MAGIC, Conscious Idleness and Separatism

 This piece is an offering to future worlds, and a prayer that our radical Lesbian existence will not be erased.

 “The true woman is as yet a dream of the future.” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton,   1831).

Little girls are into magic. I remember when I was a little girl how I played with rituals and spells, enchantments in the trees, so often searching, longing to be immersed in Nature, wherever in The Bronx I could find it. In the alchemy of bathroom products, or the condiments in my mother’s kitchen, I practiced a personal witchcraft. The whole experience, i realize now, was about Co-Creation. Boys don’t do this. Boys play war or machine games mostly.

So, why are girls so into magic? I think it’s to change the state of our participation in the world we live in, to raise ourselves above all the steep ledges of socially-imposed limitations. Obvious, right? And boys don’t have to; they’re already there. Little kings if the universe. Also, painfully obvious. But in magic, maybe girls remember our lost powers. Find our connection to potential and shapeshifting. Our games like living rafts of survival—life-rafts grafting back the memories of us as power-filled witches, corded to creation. I remember these early pieces of soul-truth in my Idleness.

The magic of being a dyke, or goddess-forbid, a Separatist in 2022, is seen by the majority of queers, especially young ones, as an anachronism. They’ll imagine this positional lifestyle as out-of-date at best, and as a plaid-flannel rumpled, and irrelevant artifact at worst. There’s so much to say about this, but in my experience, separatism boils down to having an anaylsis of power, understanding our place in patriarchal culture and history, and refusing to participate. It’s a deeply alternative way of life. Second-wave feminism won so many battles against patriarchal norms, and I will always insist loudly in honoring our outrageously brave struggles, especially the most radical struggles of separatist dykes.

Separatist womyn’s lands were never irrelevant. For me they were and continue to be absolutely formative, transformational. A healing magical carpet ride into true personal and collective alchemy, out of mainstream events and out of time. Which is one facet of what I, as a burned out activist needed. From 1989-1991, it was my privilege to know nothing of the political earthquakes sweeping the world—the revolutions that ended the former Soviet Union, or Operation Desert Storm. Nothing of the invention of the internet, the Human Genome Project, Mandela’s release from prison, Thatcher’s resignation, or the early warnings of Climate Disaster. Those things were irrelevant to my reality, finally. After many years as a front-lines activist, this break from the pain of reality was a balm (not a bomb) and a great solace.

        On Womyn’s Land—Separatism
I discovered in the 1980’s that incredible, hidden space of female freedom, creativity, and idleness encapsulated on Womyn’s Lands. Womyn’s Lands are the literal ground to counter his-story. In my late 20’s and 30‘s, my journey started when I moved to England, into the rain and mud, living with an assortment of wild womyn. Living with no shelter, no technology and no laws in order to stop the destruction of the world—this was Greenham Common Womyn’s Peace Camp. There, for three years I fought alongside other feral females in seriously brave and dangerous adventures at a womyn’s-only anti-nuclear-war encampment. There, womyn placed their bodies in the way of the most deadly system of deranged masculinity—the U.S. nuclear-armed military.
 Living at the peace camp was a life-altering choice for a scholarly peace activist. There I was beaten and arrested, zapped with microwaves, and surrounded by all these amazing Amazons. On a regular basis, we committed direct actions where we placed our bodies in front of the USA’s war machine. And it was there, 6,000 miles away, that I heard first about Lesbian Lands in the United States. After three years of fighting arduous, constant physical and emotional battles against the Air Force, when I was at last done with the paradox of being at war with war, of existing in a battle of duality and suffering, that’s where I went to heal, and to change. To disassociate myself entirely from men and male institutions for a life in the woods with womyn. And this was another choice. War or Peace? Both these were political choices for me, which is to say both were about Power

