Trespassing, A Memoir of Greenham Common:
Greenham Common was a USAF base in England, and the first full-on occupation of a nuclear weapons base by women, though it wouldn’t be the last.  This memoir is my first published book, and I’ve included an overview as well as a few chapter fragments.

My interview for the 40th anniversary of the peace camp, 9/21.

Website to find all the interviews and loads of info about Greenham Common.

Older website, maintained by The Guardian, packed with many cool videos of life at the peace camp.

Backstory/ Herstory

There was a time in the history of our resistance when womyn came together from around the world to encircle a first–strike nuclear weapons base. A time when 30,000 womyn tore through razor wire walls, regularly ripped down barbed wire fences, and trespassed in protest of nuclear weapons and war.
A time you’ve probably never heard about, that lasted a total of 19 remarkable years, and changed the way we imagine protest, and the way we imagine the power of womyn. Greenham Common Womyn’s Peace Camp has been mostly left out of mainstream histories, media coverage, and retrospective programs on the 20th century.

Once upon a time, I lived with a tribe of womyn. We were wild and fearless and free. We were thoroughly disobedient and disloyal to civilization. A subversive, creative and ever-shifting clan, we broke the laws of men to live around a fire in the rain. Our surrounding landscape was a dystopian amalgam of ancient oak and beech forest, military traffic highways, and an American nuclear weapons base. We lived outside in Nature, pressed between the earth and the rain, in a culture of our own making. Without leaders to take us there, we went wild. Impossible beings, we lived an unchartered revolution where our daily business was to stop the business of war, to reclaim this land from military occupation, to bend men’s courts and their laws to earth with the weight of our disruption. I was there, and it changed my life, permanently.

In 1985, I was an anti-nuclear activist, twice arrested in the U.S. for protesting nuclear weapons. Ronald Reagan’s regime was sending non-violent nuns and priests to prisons for twenty years for their symbolic anti-war Ploughshares actions. When Reagan was re-elected, it was time to move. I’d heard delirious rumors of protest encirclements and on-going occupations at NATO nuclear bases far away in Europe. Those were my destination. After visiting camps in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands, I made it to Greenham. 

In l1984, Greenham Common was nine miles of raped and ruined forestland, into which were shoved American weapons of war and three armies protecting the first 96 intermediate-range nuclear missiles based in Europe. They called this time The Cold War, a designation of those years spent threatening and preparing to launch a hot war.

On the outside, Greenham Common was also a womyn’s peace camp, radical shrine of the international womyn’s peace movement. Womyn came to Greenham to wage peace against the biggest, richest war machine the world had ever known. For 19 years, womyn squatted on reclaimed common land, brewing up a female warrior culture to cure 4,000 years of deranged masculinity. At the peace camp I found womyn dedicated to leaning into the blade of resistance and anarchy. Every night, we slept on straw on the cold, wet ground. Every day for years we were evicted. Weekly, we were arrested in continuous attempts to interrupt and sabotage the military’s preparations.

We’d  cut tunnels through nested wire fences to feed the seed of insecurity that hides inside the concept of national security. Complexities brought us together, but there we got simple. Living outside on the earth between the highway and the nuclear base fence, we danced on the edge of the wedge of extinction. Our tents dripped, our boots were always wet, and our belongings regularly confiscated and destroyed in evictions. Our days flew by in an endless stream of storytelling, action planning, and continual civil disobedience, broken only by arrests and jail time.

Every month, the nuclear missiles would leave the base and drive in a hundred-vehicle convoy for 40 miles to play strategic holocaust games, and every month, our work was to stop them. Surrounded by 300 police, we’d stand eyeball to gunbarrel to blockade the gates of Greenham, build huge fires in the road, and sneak onto the stolen warfields of Salsbury Plain, past police and soldiers in the dark, to perform rituals against the military. Life on earth, no compromise, was our vow, through night times and prisons and steel fences coming down.

It’s true that womyns’ work is never done. We poured instant rice into radiators of jeeps and nuclear control vehicles, stuffed big English potatoes into the tailpipes of launchers, dropped ping pong balls into military truck gas lines. We super-glued door locks of police vehicles, jail cells, and airplane hatches. We sewed miles of banners, wove incessant messages into the fences, spray-painted every official sign for miles around, and we guarded our bolt cutters and spray paint in dilapidated baby carriages.

Our days spent laughing their fences down, our nights of dancing their missiles impotent. We sang songs, painted and knitted, learned astrology and guitar chords, played in creative, passionate resistance while toast burned on smoky fires. We visited, drank endless cups of tea, and turned slowly before the flames to dry ourselves.

