Originally published: 15.10.15
My second to last day on the land I threw away the black leather jacket that I had been wearing to shoot the Night Stage in for the last five years. A very persistent mother mouse had established a nest in an inside pocket and in the process destroyed the lining of my beloved (and iconic, to me) jacket. That jacket was one of the last personal items I let go of on the Land this year, but it was far from being the only. In fact, this year on the Land I ended up losing many things that I knew I would never see again. I lost the labrys that I wore in the lapel of my jacket on Saturday night, my brand new Michfest hoodie, a one-of-a-kind hand crafted metal earring, a beautiful bouquet of feathers that a Sister presented me with as a gift of gratitude for my work, at least two lens caps, some brand new socks and finally the tent a friend had gifted to me seven years ago – the year my daughter came to the Land as a four month old infant. My tent was badly damaged by the aforementioned persistent mother mouse and a tree that fell on top of the tent, resulting in a ripped rainfly. The mouse came through the bottom of my tent and the tree came through the top. No, the tent was not tarped, I know, I know, I know. My point is, there were few days that some part of my mind was not occupied by my relationship to the things I had to let go of. I was given plenty of opportunity to remind myself that the most magical, comforting and even practical of “my” things have the potential to pass right through my hands and that both possession and permanence are illusions of my heart and mind. Everything changes. Every single thing reaches a moment of completion. In big ways and small ways we are always moving through and toward and away from the things, the places and the people we have loved, cherished and tried to hold on to in our lifetimes.
One of the most tender goodbyes I said this year was to a tree. A tree I have been dreaming about for years and even visit sometimes in my waking mind. I can conjure the feeling of her bark against my hand. I go to her for comfort, for counsel, and sometimes just to hang out. I know her. And I feel that she knows me. And I haven’t given up all hope that I will visit with her again someday. In fact, I can’t help but hold a vision of us standing next to one another in mutual recognition. And while there is some chance that I will make my way back to those woods some day while that tree is still standing, it won’t be with my camera and tripod flung over my shoulder. I won’t be running to keep pace with my daughter and the rest of the girls in the Gaia parade. I won’t be catching up with you about your year as we make our way through the dinner line. Our bodies won’t be pressed up against one another while we are dancing shirtless, sweaty and smiling so wide in the BellyBowl on Saturday night after Night Stage has ended. I won’t see you at the Round Robin and notice your bottom lip quivering and so I won’t go over and slide my arm around your waist and then you won’t lean your head against my shoulder and we won’t quietly weep together. I won’t be pulling myself out of bed earlier than I have to in hopes of catching a moment of quick quiet good morning with you and my first cup of coffee before your meetings start and my hours of walking start. My sides won’t hurt from laughing at the fact that your three year old daughter has decided that she is the witch who should preside over the Goddess Raising and is making sure that everyone knows it. I won’t be riding the Crosstown. You won’t ask to kiss the tiny pencil mark scar on my left wrist. I will not be scaling the lighting tower. I will not be flirting with you at the Cuntry Store. I will not be smoking a cigar in the sound stacks as the full moon rises above the trees. Your voice, your voice, your voice will not be filling the Night Stage Bowl, the Day Stage Bowl or the Acoustic Stage Bowl. I won’t put my body flat down in the dirt trying to catch a shot of a dandelion seed breaking loose and being carried off by the clean and gentle wind. You and I will never meet eyes on any path at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival ever again.
I can’t tell you how many times I read all of that back to myself before I stopped weeping all the way through it. The ink is smeared on the first printed copy from the tears that splashed on the page. Even now, in this final read through before I send this to you, my eyes are wet. My mind still washes with the moments, micro-moments and life changing interactions, conversations, revelations and embraces that won’t be honored here.
But this isn’t just for the ones I have known and the ones I have personally loved and shared space with, the ones who are still here to read this. It is also for the Sisters I said goodbye to over the years, the ones I am sure that I see coming toward me on the path or out of the corner of my eye. It’s for Bruno and for V. It’s for the ones whose eyes I never met. The ones whose lives and loves and work are woven into our legacy. It’s for the ones whose voices carried the message long before it ever reached my ears. It’s for the ones who loved and were loved dearly by the women I most dearly love. For the beloved Sister whose blessed ashes are scattered at the site where I sang my daughter to sleep during her first three years on the Land. It’s for Kay and it’s for Deerheart. It’s for the ones whose living bodies have not come back to the Woods in the time I have been there but who have heard me, believed me and helped me grow my voice and my confidence with brave and loving emails, with private messages or comments on my blog. It’s for Papusa and Bit and so many others. It’s for you, for your beloveds, for your teachers, your lovers, your sisters, your daughters, your friends and theirs. We were there. Not all of us at the same time, but the seen and unseen circle is one that holds us all.
I am a woman who was called deep into the woods of Michigan and even deeper into the woods of myself – to meet the Girl I was or could have been, the Crone whose body, hair and face I can now envision growing into, the Woman I am and most aspire to be now. I’m so grateful to have been there with you – to have seen you and be seen by you, to embrace you and be embraced by you, to continue the work you started, to work with you and beside you, to join your lineage, to alter the vibration of our planet, to change our family lines, to hear your stories, to love you and be deeply changed by your love for me.
The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has passed through my hands and into my bloodstream. And now I am a woman who is emerging from those woods. My insides are layered with dirt and moss and the mist that rises from the ferns at dawn. I am saturated in ritual, laughter, language and song. My eyes are strong and can hold a steady gaze for longer periods of time. My legs, heart, feet, belly, shoulders, lungs and cunt are the truest apertures I know for filtering information and translating it to vision, action and voice. Because of the Festival, because of you, because of those woods, my story is one that I now know how write with my body. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I will not forget the time you held me so close and whispered wryly in my ear, “Rock the world, fucker.” I promise you that I will try. And in that effort, I promise to use all that You gave me, which is not to say that I won’t need reminding to see the woods, the wildness, the liberated instinct in myself. Rock the world yourself and stay wild, Sweet Sister. Carry a compass for me. I will carry one for you. And I will keep my eye out for you everywhere. Finally, remember me as loving you. Because I did. But please don’t ever stop there. Know me every day as loving you still. I promise you that I do.
Fish Without a Bicycle: I started Fish Without a Bicycle in the summer of 2013 largely as a place to collect, house and share some of the writing I was doing about the conversations that were happening in regard to women’s culture, the material reality of female experience, and the validity of female defined autonomous space. I write about what I know, from my own experience, my own skin, cells, brain and body. The work on this blog is concerned with the topics of female experience, female dignity, female voice and the female divine. twitter @ssml tumblr: ssml-fishwithoutabicycle