The woman who was driving the tractor had a beard, and I thought it looked really good on her. I'd been seeing a lot of bearded woman all that week at the Michigan Womyn's Festival. Enough bearded women to make me suspect that women with facial hair were probably pretty common, and most women who had it probably just shaved and never mentioned it.
So many things that were never mentioned that you could see at the womyn's festival, where men were not allowed and women walked around without clothes, and without camouflage. On the last day there, my friend Ani said, "I bet most men have seen more different types of women's bodies than most women."
I knew exactly what she meant. I was 35 years old and it wasn't until my 31st year that I realized; there were more than two body types in the world, mine and Twiggy's.
Now, the womyn's festival was largely lesbian and I was largely straight. But I felt perfectly comfortable being there because I'd spend the past two years living in an alternative collective that harbored a collection of alternative women, gay, straight, and curvy. It was quite an experience. We moved into a working class neighborhood in Somerville Massachusetts in the Winter of '94 and the neighbors hated us on site.
Don't ask me why. We drummed the sun up in the morning. We chanted the moon across the sky at night. We had fertility goddess shaped lawn ornaments, and bumper stickers that said, "I'm pro choice:
I choose Hillary".
What wasn't to love?
Maybe it was our timing. We'd moved in during the final playoffs of Somerville's most popular street sport: Full Contact Snow Emergency Street Parking. How were we supposed to know that the spaces right in front of our house belonged to the Italian team?
Or maybe it was our trespassing that ticked them off. Our neighbors were very territorial and our actuality was tromping all over their concept of reality. Some people, when they see something they've never seen before, get angry at it. They just want to smack it away. What a shame. When you see something new you should go, "Cool, a new memory!"
I mean, as far as I know, when you're checking your luggage for that final flight out of here there's no minimum weight requirement on memories.
So I liked the beard on the tractor driver's face because it made here look like a deer woman of the forest. She had a wide but angular face and large clear eyes that were tawny colored like her beard. And she looked so forest graceful as she leapt off her tractor and started razzing us because of all our gear, which we were trying to load up on the flat bed that was being pulled along behind her tractor.
Well, we did have a lot of stuff. There were about 25 of us women and we were all packed up and ready to leave the festival. And we needed a ride out of the forest to the parking lot where our cars were waiting to take us back to the real world. Or maybe I should say, the rest of the real world. The womyn's festival was real, but it was also rare.
There were so many different types of women here. And so many different types of feminists. First wavers, second wavers, heavily pierced 3rd wavers (many of them pregnant with 4th wavers). Some of us came from real hard times, some from a privileged childhood, some from Canada, and many from over seas.
And yet we all had this one fundamental thing in common: We did not come to the Michigan Womyn's Festival to rough it. Roomy tents, queen size air mattresses, sets of lawn furniture, life sized goddess statues...you name it we brought it.
The deer woman of the forest stood on the flat bed and started calling orders. "All right, all right, lets get this stuff loaded up! Look at all this junk. Ok, pass them up, pass them up. Not the massage tables! The massage tables go last! Pass 'em up, help your sisters, pass 'em up, help your sisters."
The pile of gear on the flat bed grew higher and higher, wider and wider. When it was all loaded it rose to one and a half times the height of the tallest woman and covered so much of the flat bed that there was just a thin little rim of space left all around the edge of the bed, just barely big enough for us to fit part of our butts.
"Ok, ok," shouted the deer woman. "Everybody on."
And so we all scrambled up and found a perch. We must have been quite a sight. The deer woman stepped back, tugged her beard, shook her head, sighed.
"Next year, less gear, more women."
And then, before she jumped back onto the tractor to drive us out, she did something that was so typically Michigan Women's Festival that I wouldn't have even noticed it, if it hadn't been the last day, and the last time I was going to see it. She spread her arms out wide and rocked from side to side, like her arms were wings spreading out to cover us all, and she said, "Does everyone feel safe?"
We all nodded. So she walked around to the other side of the flat bed and I could hear her saying the same thing. "Do all my sisters feel safe?"
And then she jumped onto the tractor and turned around and shouted, "Then here we go!"
And we went. Back to the parking lot. Back to our cars. Back to the rest of the real world.