Always a fire. Always a circle. Always the rain. We slept with hot stones in our bags, spray-painted bombs and runways, published newsletters and traveled around Europe speaking of our lives at the peace camp. We lay in the woods, and made love, and made art, and cooked soups, and quit looking in mirrors. We argued and processed and analyzed every possible political and social issue of the times, and we slept in the glare of the runway lights, the throb of generators, and the looming menace of Armageddon.

In response to our protest, the U.S. military began, in 1984, to “zap” the camps with electromagnetic weaponry. Designed to control and immobilize protesters, these frequency weapons caused nose and ear bleeds, headaches, nausea, epilepsy, sunburns, and debilitating psychological distress. The zapping increased during times of large actions, and whenever the convoy went out. I became quite sick from the zapping, and finally left the peace camp, crawled away to the countryside in Cornwall with a lover to nurse my wounds and heal and begin to write this book. (Now, in 2021, zapping is finally in the news—we hear it called Havana Syndrome, and military men are experiencing it. They say it damages the brain. The badass warrior men are taken to Walter Reed; they say they’ve never been so scared in their lives.) Symptoms of the zapping live on in me, still.

In 1991, an Intermediate Range Nuclear Weapons Treaty was signed by Mikael Gorbechev and Ronald Reagan. So began the process of removing the missiles, and de-constructing the entire base, tearing up runways and buildings, planting trees, and re-making the space into a Nature Preserve. Greenham women were responsible for the political and military defeat of these weapons, proving that the state is ultimately powerless against the persistent, creative actions of civilians determined to resist. 

I lived at Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp from 1985-1988. The ordeals and transformation I experienced there generated a political, spiritual, physiological and emotional meltdown and reconstruction of my life that changed me and charged me, forever. My memoir—Trespassing—distills the raw reality of daily peace camp life as I experienced it.

I said farewell to Greenham after three years, but it never left me. The peace camp, and womyn's land shaped me, forevermore. After returning to the states, I lived for another 5 years on Womyn’s Lands throughout the U.S.  These days, I have no respect for any patriarchal institution, and I find that I’m not afraid of anybody. Thirty-five years later, I still move through my life, indelibly marked by that miracle, forever awakened to my power, my rage and my love, and I circle strong on the courage of womyn as I live to tell the stories.

Getting arrested continues to be an act of profound love and power to call attention to a great injustice. It's an exceptional sacrifice that protectors make for all of life that's threatened.
I hope you enjoy this book, in the spirit of joyful defiance in which it’s offered. As a social service from a public dreamer, a public defender and retired barbarian, I welcome you into the hidden herstory of a mythic-real wasteland of the modern world’s most powerful military, and the women resisters/ protectors of Greenham Common, who dared to say NO.

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Morning Ritual 

Morning. A constant negotiation with fate and luck. A series of small and available thresholds open up before me like a floating chain of ephemeral bubbles. One small ritual step after another, linked circus elephants, trunk to tail, each small miracle dependent on the one before, each one with a wild mind of its own, but trained to follow. The culmination—The Great Morning Ritual Of The Face-Washing. I’ll use a wet, still-warm teabag to first cleanse my hands, washing each finger of the grease, paint, mud, food and assorted filth that yesterday’s peace camp life has spackled onto me. I’m like a Jackson Pollack in progress, and an incubator of evidence. My hands looked like a 2 year olds’.

It has to be first thing in the morning. There are uncountable obstacles to cleaning up at night time—the convulsive darkness, the chaos of daylight’s disintegration, the promiscuous teacups, the lips and hips of love, the chords of her guitar. And so, I wake each day to begin to move towards my goal. To get that warm wet bag of possibility for this one tiny, tidy glory pulsing through these dirty morning hands, I play a mental accordion, inhale/exhale, stealthy, driven like a subway rat on an instinct search through a multitude of hiding places. Playing a silent tune on the inside, a heretic’s prayer, my dirty hands finger keys, buttons, and bellows.

Exiting the tent, keeping my hooded head down to avoid having to speak to anyone this early, I shove my feet into sodden boots and squish through muddy ruts that suck each step, through splattering puddles in search first, for the wood pram.  Building up a fire in the early rain after a night of rain requires wood, fire-lighters, newspaper, matches, and most of these inanimates mock my efforts in their soppingness. Stinking now of petrol and wood-smoke, more layers of grime, I’ll locate a section of snipped fence, a kettle, and one of the great battered water containers, lift it and fill the kettle, bang it on top of the greasy, horizontal fence grate atop the finally-flaming fire to bring the water to boiling. Score a clean-ish cup, wipe the wet residue off with  my grimy sleeve, find the pram-full of food, and dig within the mystery therein for a teabag.  

