Dear Lisa Vogel,
I had two items on my bucket list this year for the final Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
- I wanted to meet Sara St. Martin Lynne.
- I wanted to meet you.
I met Sara. In fact, I ran into her several times. I kissed her, hugged her, drank champagne with her, told her how deeply I admire her work. I recorded my own story with her for her “voices from the land” project. She is even more gracious, beautiful, and insightful in person than she is in print.
Bur I didn’t meet you. I didn’t even see you. I looked, though. I wanted to see you just once. I think I wanted to tell you that I didn’t like who I was before I found fest. I wanted to somehow be able to make you understand that everything good in my life came from my fest experience. I wanted to see you just once so I could blink back tears and show you a picture of the women I love most in the world, my family, all of whom came to me because of fest. Lisa, the women who support me and bolster me and treat me as if I am worthy of respect and devotion are in my life because of you. I am held because of you. I am seen and heard and loved because of you.
I didn’t see you, though. I looked for you while I was lying on the grass at day stage listening to Crys Matthews. I didn’t see you while I was laughing during Elvira’s performances. I didn’t see you while I tripped happily through the ferns in my bikini, proud and accepting of who I am. I didn’t see you when I wore my see-through black dress in the rain and I wanted to see you at that moment because I thought if I saw you then, I could tell you that I would never have considered wearing something like that before I came to fest. I would have hugged you and told you that four years ago, I not only didn’t love myself and my own body, but I couldn’t believe that anyone else did, either. Lisa, I wore that see-through black dress in the rain and I looked sexy as hell. I wish I would have seen you that day.
I didn’t see you during my self love workshop when a woman approached me and told me that I had changed her entire life by giving the same workshop the year before. I wouldn’t have taken the credit, though. I would have turned to you and said, “That’s because of you. Her life is changed because you changed my life.” You would have seen the circle as a woman who once believed that the only love she was worthy of was a love that kept her oppressed and abused was now giving a workshop that taught other women to see themselves as worthy of so much more than that. So much more.
I didn’t see you at the Weird Family campsite where we cooked pizzas in the woods, drank a little sangria, laughed, cried, and held each other. I would have introduced you to each of the members of my family and we would have thanked you for changing how we see ourselves and each other.
I didn’t see you during load out, when I finally got my period and made trip after trip up the hill in front of RV while bleeding heavily. I thought I was going to pass out as Forrest and I loaded out the dining canopy and the pizza oven and the extra tents and the coolers and the flags and the popcorn maker and the signs and the chairs and the full length mirror. I would have smiled ruefully at you and explained that we wanted to create something magical for our family back there on Easy Street. Even when I pulled the last load, I didn’t regret what we brought. We decided to send out this last festival with a bang and to us, that meant making sure our family had a safe place in the woods, a retreat where they could feel comfortable and fed and warm and loved.
At long last, when it seemed everyone else was gone, Forrest and I went to take one last shower and found the water was turned off. Regretfully, we trudged back to the parking lot, tired, sore, exhausted, sweaty, and sad to find the keys were locked in the truck. It was late. It was getting dark and the mosquitoes were biting and we were hungry. We had to call a locksmith. When Forrest went to the front gate to wait for the truck, I sat on the tailgate in the near dark, wrapped in a blanket, swatting mosquitoes and wishing for a granola bar. In the dark and the quiet, I cried over the ending of fest and tried to imagine what the universe wanted me to learn from this miserable moment. I didn’t see you there in the dark, Lisa. If I had, I would have said this wasn’t the way I wanted to leave. I wanted to leave at the peak of my fest experience, happy, and victorious, riding out in the sunshine with the wind in my hair while sisters called reminders to me to put my shirt on before I left the land.
And then I figured it out. You left victorious. You didn’t let someone destroy you. You didn’t let a beautiful old woman die a painful, tormented death. You chose your own terms. And you weren’t compromised.
That’s when I realized that I *did* see you. I saw you in the ferns and I saw you at night stage. I saw you in the blond curls of the naked girl running safely through the grass. I saw you in my lover’s smile when she turned to me during Ferron’s set and took my hand. I saw you in my chosen daughter’s eyes as she stroked her facial hair and came to the realization that she was beautiful. I saw you in Elvira’s laugh and Ubaka’s drumming and in the smile of the womyn who sold me ice cream at day stage. Lisa, I saw you in the girls running wild through the woods and the womyn slowly opening their eyes. I saw you in the festie firstie who, after our shared shower, told me with wide eyed wonder that she’d never showered in front of anyone before. I saw you in the belly laughs of the audience at day stage. I saw you in the triumphant raised fist of a woman walking a slack line and realizing, for perhaps that first time in her life, that she could truly lift her feet off the ground. I saw you in the tears rolling down our faces. I saw you in my own reflection.
This may have been the final fest, but it isn’t over, not for me, not by a long shot. I see you in the way I feel empowered to find a way to carry on, to keep my family together, to keep empowering womyn to take their own power and remember that they are strong. Lisa, I didn’t meet you, but I did see you. I do see you.
Thank you, Lisa.