It’s important to say here that for me and many others Lesbianism is not merely a sexual choice; it is about power. Power, which simply means ‘what you are able to do’.  Being a lesbian is a way of choosing myself. Loving womyn transformed my whole life, and brought me into the enormous fan-like folds of radical consciousness. Fan-like because once you grab a hold of any one of the complex tucked-in-strings of patriarchal systems—which is to say, any institution of our modern world—and you tug with passion and power, reality opens up to show you more, and more. Living in Separatist communities offered me an option beyond the elaborate, artificial frameworks of disguise and control which permeate womyn’s lives in patriarchy. Through my refusal to act or exist within its rules and framework, its basic values of money, heirarchy, and domination, I could leave the world of male supremacy behind. My refusal encompassed both withdrawal and creation, a No and a Yes at once, tucked into each other. Fan-like.

Obviously, womyn face an almost impossible task in the world Out There. Without a feminist army, feminists in real power—without a police force, justice system, media and medicine, education and religious systems, we can only grab onto what we can to survive. To be safe. Can only resist, try with all our might to keep each other and our children free from men’s control, enlisting every strategy we can think of. Freedom, out there, especially for dykes, is fucking exhausting.

The situation for womyn living within patriarchy is unacceptable. Most especially, it’s unacceptable for queers and other minority womyn. We cannot ever be truly free out there. We’re constantly on the defense—having to justify ourselves, having to protect ourselves from patriarchal annihilation. The whole mess is un-acceptable. And so Separatism is a lifestyle that refuses to accept it. We separate from it, vacate it, pack our bags and split, to the best of our ability.

Communes. Communing. Communal. Commons. Rural Lesbian lands are sanctuaries, for womyn and for wildlife, for mountains, forests, streams, deserts. I’d never encountered a sanctuary just for womyn before this. Here on Womyn’s Land, I could finally stop fighting back, stop struggling against everything but my own brain-washed conditioning from Before. We’d committed to improving the quality of our thinking, as well as our lands’ health and acccessibility, magic rising off every bud and branch. We forged new lives, dedicated to challenging racism, classism, ableism and sexism, exploring new patterns of human relationships, and the heritage of land. We learned about our herstory by standing fully within it as a living moment, moment, moment.

In this new life, there’s roaring rivers of learning, tied to Grand Canyons of unlearning. One of the ways to do this is purely experiential. Another is to get a cognitive grasp on the history of patriarchy, and the herstory of womyn. Critique everything. Because i had time, which is perhaps the greatest privilege for a womin, I read a mountain of books while living on Lesbian Lands. We read and shared and processed four thousand years of patriarchy and resistance.

We learned our herstory, and it was not easy to find.

We read the historical record of immigrant white Europeans who tried to lose themselves in the communal utopian worlds of indigenous people, and were welcomed there. And we read of the White captives of Indian raids who never wanted to go back, comparing these to the accounts of Native captives who always escaped to find their way home.

We read Gerda Lerner, who educated us that “All other oppressed peoples, even slaves, had a language and a culture that they could re-member and re-create in their bondage. All except women.”

We read that Karl Marx mused of an imaginary population who’s oppression was so total that only their liberation would free everyone else. This group had, he said, “radical chains”. But this guy couldn’t ever see that we were that group. 51% of humanity. We drop our chains. We move on from all that.          

Unfastening our rusted shackles and restraints, we found how to repurpose these to build new structures that will serve us. We learned and taught each other  to re-design a culture that fit our experience. We shared our personal herstory, and we made up fresh magic—fairy tales and adventure stories with womyn at the center. We wrote songs about our lives, and learned to play music. We drew and we painted, we made up new recipes, stirred and baked, and we painted each other’s bodies with beets as we cooked communal meals, naked and outside on the earth in fine weather.

We read, “The downside of Feminism is taking on a political system so pervasive that it’s still confused with nature.” (Gloria Steinham)

We read about slavery and colonialism. We learned that The Malleus Maleficarium, the hideous manual for priests and inquisitors to torture confessions out of witches, was actually the largest book ever in circulation in its day, and that it was printed on the eve of Columbus’ voyage to the New World. We came to understand that womyn’s oppression is deeply tied to colonization, theft, racism and slavery. And tied to our bodies, our sexuality. A line from the Malleus states—“All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable”. We know that this Inquisition isn’t over, out there.

