In this post I want to write about the things that keep me keeping on, that make it possible for me to keep getting out of bed in the morning and to keep putting one foot ahead of the other. I get tired sometimes. I will be 54 in a month (I am a triple Gemini, Leo rising, dragon) and I work a 9-5 job in the heart of downtown Seattle. I commute an hour and a half each way from my farm 60 miles to the southwest, and I’ve been doing this for five years now. I am the sole support of my family and have been for most of my adult life, and I still have five of my 11 children/young adults at home. My youngest is 8. I am the creator and editor of the Women’s Space website and am currently guest editing the radical feminist publication Off Our Backs. I do a lot of writing for a number of organizations, I am a mom, and I have my farm to care for. That’s a lot, and I get weary, even though I love my life and love all the activism I do, especially. When I get tired, here are the things that get me through, inspire me, heal me.
The music and work of Nedra Johnson
I first heard the music of Nedra Johnson last year at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I was at the Ladyslipper Music tent looking for CDs, the Copper Wimmin CD in particular. Copper Wimmin is a trio of women who sing a cappella and whose performances are like dance, really beautiful. Anyway, as I’m looking for the Copper Wimmin CD, Ladyslipper was playing Nedra’s song, “Jesus is a Lesbian” over the loudspeaker. From that moment, I was hooked: Jesus is a lesbian/and anyway you need her she will come/but if for you to see the light/she got to be male, long blonde-haired and white/sing hallelujah!/I know she’ll come.
I picked up Nedra’s CD, began listening to it, and haven’t stopped listening to it a day since. It’s a rare day that I don’t get through the day without listening to at least Amazon, the women’s anthem which is sung at Michfest every year. But everything Nedra plays and sings is worth listening to over and over again. She is a fine musician, a great guitarist with a very fine band, and she has a deep, rich, powerful, yet mellow voice. Her music encompasses so many genres: blues, jazz, folk, soul, hip hop, gospel, rap, and as is true of great musicians, her music defies categorization. It’s Nedra music. There is just nothing like it.
Nedra sings about feminism, politics, social justice issues, love, romance, and sex. She sings about everything from painting her living room to marrying her girl to the misogyny of pornographers to friendship, spirituality, religion. She sings hot lesbian erotica. I don’t know how she does it, but somehow she manages to sing about the most difficult and intense subjects with compassion, mercy, and grace and to be good-natured about it in the meantime. That is central, I think, to the gift that Nedra has: she’s intense, but she is so good-natured and quick and sensitive. Just when you think what she’s singing about is going to be too much, she starts chuckling about something. She gets you thinking about things in ways you never thought about them before, thinking about Jesus as a lesbian, or consider her song, Scooter Phat, a song of admiration to a woman of size who uses a scooter to get around:
Don’t you wanna ride with a scooter phat girl
Never had a lover rock your whole round world
When she hit the motor make your toes curl
Come and get some lovin’ from your scooter phat girl…
Some folks may judge my scooter for her weight
I just lover her and let the haters hate
Don’t you worry baby
Go on and fill your plate
Help yourself to my lovin’ girl
That’s what we make
Then there’s the fine blues song — and wow, can Nedra sing the blues — My Primary Lover:
My primary lover
says I’m not her primary lover.
My primary Lover
said I’m not her primary lover
said, “If you want to be my lover…
Nedra take a number.”
A song which has captured me recently from her first CD, Testify, is Hail Mary, which is pure poetry, a song about a divine encounter with a woman she somehow “recognizes”:
The moon was full in Pisces then
in the woods on a sacred Land
and I longed to be a farmer
and grow apple trees in Eden.
Touch my Body, move my Will
I swear that I can see her still
She is gone and in the sunset
She is gone and in the moon
She was an Aries, full and bright
I am a Leo, waning without her
My world is Falling
Hers is Evergreen
Then there’s Michfest blues:
I woke up this morning and the blues were in my tent/Oh, I woke up this morning, and the blues were in my tent/Won’t somebody tell me/Where that fine girl with the mustache and the hairy legs went
Listening to Nedra’s songs strengthens and inspires me. I am reminded that I’m not alone, that there are many of us who share the same vision for revolution, for a new world. I rarely get as enthused about a musician as I am about Nedra, in part because I love music and I can rarely do so many musicians justice! But I do think Nedra is something. Everybody should go to her site and listen.
More things that keep me keeping on:
Good tawny port, let’s make it Dow’s 10-year-old Tawny Port and handmade-in-Washington artisan cheese, especially cumin gouda, which I buy at the Pike Place Farmer’s Market in downtown Seattle. Going to the Market inspires me, too, keeps me connected to the earth, people who work the earth, artists, musicians, all the people who help us all to make sense of the craziness in the world.
Seattle Chocolates, especially the orange-flavored kind.
Fragrant, heirloom, old-fashioned sweetpeas.
I always plant these in my garden, along with nasturtiums, bachelor buttons, zinnias, sunflowers and pansies. I have to have those, at the very least.
Homemade Whole Wheat Bread
For many years I was part of a fringe-y religious group (which is one reason I have 11 children) and I worked from home and homeschooled all of my kids. Every day I ground wheat berries in a mill and made three loaves of bread out of the freshly-made flour, water, yeast, honey or molasses, olive oil and salt. It looked (and still looks, when I make it) just like the loaves in the photo there. I made it because it was delicious, nutritious, and because I had to make almost everything from scratch in order to feed my large family. I don’t have time to make bread much any more, but when I do, it is healing to me in every way, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
When I get weary of working every day, looking forward to camping in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest or out on the Pacific Ocean gets me through, as does looking forward to my annual trek to wimmin’s land, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
This is a picture I took from inside my tent last August at Fest. There is no place on earth like wimmin’s land:
Finally, my feminist transgressions get me through. Transgressions like my tattoos, especially the large one on my left arm which I designed myself before my first Michfest, a beautiful, colorful labrys with an elderberry branch twining around the handle and a heart in the middle. The wide blades of the labrys, their sharp edges, the heart in the center are a reminder to me of the importance of protecting my own time and space despite all my many responsibilities. And transgressions like the runes I cast from time to time, reading the symbols as they spill out onto the rune cloth. Transgressions like my increasing interest in the Norse goddesses, Freyja in particular, and women’s goddess spirituality just in general.
And yeah, transgressions like the following:
I bought these shoes two years ago and have yet to wear them! But aren’t those some shoes.
I have the leopard print pair and those I have worn. Ahem.
I just bought these. We’ll see if I ever wear them.
Lest anybody be too hard on me, my transgression list has diminished by the year. For years I had to cop to enjoying listening to gangsta rap; not any more, that transgression has gone by the wayside. I no longer wear makeup and I don’t shave anything, but I still have long blonde hair. If you don’t get what I mean when I talk about feminist transgressions, lucky you! Because I do think those shoes are transgressions in that they reflect my own enculturation as a member of a subordinated caste under male supremacy. I think body modifications like tattoos are transgressions, too. But more than I am concerned about transgressing, I am concerned about self-sacrifice, that I did sacrifice myself for so many years to so many people, that this is what we are told we must do as women, that it’s part and parcel of the way we are subordinated. I don’t want to participate in that anymore. As with so many other things in my life, eventually, the shoes will probably irritate me rather than call my name and jump into my closet.
So that’s where I’m at.
I have so enjoyed blogging like this. Thanks, brownfemipower, for your great idea.