Rescue remedy. I kept spraying it down my throat as I drove my truck on the familiar dusty roads leading to the Michigan Womyn’s festival. What would it be like to return there after 11 festivals had gone by without me?
I recalled my first Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, driving down the bumpy dirt road with my friend Pat Cohen, a veteran of many festivals as a craftswoman and now as co-coordinator of the Cuntree Store. I asked her then, what would it be like. Her response was you’ll just have to experience it for yourself. It’s like no place on earth.
She was right then, but this time was different. I knew what to expect just not how it would affect me. For 11 years I worked at Michigan two years as a craftswoman and nine years at the Day Stage. It had become home, a Mecca to travel to every year.
Welcome to Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
As I approached the gate I saw the familiar piano welcome sign. A woman asked for my ticket, then told me to pull my pick up over and get banded. After she finished she said, “Oh and Welcome to Michigan.”
I remember thinking as I drove in, “It looks the same.” I passed the maroon colored porta janes. They didn’t smell as bad as I remembered. I saw my friend Marge and she hugged me.
I went to Orientation, signed up for my work shifts and then drove to RV where I picked out a spot under a tree. I felt like a zombie, going through the motions not feeling anything. I didn’t talk to anyone, I felt invisible, disconnected. I looked down and saw the green ferns. They grounded me into the present. They are everywhere as you walk on the land.
Topless at MichiganI took my shirt off, the sun felt good. I walked on Easy St., the cedar crunching under my feet, to the Kitchen to get some food as it was almost 6:30 now. As I passed tents, I could hear the voices of women talking, singing, laughing in the woods. Many topless, greeted me as I walked by. I heard myself respond to them, but my voice sounded small and distant. The light coming through the green trees was familiar. I walked on hungry and hoping to reach the kitchen in time for dinner. As I got there the smell of onions filled the air. I was beginning to come out of my trance. I was really here at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
I went to the Cuntree Store, past the Saints at Night and said hello to friends I knew from Long Island and San Francisco. Carol, Liz, Janet and my old friend Pat hugged me and it felt good.
Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival Night StageI glanced up at the Night stage. The big tree was gone, fallen in June during a storm I was told. K.C. the lighting designer and one of my closest friends hugged me. “You’re really here,” she said. I climbed up the scaffolding and watched the Wednesday night concerts from the lighting position next to her girlfriend Janet and old timer Sutree.
I noticed hundreds of gray haired women. Everyone had gotten older in my absence. Myrna, the sound woman, hugged me tight, “Rettsie so glad you are here.”
K.C. was operating the lighting board and the lights were amazing. The colors, turquoise and purple, yellow and orange, white moving lights, follow spots and specials all dazzled in the darkness. I stood with Pat and Liz during the opening ceremony and the singing of “Amazon Women.” I remember Maxine Feldman singing it and I wondered how she was.
Michigan MemoriesI started having memories of Tribe-8 on stage, the first mosh pit and friends like Alix and Nedra stage diving into the sea of women. I looked around at the festie-goers, workers and performers and I tried to feel a part of it. Be patient I thought, you have only been here a few hours.
Thursday I woke up, showered, ate some food, got on the shuttle and headed to the Day Stage. First stop “Triangle” to catch the cross-town shuttle. I stopped at the Saints consession. Merry and Cheryl were not back this year, in their place were strangers. I bought some coffee to face the day.
So much of my day is spent just taking care of basic needs. As a worker all my needs were provided for by the festival, but I didn’t have time to really enjoy myself. So I guess like anything else, it’s a trade off. I missed the camaraderie of being a worker, yet I had freedom to experience the festival on my own terms as a “camper” as we workers had come to call those who attended the festival.