We experienced other womyn’s bodies directly with our own, as warm skin, while new-born trust buildt inside the exhausted, rescued animal of these same bodies. We loved harder, softer, until we could willingly open those bodies like beautiful flowers. We were the physical terrain and the instruments supporting the logic of that other world. Womyn reduced to wombs for men’s pleasure and the reproduction of male dominant institutions through their roles in the patriarchal family structure. Where our sexuality is our only power—how pretty we’re judged to be, how seductive, how submissive— where our roles had been as handmaids and mere potting soil for babies and we competed for men, and turned on each other. Our sole powers were these abused and ojbectified bodies—pleasing men,—we saw how our magical ability to reproduce and to heal has, for thousands of years been bent to the service of the state. On womyn’s land, I learned to appreciate the natural resources that are our bodies, to worship us as Goddesses, creatrixes. And this one thing was enough.

We read, “Pain experienced publicly is no longer pain, but Communion.” (Joanna Macy)
We held each other through the pain. There is such pain that comes as we learn what’s been done to our female ancestors for four thousand years.

Creating a functioning alternative to patriarchy where womyn can unite and start to develop ethical ways of relating—to each other, the land, and our biological existences—was the key to our consciousness raising. Living separately makes spaces where we are validated, valued, where we burn taboos to the ground and we learn true honesty. On these lands, which dot the nation quietly—in the deserts, in the woods, on the mountainsides or the salt apron of the seas—we built and are building a womyn’s culture, world-wide, to stand in honor of pre-patriarchal life. Post-patriarchal visions. Here is where we refuse continuing assimilation. 

As a womin raised to be a religious Jew, I come from a history of separatism. Separating from the mainstream of the society, building our own society, has been one of the main ways that Jews have survived our oppression, and it’s an essential part of our culture. Assimilation was tantamount to a crime among the Holocaust survivors where i come from—my parents’ friends, my friends’ parents, my neighbors—all with the fading blue numbers tattoed on their arms, and naming the enemy is and was profoundly important. This was how we refused to be defined and absorbed by that enemy. When i remember these tangled old roots, my choices seem almost inevitable.

One way to change the distribution of power is for the powerless to separate and empower themselves. On Womyn’s Lands, no more energy was offered to systems of orthodoxy; there was only cultic celebration. I learned on the lands that these empowering spaces were offerings, were invitations to play—to play as crows play, as mycelium plays, as compost and evolution play—without maps or judgments, following older voices, not all of them human. This was a wild underworld of female desire, female culture and devotion, nested within the framework of social critique.

It was here, as I was healing from battles with military forces, that I began a solitary and un-mapped study of the much-maligned concept of Idleness. We never learn in patriarchy that idleness can be fertile with action, a quiet intensity of preparation, like the dream of a seed’s fulfillment. Idleness didn’t mean not working—we worked hard on womyn’s land, but the work wasn’t for anyone but ourselves, and for the future worlds we were imagining.

I’m partial to one definition of idle—’to take no part in.’ Womyn have worked so hard for the entirety of patriarchy. We have been the fertile and exhausted ground upon which the founders of oppression stamped. They stamped the mud of their own adventuring off their filthy boots onto us. We have served—the family, the church, agriculture, education, medicine, the law—every damn institution that ever perverted our hearts and denied us true belonging, or our creativity, validity, intelligence and connection to each other and the land.  
Question—What happens when we say no more?

Idleness is one of the seven deadly sins. Dropping-out is seen as idleness. If the patriarchs who invented this bullshit had ever heard of going feral—the movement of an animal to a wild state after escape from captivity or domestication—there would be one more sin added to the list. For reasons that are obvious, the super rich, who truly do nothing of value, ever, at all, who are purely takers, are not seen as slothful by mainstream culture, but are revered.

