“Some things under heaven are just cooler than hell”
My weekend has been great. I went on a retreat thingy and so much happened, i’ve so many thoughts from it i’m not entirely sure where to start.
We went to Highlander (which i had only heard of about two weeks ago) – it’s like an activist training placey on this amazing farm in the Tennessee mountains. The programming was pretty cool, there was a pretty wide variety of interesting and largely interactive sessions on organizing-related things. None of it was exactly new to me, but there was a bit more info and depth in some of it. I’ve always been kind of on the periphery of activist stuff, but i’ve never really felt like i was all that seriously involved, so it’s cool to be getting some of this information and connections. There was also a lot of really great cultural stuff (i.e. music =) interspersed.
I kind of fell into going on this trip. My friend Ray had told me about it about two weeks back. She and some folks from her group were going and it sounded really cool. Then about a week ago one of the women had to back out and they were looking for an interested person to take her place. So that’s how i ended up going to this awesome thing i had only just heard of with a community group i had up to now been barely involved with (other than occasionally showing up for things because i know the boss-girl). The people i went with were wonderful – which was damn good considering the road trip part of it. There’s Ray, who’s this big sweet butch dyke who won’t take anybody’s shit and has been an activist for basically ever. Dreads, who is a big sweet queeny gay man, who i had met once or twice before. And Sun, a native american/latina lesbian who i kind of fell in love with (in a perfectly innocent admiration, mentor/parent way) over the three days.
Some of the best parts of the trip were just sitting around talking to them (drinking homemade elderberry wine in the evenings…mmm). I’ve never felt quite so accepted for who i am as talking to Ray and Sun. It sounds silly now, writing it down, but i really can’t push off the importance and strength of that feeling. This only just occurred to me, but i think it has everything to do with expectations. My first thought was that i felt they didn’t have expectations of me, so there wasn’t this uncomfortable pressure. But that isn’t true. I think more accurately, their expectations of me fell in line with my own, and with parts of me that i am very comfortable with – sort of existential things like being a good person, having a kind spirit, rather than concrete crap like ‘making something of myself’. It’s a thought.
They also shared quite a bit about ritual, spiritual, healing and such from a very different perspective than i am used to (“non-western” might clarify that, but is entirely untrue, given that it is largely native-american stuff). Anyhow, it was very interesting for me because i am a bit of a sceptic about spiritual stuff. But i also kind of like a lot of it. I think my big problem is that i feel like a lot of people are spouting a lot of bullshit, or even a lot of truth that they have no actual understanding of or investment in, which is a lot like bullshit. There was something very authentic about the way that Sun talked about things, which made it very engrossing. I also have a soft spot for girls explaining astrology to me.
The first evening at some point Sun was like “oh! I didn’t know you were family.” Which i am not used to yet. A small part of me said “what the fuck does it matter?” but the rest of me knows that it matters just as much to me – there’s something about having that connection with people…whatever. But what really took me back was that i can’t seem to remember thati’m not ‘visibly queer’. I mean, i spent my whole childhood being mistaken for a boy, and then when i had long hair they just started figuring i was a dyke. So i forget. I forget that when i wear a skirt people probably think i’m straight. And i forget that my visible gayness was protected while i was transitioning from baggy boy-clothes to kind-of-girly by having a girlfriend. And i don’t think i like this passing thing. I’ve always been a very open person, but i’m quiet, and i like that people can make assumptions about me just by looking at me…except i want those assumptions to be right.
Those are most of my deep thoughts. On to stuff about the weekend – i got back into my chainmail. I’ve been meaning to for a while, and this really was the perfect time. Partly just because the weekend was reinvigorating and a break and change i really needed…but i hadn’t anticipated that part. So also because making these things occupies my hands and just enough of my brain to keep me from getting antsy, but doesn’t require much concentration, so i can really focus on what’s going on and what people are saying. In fact, i’ve found i focus quite a bit better with something to do with my hands. I made myself a new necklace – almost exactly like my old favorite necklace, but with a splash of rainbow in there (working on this visibly queer thing), and more of a choker. I made a 4-in-1 bracelet with delicate little rings, and a commissioned (kind of) necklace with a V point at the front. And now i need to go shopping ’cause i used up all of my mid-sized rings. It was kind of perfect though, because when i ran out of stainless rings making my necklace it was exactly the size of my neck, and i ran out of aluminum ones finishing the other necklace.
The place we were at was just amazing. If you went up to the top of the hill, the view was the sort of thing that you can just get lost in. It was hot, but even so it was nice having most of it outside. And the people were fantastic. They said there were about 1000 people there. It was full of good energy; full of people who were, if not quite on the same page, at least reading from the same book. And there were lots of people for whom social justice (or whatever you want to call it) has really been their life’s work. It was also one of the most diverse crowds i’ve ever been in. And there were quite a few really cute dykes.
There was a fundraiser show saturday night. It was all sold out before we had a chance to get tickets. But then Dreads magically procured four tickets in the middle of saturday. We had sweet seats too. The show was fucking awesome. For one thing, i’m a real lesbian now – i’ve seen Ani in concert. That was pretty sweet, although i’m not all about Ani like so many people i know (and like some people shouting from the balcony). I thought she was gonna play Little Plastic Castle (the intro was similar), i’m glad it wasn’t ’cause i would have been crying – turns out that song really hits me somewhere. Speaking of lyrics that hit home, she also played a song i don’t know which included “so i took a deep breath and became the white girl with the hair.” I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Ray thought it was pretty funny too. Anyhow, the first band was very good, don’t know who it was, something mexicano. And then there was Toshi Reagan singing with her mom (Bernice Reagan). Holy damn. That was a god-damn killer show. I’d never heard of her before, but my god she’s awesome. So, all in all a bad ass show, and our broke asses decided it was definitely worth the price of the tickets.
I got a nice little crush, too. On a woman from New York. We met in a workshop the first day, and then it was just one of those things where we kept running into one another. And i was charmed…because i like prickly outspoken women, and because apparently i have a thing for women too old for me. Anyhow, it was a cool reminder that i’m single, in a good way. And she’s who i sold the other necklace i made to. That was really neat, because the typical reaction to the stuff i make is “dude, cool!” Which is fine – that was totally my reaction to this stuff too. But she was impressed with it on an entirely different level – like it actually being meaningful and protective, which was uplifting to me as a crafter. I had just finished it when my posse was about ready to go, so i had to run off and find her to give it to her. We sat at the top of the hill and chatted a bit. It’s been a long time since i’ve felt silly and awkward talking to someone – this whole thing is almost like something entirely new. And there was a hug and kiss on the cheek. I was in good spirits as the weekend wound down.
I also got a tan. A tan. Just on my arms, but i don’t think you understand the significance of this. Somehow i managed to get the right mix of sun and shade that not only do i not have a sunburn (a prospect i gave up on when i forgot my sunblock), but i actually tanned. I know, it’s really not a big deal, and i don’t even have any interest in being tan, but it has been years since i’ve done anything but crisp in the sun. I’m more amazed on an intellectual level than anything else.
“Cooler-N-Hell” – Ray Wylie Hubbard