Each of these thresholds a tiny liturgy, a string leading me to the next prayer bead, and the next flaming hoop. I’m nearing the goal of a hot splash of water in a cup with a teabag, ducking through the gate of time ticking on without me. Time is meaningless here; I haven’t known the time in years. I’m locked in my warm fantasy, the hot water filling the cup, the drinking that warms me, and finally, the warm bag in my paw squishing in tiny gushes, rubbed and worked into the grime of these hands until my fingers at last scrubbed dry on the kerchief kept clean in my pocket, I’ll wipe out a small pot or a bowl and fill it with a bit more hot water, and finally, I will rinse this face.

It keeps me feeling right with the world, feeling human in this barbarian existence. Maybe it’s an inheritance from my Orthodox Jewish mother, who never would have understood living like this, at war with Cossacks. It feels religious, washing up in the morning first thing. Feels like a cleansing of my spirit as well as my flesh, greeting creation fresh and new. It’s a lifeline that connects my existence here to my ancestors’ differently rough lives, yet each day starting like this. Water poured into a basin over a fire.

Except we are afflicted with evictions, an eleventh plague to add to the list; evictions that come at all hours of the morning, that roar up, sudden as an attack, it’s always an attack!  Men screeching up in trucks, shredding our early peace through the rough grater of two police cars and a garbage truck, five bailiffs, four cops, and every woman up and awake here must skid to a stop in her muddy tracks, or wake bleary and too soon to scurry like a rodent from her nest and grab everything we own, all of us heaving together in a hundred more coordinated ritual movements, before the men can have a try at grabbing it from us, the physical content of our lives, and wrecking it all to gone forever.

Some mornings, just as I stepped into the sodden boots, or located the cryptic firelighters, or the clandestine teabag, or worse, today—just as the blackened kettle is beginning to rock softly to it’s boil, me squatting there beside the small fire, anonymous in the rain under my hoodie, armed only with cup and  teabag, and a clean-ish handkerchief at the ready, they screech up, sending a tide of mud-puddle skyward, and the call will sail up in an Amazon voice echoing wildly through the camp—“Bailiffs!”  

And I freeze reaching out my dirty hand for the kettle, gloved in my filthy, shredding sweater sleeve. I’ll close my eyes. Inhale. Exhale. Inside I feel stained, feel my breath solidify to rust, my mind shut down in desperation and piercing disappointment. Come on, you bastards, just three more minutes!  Eyes shut, locked in a fierce column of smoke, I feel them insisting on supremacy, swarming menacingly closer and I want to scream and so I do—“Fucking Bailiffs!”

My cry floats, hangs there for a water-logged rainy instant as the old man who always carries the rubber water bladder with the hose attached rudely shoves between me and our old kettle and douses the orange fire to a whoosh of hot steam. The time that had no meaning stops, dead. The fire, killed. Both of us standing there, inches apart, leaning over that dead fire floating in a char pool with ashes stuck to our lashes and brows. Both wide-eyed; one astonished,b the other victorious.

Inhale. I wipe the smoke from the eyes in my dirty face, lean my head back, exhale, and yell to the clouds above, watch the vapor rising, ethereal. It’s ghosting up over the fence, up into the rainy sky as mist to mingle my fury with dripping oak boughs high above the camp, and for just one amazing moment I feel every cell rushing up to meet that dramatic exhalation. My shout following my form, I rocket up, out of this small body to flow free, suspended in an immaculate hawk’s vision of the camp below, surrounded by warm steam and the whole base sprawling, the green fields, the villages, all of England and the sea beyond, opening, opening to another world, filled with space and oxygen, love and patience and peace and hot running water, before piercing the echo of my own voice and plummeting back into this body with a jarring thump, separated from everything again, stuck as the mud to my boots, pissed off, at war, and filthy dirty once more.

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Convoy In  

This is an excerpt from a chapter in PDF form. The background of this tale is the background of our encirclement—the convoy that every month carried nuclear missiles on giant trucks in a 100-vehicle convoy, escorted by police along closed roads for forty miles to play strategic holocaust games. They’d leave in the dead of night to avoid clashes with peace protestors, but Greenham womyn kept watch through the fences for signs of their deployment. Every month, faced with 200 police, we’d try and blockade them. We blockaded them with banners, we’d lie down in the road, make great fires in the paths, or climb onto the launchers. A group called CruiseWatch monitored their movements once they left the base, and there were always countless blockades along the route. 