And, unlike the rich, we worked hard. Worked together and shared labor to build beautiful houses in the forest, palapas in the desert, gypsy benders on the mountainside, gardens and toilets, drainage systems and paths. But we did not work forty hour weeks, and we didn’t work for money. This was a leisurely sort of work. We took our time with each other, and told our stories, we healed as we visited as we loved & as we worked. While our hands were busy with tasks, co-dreaming, the walls and the food in our garden beds rose higher. In all our work there was play and love and whimsy. There was also a deliberate physicality that we celebrated. As we gained new skills, we grew stronger. There is Power.

We read:
The body has been, for womyn in a capitalist society, what the factory has been for male workers—the primary ground of our exploitation and our resistance”. (Gerda Lerner)   

We learned that here was the ground where we challenged the enclosures of land, knowledge, social relations, and women’s bodies. We read about Bodily Materialism, and we understand.
We read deeper about “the embodiment of mind and the in-mindment of body.” (Rosa Braidotti).

History is circular. We read about the past, which is still very much with us, circling the feet of all women out there, as abortion laws in 2022 are still being challenged, subverted, and erased.
We read,The war against womyn aimed at breaking the control they had exercised over reproduction…their enslavement to procreation…from now on, their wombs would be public territory, controlled by men and the state…procreation placed directly in the service of capitalist accumulation.” (Sylvia Federici)

You have to wonder what most womyn’s lives could be without children and housework? That dull repetition of food and dirt and food and dirt and food and dirt. How can we return to the real world, learn to honor the only world, and how can free womyn lead the way?

There was a lot of rest and recouperation on Womyn’s Lands. Why? Because we were were absolutely burnt out from the extreme efforts of living in patriarchy. We needed our strength because here it was up to us to determine  the meaning of womyn’s well-being. Why all this contemplation and rest? In my religious childhood, the men were scholars and thinkers, their lives revolving around contemplation and rest. The Passover Haggadah, read at all seders, poses four questions for the child to answer. The last one is, Why on this night do we recline?. The answer,“Because free people recline.” Of course, reclining suggests idleness—my terrible grandfather reclined for many hours throughout each seder, and women moved round him, serving. Personally, the very concept of idleness, reclaimed for females, is tied this deep and ancient vision of freedom.

Free womyn pose an existential threat to established patriarchal social relations. The truth of this statement nestles in the folds of abstraction, maybe a theory I’d read in women’s studies textbooks, but life on Womyn’s Lands made it real for me. Our improvisational experiments with communalism & self-governance, our cooperation & creations of solidarity offered challenges to the mass cruelties of capitalism, hierarchy, and the status quo. Our deliberate, delicious idleness lay outside the force-fields of patriarchal mind-control, which never imagined a womyn-focused culture that refused exploitation, celebrated equality and diversity, resisted private property, challenged male supremacy and created a society that celebrated abundance in lives of simplicity. We did all this in the shadows and the fringes of a system’s sanctified & deliberate production of scarcity, poverty, hierarchy, and fear.

Making a truly free and alternative culture emerges from questioning everything that came before. (Again, i’m reminded of my Jewish heritage, where everything is questioned. Everything, of course, but womens’ oppression.) As a writer and lover of words, one of my questions sent me deep into an interrogatation of language, inspired by the great Mary Daly—Timeliness. Lateness. Duty. Beauty. Tired. Re-tired. Consciously Idle. These words shape lives. Without schedules, clocks or bosses, we sought out & found Freedom.

We dug deep down in our questioning and stretched way up to re-member who we are, striding alone, unafraid, together, naked as animals and available to this enmeshing web of re-wilded dyke experimental culture. Where we create new symbol systems. Where visiting flows into story-telling. Where our entertainment is interactive. What fits our minds, what shapes our lives, how to speak this new language we were becoming immersed in? We interpret, we act, we create, we discover. We keep questioning, everything.

