I just returned from a week spent in the presence of thousands of womyn at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. It was my second time at the festival, but the first time to have attended for the entire week. “Music festival” is too limiting a description for this event, as there are many opportunities to explore a wide variety of issues in workshops, in a couple of 4-hour workshifts during the week, in informal conversations with other womyn, at 12-step recovery meetings, etc, etc…
This is truly an experience of community – not perfect, by any means – but it does my heart good to witness the kindness and generosity of womyn extending helping hands to others they don’t even know. The process of packing in all your stuff and setting up camp is not for the faint-hearted. One case involved a first time festival goer from Calgary whose tent and other camping gear didn’t make it with her on the plane. A group of womyn she only met on arrival did not hesitate to make room for her in their own tents. I’m sure stories like that were multiplied over and over as the week unfolded.
Besides being womyn-only space, something that is rare to experience (even in our religious congregations, where if we want Eucharist, we have to bring in a male priest), it was interesting to move from the real world, where heterosexuality is normative, to the festival world, where lesbian culture dominates. I’ve been thinking that it must be somewhat unsettling to attend the festival as a straight womon, although those I talked to seemed to enjoy the festival as much as anyone else. I suppose it’s good to be free of all traces of patriarchy for a week, no matter what one’s attractional orientation is.
I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the intensive workshop led by Aleah Long (pictured at right), and then sing (and play sax) with the One World Inspirational Choir that she led on Sunday. (I’ve got some songs to bring back to Gesu from that.) Anyway, the workshop helped me to go deeper to find my authentic voice, and was about much more than singing or hitting the right notes. In fact, during our performance, I hit some clinkers on the sax parts right off the bat, and it was parts that I hadn’t been having trouble with during the previous days of practice. I don’t know if it was too much nerves or not nervous enough, but the good news is that I didn’t allow it to get me down. I just kept going and eventually settled down. The womyn I sang with were so wonderful to be around, so much about the same kinds of desires I experience for God, though they may name them differently. Even though we may be on different religious or spiritual paths, we really are a part of one body, and the bonds we formed last week are strong. I don’t know if I can afford to go back every year, both time and money wise, but if I do go back, I know what I’ll be doing from 1-4 every afternoon of the festival.
I may have more to say about the festival later, like my favorite moment from the festival, more about the how the workshifts helped to build community, etc., but I’ll save that for another time.