Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Fresh from a radical gathering, I found this essay about autonomy and solidarity in the "Movement of Movements" really interesting (via brownfemipower).

This was my fourth Burdock. It's always a really special time, and one I look forward to all year as an opportunity to retreat, reflect, and reconnect with friends. Well, mostly I look foward to it.

This year, I was thinking about canceling even the day before we were supposed to go. There was packing to do, and looking at how busy the next three weeks will be was making me anxious, and I sort of wanted to just stay home and lay around and take a break, for crying out loud. But I had made a commitment to bring along a friend who needed a ride, and thank goddess I did, because it kept my ass motivated to go.

We arrived on Friday night, at suppertime. The gathering is held on the banks of the Sandy River in Starks, at the edge of property owned by a local farmer. The festival itself is contained within a geographically small area: a grassy road winds next to the river, and people camped between the flattened hay and the water, the location chosen by individual preference. Colorful tents crouched in the tall grass and just under the dense tree canopy. We set up close to the giant, blue-tarped hoophouse that serves as the dining area because I wanted S to feel comfortable going to the tent alone and able to hear us if she went to bed early.

The hoophouse was connected to a smaller tarped area that was designated for the younger children, and a short rocky path towards the river led to the firepit. The firepit area was wide mown, and the river chattered just on the other side of a thicket of tall grass. A narrow trail through the grass led to a shallow section of the river where the older children could safely wade without adult supervision. Another, deeper swimming area was just around a bend in the river, and was accessed by a trail through the woods. The whole setup, from the first tent on the makeshift road, past the group spaces and through the woods to the farthest campsite is maybe 1/4 mile. Maybe less.

The weekend is always the busiest time, and when our little carload had set up and joined the evening's entertainment--an Open Mic(less) Night--there were about 70 people present. S had found some friends and spent the evening running with them and wading in the river, and I saw dozens of people from whom I have been estranged since my breakup with the radical community. It was really good to be there. I had anticipated feeling some awkwardness because of some of the compromises I have made in my life in the past year that are far from radical, but I didn't feel any. (Well, there was one conversation about eating meat that made me feel guilty, but that's minor.)

Mostly I felt good because there was--for the first time--a queer caucus on Saturday. About ten of us gathered to talk about being radical and also being queer, and it felt like the safest, best space ever. I want to move into it and live there forever and ever. So much of my life and activism has led me to separate the many facets of my identity: I can connect with other parents if I play down the queerness; I can connect with other queers if I don't notice rampant consumerism; I can connect with other radicals if I leave out the job; I can connect with my family if I downplay the urbanness & education. This group felt like the most integration of those pieces I've ever experienced--although I acknowledge that part of that is because S was big enough this year to be mostly independent and didn't need my constant attention.

But despite my enthusiasm for the queer caucus and the work we're going to take on, I think that the big shift has been internal for me. I have begun to feel comfortable in my skin recently in a way that is completely new. I know that my choices aren't the same ones that everyone would make, but I'm confident (!) that they are the right ones for me. I have even talked openly about my feelings (!!) and stood up for myself (!!!) a lot in the past few months. And it's not even that scary.

Part of it is confidence in my writing, belief in myself, and making some hard choices that have really turned out pretty well, if difficult. Part of it is intense therapy. Part of it is just being older and more familiar with myself.

I think that every year Burdock has brought me a revelation of some kind (and that may be a recommendation for it or not, depending on your stand). This year's is about confidence and self-comfort, and loving my life. Sweet.

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