There was so much visiting on womyn’s lands, as we visited at Greenham, with such pleasure and expertise. Chatting. Circling conversations. Laughter. Massages. We’d make tea. Some of us would smoke weed. Of course, there was always processing. And more processing. I learned astrology as we did each others’ charts, and was introduced to tarot cards in this way. Both were maps into our pasts and presents, where we told each others’ fortunes, which is to say, futures. I’d think of all the card games that women play in the outside world—bridge, canasta—they say they’re “going out to play with the girls”. My mother said that. But i’ve learned that, as with our girl-hood games of shapeshifting and alchemy, cards and their games are magical and ancient, all originating with tarot decks.

I continue to stand strong in defense of Idleness. Of leisure vs. a culture of productivity-fetishism. Our greatest art and philosophy originated in leisure. Leisure, which is the seedbed of the creative impulse.
We’ve commodified our aliveness in this culture, mistaking having a life with making a living.” (J. Pieper)
We walk out of industrialized conformity, enemy of the Muses and of Eros. 
Idleness is spiritual nourishment”, according to an old Christian theologian named Kierkegaard. It is the state of philosophers, poets, children. As with the games of girl children, grown-up womyn are never done evolving or expressing, and we still need a cheerful affirmation of the world and our connection to it. Happiness and idleness are inseparable; you can never be rich enough, but money doesn’t buy us happiness in the impoverished patriarchal wage.

Because of our holy idlesness and holy work, we achieved a deliberate de-colonizing of our minds. We moved with a joyful intent from the margins to the center, existing completely without male protection or permission. Safe there in the embrace of the land, in the arms of each other, we dared to face into what’s been done to us—the insults and violence—the rape of our minds, the rape of our bodies. Incest, harassment, abuse, the theft of our holiest energy—all of it. That demanding male gaze and his hungry insistence on domination. Fuck that!

We are thinking/living ourselves outside of patriarchy on the restored earth of womyn’s land, and as with girls’ games, we birth a world where we might just exist for ourselves. Encountering the world without a shield—that in itself is subversive. 

We stand in a reclaimed fantasy space, summoned perhaps by future-unborn girls and forests, to a homeland where patriarchy fades into memory. We join our bodies with our minds, at last. We come to understand Spirit. Co-respondence and immersion in the Reality of our ancient and always Power. Our female divinity. Going under, we let ourselves fall awake.

        Womyn’s Magical Spirituality—
“There are myriad emanations of the indescribable Source, but Goddess women call it She, as medicine to what they have forbidden in us, to us.” (Max Dashu)

We investigated this Source—this Cosmic, Endless She. We learned from each other the ceremonies that have been forbidden to us, or buried from our knowing. We shared rituals, sacred songs we unearthed, or create fresh. When I lived at Greenham there were so many songs, and i shared these, and was astounded that womyn here knew them too. 

Womyn’s herstory was buried, blown to bits and silenced in the spaces of his-story for five thousand years. Where we discover bits of our ancient truth, we celebrate, stand taller, stronger in the circle of influence. What i learned, at Greenham and on Womyn’s Lands, is that our herstory isn’t over, isn’t fixed in time or in space—it occurs within us, as it occurs to us. This is how we let go of man-made, oppressive social structures, and of the isolated, separate self. We practice re-valorizing the body by re-membering the divine feminine, and by worshipping each other.

The sweat lodges we built, at Arf and at Adobeland became sanctified as touchstones for another tribe of us—Lesbian Sundancers, who’d all vowed to sweat at least once a month each year. We were honored to host them, becasue of their sacred dedication, and because too, there are very few sweat lodges in this world that are just for womyn. We also brought lots of non-land  dyke individuals and communities into our circle, to share our lodges and our ceremonies more widely.

We learned about The Holy Day— the Solstices and Equinoxes, as well as the four cross-quarter days. Every six weeks we’d honor the turning of the wheel of the year by performing ritualized ceremonies, staying up for hours,  sometimes until dawn, around a fire-circle, purifying ourselves and calling the directions, praising the elementals and all sacred correspondences: seasons, colors, foods, animals, singing, praying. And in our daily hands, the simplest of routines, enacted daily, also became ceremonies. Tea. Composting. Dish washing. Dreaming. Love Making.

