Katrina Del Mar recalls the transformative experience of attending her first Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival last year. Want to check it out for yourself? Visit michfest.com for all the info.
Actually, I didn’t even know Michfest was still going on. I had heard about it from way back. I never really was a fan of women’s music; I mean, when we were kids, my stepmother played Buffy Sainte-Marie and I loved the political message. I am a feminist. I’m pro peace and nature. But that music is just so, uh, granola—and its naked intimacy really makes me cringe all over.
From friends’ pictures of the festival, however, I began to understand that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is about way more than the music. In fact, the whole experience of camping in the woods with a bunch of sexy friends who are underdressed—the idea that we can all be together for a week in the woods and have workshops, play basketball, dance, do yoga, shower together, shoot archery, frolic topless? It all started to sound like it was too good to be true.
Cut to early August…I packed up my Jeep and reached out on Facebook for a travel partner pal with a free week (“you have to be awesome and female”). Kat O. responded and we hit the road.
I hadn’t gone camping since I was a teenager. Since becoming single I’ve been threatening to go camping, and here I was in the Michigan woods, pitching a tent. I felt like a Girl Scout again, improvising with ropes and tarp and twine and trees.
So after all the buildup, how was Michfest? It was amazing, like being on a really pleasant, mellow acid trip. My cheeks ached from smiling all day long.
I would say, “I’m just gonna go over here for a minute I’ll be right back.” Somehow these little errands would turn into wonderful journeys. Kat O. nailed it when she said it was like being a teenager: you’d go to the park to see what’s going on, and then to someone’s basement to listen to them play music, and then continue to drift pleasantly, aimlessly, throughout the evening. These desultory journeys were sensory treasure hunts; I found a spontaneous dance party, a bonfire with a rollicking conversation and someone grilling bratwurst in a cast-iron skillet; bonfires with singing and s’mores, a conversation under a tree, a conversation in the shower, someone cute to make out with, a cuddle pile, a massage circle.
I took an archery workshop. Other people took conscious communication workshops, dirty talk workshops, how-to-find-your-g-spot workshops. Team Dresch played and women crowd-surfed without the fear of being groped by dudes. In the dark of night lit by torches and flashlights I watched a demonstration of fisting and female ejaculation. I hadn’t seen such a great graphic dirty show since Lady Hennessy took the stage at Pyramid Club in the late ‘80s. I heard Dorothy Allison read her unpublished southern story within a story. I saw the milky-way, great oak trees, a raccoon in the moonlight. I whispered, “Raccoon, I see you.”
It was my lesbian Heart of Darkness, my hippie Lord of the Flies; I went native, I drank the Kool Aid, I bought the tie-dye. It was a magnificent moment and I’ll never be the same.