Download and enjoy at will.

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Welford Action

Part One
This is the first chapter of the Trespassing memoir. It was the night after the botched-bombing of Libya. Welford was the largest bomb storage base in Europe, just eight miles from our camp. The American bombs that had missed their target and killed civilians in Tripoli had been based here. We went to cut the fence and spray paint the rest of the cluster bombs.

It had taken a long time to find the fence into Welford. We’d slogged on for ages in the rain, through thick, muddy fields full of stubble and puddles, miles it seemed from where we’d hidden Rebecca’s Mini on a wet country lane. There was no moon. Crows flapped huge from bare, black trees, making us gasp, then giggle, high on danger under the misty half-moon. Nerves tightly strung, senses tingling. 

RAF Welford was operating under red alert. We knew this much from listening to the BBC for days. Two days after the war began, all bases in Europe– probably all bases on earth engaged in this Cold War –were on red alert, with a three-minute warning for all nuclear facilities. Red alert for the war– a small war so far, but burning hotter– and the bombs and the bombers, the men who make the bombs, guard the bombs, drop and maintain the bombs– all on global standby– radar scanning, troops deployed, the planes and the battleships, the guns and the generals, the command headquarters and all the masses of bloodless computers red alerted. Adrenalin pushed us on.

Rebecca and Lorna had been inside Welford five times before, and they’d never been spotted. Each time they snipped their way in to investigate and prowl about, making maps that grew more and more detailed, spying on the security systems, discovering the easiest places to cut the fence, photographing the different types of bombs stored there, and getting the timing of the security patrols. Hogan’s Heroes all the way. Welford was an easy in, we’d reckoned. It should have been simple and fast, unlike Greenham where the peace camp had kept those armies of soldiers and police sharpened and on edge, hunting us ruthlessly with big dogs, mending and guarding that fence day and night, ceaselessly policing at great cost to the public in an effort to control vast and shifting numbers of womyn who they could never quite manage to contain. Those boys were practiced, you had to give them that, though they couldn’t have done it without us.

That night, on the brink of the latest attempt at patriarchal self-destruction, security was real heavy at Welford, and the notion of an easy-in blew away on the dark, stormy winds. We watched from the shadows that held us, armed guards patrolling, squaddies on foot with dogs and machine guns, and scores of vehicles slowly circling the perimeter fence.

We hid for a long time on a steep, mud-sodden slope just below the patrols, shadowed from the span of powerful arc lights that lit the fences. We listened to their radios crackling, the spinning of jeep and truck tires on gravel, and the heavy, booted footsteps. We stared into each-others’ faces, time running with the rain, and I wondered about getting past them all, getting to the bombs we’d come to paint and then getting out again. I wondered about turning right around and hitching back to my sleeping bag at Yellow Gate, but I didn’t wonder out loud.

Finally, seeing a break in the rhythm of surveillance, Rebecca looked at us, nodded, and crept to the fence to cut a circle knee-high with her bolt cutters. The steel blades snapped each small, diamond shaped link in the fence loudly, all sound magnified with the night, like our thudding hearts. We waited again as the next shift of squaddies passed us, then, single file we crawled though that first fence, and Hershe cut the next rough hole, pinging each thick wire quickly, and then we were past the final fence and running. We held our paint pots and spray cans tightly, racing through the shadows, crouching or crawling when we were in the open, sliding on the slippery ground as we pressed across the flattened land towards the bombs, deep inside the base’s perimeter.

In the dark and pissing rain, I felt the enormity of Welford, knew I was running blind, but I trusted in Lorna and Rebecca to know where we were. A woman would hiss, “DOWN!” whenever she saw headlights or heard footsteps or an engine’s whine, and we’d dive and lay hugging the earth as white lights approached, passing us easily– we were totally mud-camouflaged by then.

Crawling, then running at the chance, we sprinted, scrambling up and sliding down the steep, man-made hills flat on our backs, hills we suspected held bunkers, like Greenham’s, that housed nuclear weapons. We neared the cluster-bomb storage area, five womyn, side by side, closer and closer. We pulled ourselves up the last few hills on our hands and knees, sliding flat on our backs and spraying mud. My glasses were streaked and splattered, my hands numb, my broken rib and pulse and brain were pounding. Nothing grew on the land inside the base. The season was anyone’s guess in here. All the earth was scraped raw, or laden with concrete, lights and generators.