We read that Womyn-as-witch was persecuted as representing the wild side of nature. And we read—“The Witch was created by the land to speak and act for it.” We know that we have always been protectors of the land, wherever we lived. The Goddess is female, the land is female, and females are her guardians.

And then we read—“Magic was seen as the refusal to work for a wage.” (S. Federici) And here we are, back in a study of holy idleness. There appears to to be this common thread, this awful rope of an ancient fear and hatred of magic and idleness, both. Just as women and the land are twinned in the mind of patriachs, so too are magic and idleness braided.

We read about the attack on the magical view of the world, and on the very concept of leisure, by the men of leisure who begat capitalism while they erected medicine & science. These were the days called “The Age of Reason”, and “The Renaissance” when the religion of Christianity conquered the pagans of Europe, and moved out into the greater “undiscovered” world in nightmares of exploration. It all happened through the gateway of the witch hunts that dragged healers, midwives, and powerful womyn who refused to obey into the flames. Those flames from which we arose, seeking justice.

Sylvia Federici says of the witch hunts, “The world had to be disenchanted in order to be dominated.”

We understand that there was is a magic in us, and also the actuality of shape-shifting. Shapeshifting is a metaphor that says, we are bigger, we are more that we are told we are. We yearn to return to a life that joyfully encompasses all the old, banned magic. And we make it happen. Through womyn outlaws on Womyn’s Lands, we fan it all back into being, and it lives again.

Both the phenomenas of Greenham Common and Womyn’s Lands were a Counter-History in my life. Magical, actual spaces to know ourselves as creatures of empire, resisting empire, in the end days of empire. And still I find myself wandering through nature daily, and asking clouds, trees, rivers, birds, what is the duty of my days in a time of extinctions? How can I be responsible to herstory, to Life in this time of endings? How to witness and chronical the world burning, melting, drowning all around us?

“Creating a society of PLAY and story-telling, leisure and idleness, in what might be the end times, involves setting the stage for what is to come with beauty and grace.” These words came to me from a  womin in a prayer circle at Ground Zero—The Nevada Nuclear Test Site. I was young, and surprised that she could speak of the end times with such a sweet smile, absent of any malice or even sorrow. She inspires me still to ask: What can we bring to the table? What shall we sing as the fires burn down?

And of course, we lived with, struggled with contradictions. Until we can take the money away from the boys and create something that they cannot take away from us, we live with the necessary contradictions. We must tie our existence to choices that have unpleasant consequences and leave a bad taste behind. We still use fossil fuels—oil for our chainsaws, propane tanks for our cookstoves, gas for infrequent trips into town. We wear clothes, we use money.  We have chasms between our upbringings, class and resources. Most glaringly, we all come here with patriarchy’s seeds growing inside us. We’ve been taught grasping, posessiveness of objects, and jealousy; as most of us are white womyn we are inherently racist in our conditioning. Some still value winning, beauty, butch-ness over femme-ness. We try to detonate cultural dualisms, yet we still blame men for the ills of the world. It’s impossible to live without hypocrisy, but we must try.

I’ll never know all the answers, but the serenity of not-knowing, when set against the exreme white-man urgency to know everything, soothes me. I relax into not-knowing’s enormous, soft arms. Is this not-knowing a sacred sort of idleness? We discover what we need to know to survive for now, and we tell our tales, sing our songs, make art and love throwing out lines for the future, gathering it close, leaning in, learning more, in this culture we’re building that is our lives. And we tell it and paint it and sing it and write it and eat it and smoke it and build it together, like a great drumbeat that you tell a story to around the fire.

  “This land endures, and its preservation as sanctuary for women, wildlife, and     biodiverse forests is a sacred calling. OWL Farm and the Oregon Women’s       Land Trust are incredibly important living pieces of lesbian, feminist, and     landdyke herstory, with a mission and promise that stretch into the far future.”   Oregon Womyn’s Land Trust. 

