I asked what to write about today. I was told to write about my first and only Michfest. I attended the last Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in 2015. It was the 40th MWMF and it was the last. It was my first and only experience on that land in Hart that was the home of Michfest for 35+ years (for several years the festival was held in Mt. Pleasant, MI and in Hesperia, I am unsure on the exact length of time). It cracked me open. It changed me.
I was totally unprepared for the experience. Although I was attending with my partner that had attended MWMF several times and she tried to prepare me. I didn’t really listen. I didn’t really understand. I just know that we had 6 forty gallon totes packed with gear and tents and several coolers. We had two wagons that we needed to pull in that were overloaded with all of our gear.
We arrived on Tuesday I think. After checking in, we were directed to an orientation tent that included a looping video explaining Michfest. Next we moved over to sign up for our work shifts. We were required to sign up for 2 four hour workshifts. After that we finally started schlepping. We schlepped in pushing and pulling the overloaded wagons. It seemed we had to park so far away. Then we walked, pushing and pulling the wagons for 20 minutes until we had the spot to camp in. While Monica usually camped in a more distant location, in consideration of me she was setting our camp close to Midway (I think that’s what it was called), a camp with a kitchen that was set up by Cheryl V. We then had to push the wagons up the hill. Whew! No wonder it was so hard to push and pull, not only was it over loaded, it also had a flat tire! lol What an escapade. And that was just the first day.
Honestly, I have heard all of the raves about nut loaf. And it was Tuesday so that means it was nutloaf day but I wasn’t looking forward to it. So I’ve been to MWMF but I have never had Michfest nutloaf. We had sandwiches instead. It was an exhausting day. We wandered around a little bit but not too much. We set up our tents. Yes, I said tents. We were expecting my best friend, Carmen, and 4 of my daughters to arrive in the next couple of days. So not only did we schlep in our gear and set up camp. I also helped schlep in two more days. It was a lot of work.
The first full day, I got completely overwhelmed. I broke down sobbing and wanted to go home. It was so big. It was so much walking. Although, we could have taken advantage of the shuttles (we OWN one of the Michfest shuttles now, I love me some Dusty!), I didn’t like waiting in line and I really did want to experience it all. We did a ridiculous amount of walking. It wasn’t a small space. MWMF was held on approximately 600 acres in Hart, MI. It was BIG.
It was unreal. It was surreal. It was out of this world. Yes, that is the perfect description, it was out of this world, not of this patriarchal, women hating world. It was filled with women, all sorts of women. More women, just women, than I have ever experienced before in my life. Built by women, for women, all women. The intention of MWMF was the same intention that MFR is based on: it is for women born women but nobody is being the panty police, respect the intention of the festival and you will be respected.
There were body painters, detailing intricate artwork on beautiful women’s bodies. There were so many women in all shapes, sizes, and in all states of undress and dress. There were women in costumes and leather and leashes and spikes and dresses and in no shirts and no pants and nothing at all. Whatever a woman wanted to wear, that’s what she wore. No judgment, no body shaming, no cat calling, no feeling unsafe, or threatened. Although, there was a lot of flirting.
I know I tried not to stare. but I know stared. Not in judgment but in absolute amazement at the strength, power, and courage of women. There were breasts and breasts and more breast and there were women with no breasts. Like my daughter said, I stopped counting after 50. It was a huge topic of discussion before we went to festival. I gave them fair warning that they might see naked women and they might see some s&m dress. They were warned and it was a good thing that I did warn them since they saw all that and more!
One of the things I was worried about was showering outside with all the women. I was worried I would be self conscious and judged. It was the furthest thing from the reality. The outdoor showers quickly became one of my favorite thigns at Michfest. The last day and my last shower, I chose to walk back to camp completely naked. For me, it was liberating act, an act of complete trust in myself and in the other women and trust in the safety of the space.
That was the thing you just can’t realize, describe, or capture if you have never experienced it, the complete safety you feel being surrounded by women, just women. I didn’t realize until it was gone how much fear we carry with us and how much armor we keep up in the “real” world until we are in a surreal world that we are safe enough to shed the armor and fear. I felt completely safe. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t trying to keep my walls up. I wasn’t guarding my words. I wasn’t guarding my body. I wasn’t guarding. I was able to just…be.
I can go on and on about that experience. The kitchen….waiting in line for (it seemed) hours to fill tupperware bowls with vegetarian food that wasn’t very appetizing but we were very hungry so it tasted good. Washing dishes in a big sink trough (best way to describe it), hanging our dishes in mesh bags until the next meal. It was good. It was fun. It was entertaining. It was exhausting.
Enjoying night stage, claiming our spot and even getting there early, it wasn’t early enough to get a semi-close seat to the stage. Night stage area was huge. And very, very dark at night. But I could find my people, you know, the ones way in the back that were partaking of some chemicals. Yeah, I found that space and enjoyed hanging out with all those women. Wearing a headlamp and walking the trails in the dark, hoping not to get lost and keeping your light down so as to not blind the oncoming foot traffic. It was magical.
It was surreal. It was perfect.
There is so much more to talk about Michfest and that one week that I was blessed to be part of that amazing 40 year culture that women built. They did an amazing, powerful, wonderful thing. I’m thankful I went that year. I’m thankful that the women built it over and over and over again for us, for them. Women are amazing.
I was asked who inspires me? Women inspire me. All women. Even the ones that piss me off and hurt me. They inspire me because they are still strong. The nice ones and the sweet ones and the patient ones? they inspire me because they have learned temperance and kindness. The imperfectly perfect ones inspire me. They all inspire me to be great and to keep on rising. That was the message of Michfest: Amazon Women Gonna Rise Again. And we do. And we will. And I’m so very thankful to have experienced a little bitty piece of that. I’m even more thankful that I get to carry on that Amazon tradition in a small itty bitty way.