At the top of the last hill we stopped, pressed to Welford Action the earth at its crest. The sound of our breathing filled the saturated night. I looked down. I was staring at dark stacks of bombs, piled high in the rain just below us. The mist made faint rainbow circles around the high beams of arc lights. There was an eerie silence.

Jude broke first. “They keep the bombs out there, in the open like that? Always?” She couldn’t believe the sight. I lay there, shocked in the fine rain, feeling Hershe stunned and motionless beside me.
“Yeah. Those are the cluster bombs,” Lorna pointed, indicating the rows and rows of shadowed steel stacks on the west side of the huge field full of bombs.

“Those are the ones they dropped on Libya.” The stacks were 20 feet high. They covered the field, as far as I could see, sinister, absorbing all the light in the world, marching their intent on towards eternity.

“I’ve never seen a bomb before!” “Holy shit.”

More silence.
“What’s that?”

“I don’t hear anything. What did you hear, Hershe?”

“I think I saw a light flash over there,” Hershe pointed.
“Let’s just wait a bit and catch our breath.” I suggested, panting and in pain.

The vision stunned me—all those bombs, thousands of them just lying out there in the rain, rusting. Waiting.
“Goddess! I thought they’d be inside warehouses or bunkers, inside something!” Jude said. We continued to stare, fixated, at the shadowed stacks below us.

“Well then,” Rebecca began, ready to get down to the night’s business, trying to pull us three naïve Americans into a functioning group, “Shall we split up or hang together?”
“How about two groups?” Hershe suggested, “That way we can get more space covered and no one has to be alone.”

“I don’t want to be alone down there,” Jude muttered, still awestruck at the sight.

“O.K., consensus?” We all nodded. Rebecca continued organizing. “If either group gets caught, the others can carry on painting, get out when they can. The keys to my car are under the front left tire, and whoever’s not been nicked can drive round to meet the others at the north side. Where we cut that hole. Remember? Can we all find that hole? Alright?” Rebecca was ready to head down the hill.
“Wanna be my buddies?” Hershe asked Jude and me.
“Sure thing, sister.” No way I’d ever find that freaking hole.

My breath was a bit easier now and I could feel myself getting ready, consciousness shifting to the action at hand. The Americans had killed innocent womyn and children with those bombs two days ago. We were here to file an official protest in resistance, to cast our vote in the most direct way we knew how, or to count coup. I felt all three as possible motivations every time.

We slid down the last hill, creeping from shadow to shadow as the spray cans rattled in our coat pockets and we tried to keep them still. Stacks of bombs loomed higher and higher as we approached out of the gloomy mists. At last, we stood, staring up at them, great towering mountains of metal and megatonnage. Rebecca and Lorna nipped round the corner and disappeared. The three of us stood, silent and rooted to the ground, looking at the steel hills of offense they called defense, knowing the misery, poisoning, and poverty they cause.

“It’s like a fucking penile fortress!” Jude broke the spell, and then we were painting, fast and quietly, just the familiar sound of muffled rattling as we shook the cans, covering the cartoon-like green metal cylinders with red words and symbols. I sprayed “MURDERERS” and “TERRORISTS!” and “BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS!”, and moved on as the crimson paint slid down the rain-slick sides and dripped, lower and lower, covering the pyramid slopes. Painting and moving on quickly down the stacks, noticing as I went that the bombs were about the size of the kids they blow to pieces.

We’d graffitied both sides of six rows, and Hershe had run out of spray paint and begun to brush messages onto the asphalt runway opposite the bombs from a tin of orange paint she’d carried. I moved over Welford Action to join her, when suddenly, a harsh male voice split the night and our courage wide open.

“Hold it right there!” We froze where we stood.

“Put your hands up!”

In reflex, all together and wordlessly, we zipped round the corner of the nearest stack, hiding between the neatly filed piles of bomb hills. Moving slowly, the soldier tracked us by ear through the darkness, through those steep canyons of green metal dripping in wet red paint. We moved when he moved, listening on the other side of the wet, dripping row. I glimpsed him briefly, in the arc lights, rounding the corner, as we all turned together, one mechanism, eerily attached.

He was young, Black, American by his uniform, and he held a gun, a huge gun, raised in hunting position. What the hell are we doing?! I thought, the paint sticky on my hands, my ribs aching like a knife was planted there. We’ll never get out of here! I fought the rising panic. I heard dogs barking closer, more male voices approaching.
“Come out and put your hands up!” he commanded again.
And then Jude popped up and shouted near my ear where I squatted between her and Hershe—“Don’t shoot! We’re Greenham womyn!”

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