    Inspired by Sylvia Federici, Ariel Salleh, Gerda Lerner, Andrea Dworkin,           Monica Sjoo, Starhawk, Gloria Steinham, and many other radical feminist       scholars, and by countless womyn rebels living in communities.

   If you’re interested in reading more about Greenham Common, check out the Memoirs section under Trespassing, or buy my book.
   If you’re interested in Womyn’s Spirituality and the religion of the Great Godess, See Lectures section under Goddess Scholarship (from my favoirite teachings in my Women’s Studies classes)

      1986  Jail visit, England
Here’s a brief bit of a fantasy, a conversation written while I was in solitary confinement for protesting nuclear war. The source of an atomic bomb is the atom being split, and I was imagining how an opposite reaction, created by the re-joining of what was forced apart, might make a vehicle for time travel into Deep-Time.

I hear a coughing in the empty space around me, there’s a strong smell of smoke, and, voice-first, she connects, her mind to my own, somehow.

“There is a war against women.” She speaks the words into my 6X8 foot solitary cell.
“Our wombs are to be public property. Our magic, how we make something out of nothing, placed at the service of the market and the state. It began with the enclosures of land, but this is a mere echo of the enclosures of our bodies, erasures of our knowledge.”
She smells so strongly of woodsmoke. I look down and see that the hem of her filthy skirt is charred, her bare feet burnt.
“Everywhere,” she says, “the wise women are hunted down like wolves, and murdered. Our bodies enclosed as the land and our spirits are, in impossible boxes of rules and roles. Enclosed by religion, by law, by endless hours of terrible work we’d never choose to do. If only we could choose!
And now, i’ve witched my way to a new world, and here you are, and truly, even the future for women is a prison cell!”

“No! No.” I tell her smoky outline. “I chose to come here. My arrest was an act of resistance, of struggle against. I live with women warriors out there, beyond these cell walls, and we’re battling against men’s weapons of death.”

“Oh, a rebel camp? Still, women have rebel camps?” She gasps, “The Heretic Movement is alive then!”

“No, no this is a newer thing. We’ve joined to fight against the apocalypse of nuclear war.”

“Apocalypse? Yes—The Crusades, the End of the World. Yes, we too are training to partake.”

(Mycelium – If mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of an underground mycelia, what if characters erupt from a deeper matrix of plot? What if an author knew that three characters were really the fruiting body of one buried mycelial theme? One hidden ecological consciousness? How could this subtly inform and confound relationships “above ground”?) Sophie Strand

1987, The start of a speculative novel

Iva Plan was an punk-rock anarchist from Berlin. After The Wall fell, impoverished but liberated in a tenuous kind of freedom, she’d spent some years squatting in filthy, communal apartments in cities all over Europe. She was in a sort of band, banging her electric guitar badly but loudly above mosh pits full of violent punks. She found the arrangements convenient for meeting other radical anti-civ activists, social organizing and anarchy experimentation, but there were too many others coming and going, eating her food, leaving behind lice and stealing her meager stuff. She worked some crap jobs, saved her money, and moved across the sea to The New World. She’d read in a dyke magazine someone had left behind, the line—“A lesbian is the rage of all womyn condensed to the point of explosion.” She loved that. Thought she’d be a lesbian now.

Here in the States, Beda Bom had always been a lesbian. She’d also been on the extreme edges of the system, camping out for years alone, mostly in national forests, which was really just rural squatting on a grander scale. The beauty was extreme, the isolation fantastic. Just what her hippie-philosopher-poet-soul needed.  Miles in and away from civilization, and so peaceful, but winters were rough. Also, replenishing supplies was a problem as she hitch-hiked in and out to her camping spots, and hitching was dangerous for a woman alone. Mostly she walked miles with a pack, on her strong legs looking for a ride from a tourist or service worker, and then she had to remember how to speak words. You always had to talk to them when you were hitching.

