my first goddess ritual." Afterwards I asked how it had been for her. She was close to tears and said it had been "lifechanging." We talked as her friends patiently waited, and she told me a bit of her story. As an outgrowth of that conversation, we made a date for her to interview me after lunch on Thursday for her Ph.D. dissertation on women's experience of the sacred. Such a Michigan moment!
Instead of going over to the dance as I'd planned, I went home to my tent and turned in early. By then it was not just wet but COLD and wet, so I covered my sleeping bag with two blankets and put on a dry dress, a turtleneck and my fleece socks. Even with the music from the August Night Cafe blaring in my ears, I fell asleep as soon as my toes wiggled down to the bottom of my sleeping bag. Insomnia is never a problem for me at Fest!