ME AND MICHIGAN
The summer of 1977 began as one of the worst of my life. On May 1, my lover of five years, “Astrid”, dumped me without warning in a particularly brutal manner. I had almost nowhere to take my devastating grief. I was daily suicidal, and only a couple of close friends plus my mother kept me going. Astrid immediately moved in with her new lover, taking all our belongings and the daughter I’d been helping to raise for five years. I was 21 years old and had no recourse to whatever Astrid aimed my way.
I turned to feminism in full force, and found answers, empathy, the kindness of strangers. I wrote anguished letters to Ginny Berson of Olivia Records and Alix Dobkin, and got back personal letters full of encouragement. Alix wrote me several times. I read everything I could, I listened to wimmin’s music daily, I traveled to more urban gatherings where I could find dyke feminists, and I began exploring the idea of joining a women’s land collective. Eventually, I narrowed my choices down to either a group in Durango, Colorado or the Red Bird Collective in Burlington, Vermont, both of whom extended invitations to check them out personally.
In August my best friend Jean told me she’d gotten a dream job in Cincinnati, and offered for me to move with her. I didn’t know what to do: I didn’t want to be a burden she took with her. Instinctively, I felt I needed to broaden my community, somehow, somewhere. In the end, we compromised on me traveling with her as far as Michigan to attend the second year of the already famous Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, saying I would decide after it was over in the path I would take.
We caravaned to Michigan in separate small cars, each with a helping-with-the-gas female passenger we’d picked up from Lesbian Connection or some such network. Mine was a 17-year-old singer/songwriter named Dawna Price. Somewhere in Missouri we picked up an Israeli hitchhiker named Mikki Gvilli who was not a lesbian but still amazingly powerful.
The minute I set foot on the land, I knew This Was Different. A space energetically distinct from anywhere I had ever been — me, who had already traveled around the world. The variety of wimmin was staggering. Turns out, the way a woman could look covered the entire range of human expression.
Turns out, the way a woman could look covered the entire range of human expression.Maggie Jochild
Every single structure and process on this large tract of land had been assembled by someone who had survived girlhood. All the work was done By Us For Us. There was nothing we could not do. Cooperation was instant and brilliantly effective. Kindness and generosity flowed without limit, and we knew every interaction was with another who had been presented with the lies of what female can be in our culture yet had found her own way through it.
The third day, I cut my hair off and shed my clothes. By the fourth day, I’d decided to go to Durango, to pursue separatism and alternate spirituality and vegetarianism, to continue this route of uncovering and clearing out the damage done by the patriarchy. I have not deviated from that latter choice for one second since.
And I tell you: If I had had to deal with male socialization there on that land, I would not have found the freedom to become who I am now. It simply would not have been possible. When you grow up behind bars, progressing to light leg irons is not going to free you from the experience of confinement.
Michigan is the product of thousands of grown-up girls deciding to do all the work necessary to create a week-long town where the values left to us by the patriarchy are redefined and blossom into powerful, complete functionality. Who on earth, besides us, is going to do this job?
Maggie Jochild, August 2014
Voices From The Land - Me and Michigan by Maggie Jochild