Robin Banks spent years fleeing the terrors of sexual abuse, most of her youth just hopping trains from one end of the U.S. to the other, flowing like a river through the country, sleeping in different places every night. She’d gotten away, from her home, escaped and run feral, and she was stronger for it. It was exhilarating to wait in the bushes near the tracks for a train and then hear one coming, to run alongside grab onto metal, and leap aboard and then find her place to hide. It was at last a freedom to be a womin, racing along through open country, where you traded everything possible—massages, hand-made beaded jewelry, tarot readings, but mostly your body, for the relief of motion, and the chance to collapse your vertical, closing your eyes for a few hours at a time to wake in a new place.

When the three of them hooked up, it was as if the cosmos clicked into alignment and the future made sense. They fell in love, simple as that. After many days and nights spent talking, they agreed that living for free was the point, but the arrangements were always risky. Here in the States, private property was the culture’s god, the monolith this nation had been based on for all its history of white settlement. An autonomous life outside the unforgiving structures of market wages, rent and cages was a constant challenge, and exhausting for a womin alone. You never knew who to trust. Men were good for safety, but quickly became unsafe. If you had a man, you were pretty protected from other men, but they just wanted to control all of you.

The womyns’ intimate alliance added texture and perspective to their lives, enlarging what was possible, and over time, teaching them trust. They became lovers early on, the three of them. Fuck monogamy, this was tribal trigonometry. Their lives together were a garden of seeds and fruit, sharing, learning new ways, challenging everything they belived to be possible, arguing it out endlessly, loving each other back to the softness after, and they existed in a constant whirl of inspiration.

They were each other’s social security and insurance policy, and they learned together how to view the world around them as an interdependent collective. They practiced hive-mind and telepathy, experiments of astrology, pottery, recipes, anything & everything together, and they were faithful to the commitment to keep dreaming. Always before, when any of them had expressed their individual vision to others in the straight world, people would tell them, “You’re dreaming!”

Like that was an insult. Like that would stop them. Everything they were surrounded by was somebody’s dream—shaving your legs and nuclear war, car culture and shopping malls and 40-hour work weeks and suburbs. Who’s fucking dream was industrial-capitalist-white supremacy-imperialist patriarchy? If they were really going to exit the stranger’s nightmare of a dream, what better way than to counter-dream, together?

They were an army of three. Political testers testing targets. A flesh and blood test drive. They were crash-test smarties, yearn forecasters, pop-culture pranksters, militant earth liberators. They were wild and in love, and they left the sanctuary of womyn’s land eventually for a bigger adventure. They lived with a cadre in ELF, practicing sabotage against many machines, and then in the redwood forest with Earth First guardians, protecting the huge, ancient trees. But there was too much male domination in those radical groups, and they thought they’d try a more radical, female approach to their revolutionary tendencies.

In the progressive towns they favored—Oakland, Boulder, Ann Arbor, the wind-sock people had taken over all the neighborhoods once people like them had made them cool. Well, they really hadn’t met too many people-like-them, but they were becoming tired of sharing their spaces with blonde-dreadlocked, reggae listening, green panther, righteous, privileged trustafarians.

And their point wasn’t to win. They knew they’d never win. The point was to make persuasive and powerful the beauty of their opposition. What on earth did they accomplish? Displacement edicts. Post-modern obstructionism. Cultural modification. Some kind of winning. Love, at all costs.

As Beda said, “We do the action because we love the action. Our action is the beginning and the end, is the point. We dance in the street and stop traffic because we fucking want to—because it feels good.”

Said Iva, “Because it’s the world we want to live in.”

“And because cars can’t dance”, added Robin.

We destroy property because some property doesn’t have the right to exist.” Dan Berrigan had said that. From a prison cell.

“We met on womyn’s land in New Mexico in the late 80’s”, Robin would say later, “It was subversive lust at first sight. That was the beginning of all of this.”

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