Hey, all- I know this isn’t Farmlet-specific AT ALL, but I was away at Lesbian Writers Camp this past week, and I wrote this little thing, which I’m going to share here.
Some context: for the last 20 years, I’ve worked the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. The other day, I added up the time I’ve actually spent living in the forest, in a tent: 78 weeks. A year and a half of my life, if you paste it all together. So I’ve spent a ton of time thinking about, hauling around, and sometimes complaining about my little home in the woods. Writers camp, by comparison, has bunks in cabins- you just unroll a sleeping bag, and you’re all moved in. SUPER weird.
A meditation on beds, from the Anonymous cabin
21 years ago this summer, I went to michfest for the first time. A dear friend had a lifetime pass, and gave it to a different low income woman from my town every year- so I bought a pair of cargo shorts and hiking boots (because I was going camping), piled into a Honda civic with 3 other dykes and proceeded to get SUPER lost on the back roads of rural Michigan. We rolled in the gates at 2 minutes to midnight, piled all our crap into a giant heap in the dark in the twilight zone, and fell asleep in the tangle of nylon and tent stakes that we later labeled ‘camp clusterfuck’ on a bit of discarded cardboard. For 4 days, a sleeping bag on the leaf litter seemed a fine bed, and anyway- I wasn’t in it very long.
The following year- I was still unable to afford a ticket, but wanted desperately to go back. So I applied as a worker and was told I’d spend 3 weeks slinging tofu and nutritional yeast in a big striped tent. With that length of time, I was certain that I was going to need a better bed, and you know how helpful lesbians are: a friend lent me a thermorest. It was just as good as a mattress, she said, really comfortable, and so easy! It would be WAY more comfortable than sleeping directly on the ground. Now, it was only 2/3 as long and EXACTLY as wide as my body, which didn’t argue for the height of comfort, but I was game, and anyway, it fit in my bag on the greyhound bus. I still have vivid memories of the whiny lover I also tried out that year, and the terrible bruise she acquired on her left knee from a tree root. Your bed, she said, is bullshit.
So the next year, I took another step up in bedding technology; an air mattress. It was cheap, easy to pack, it fit in my suitcase, but damn- that thing sucked up cold from the forest floor like that was its job. I spend the whole summer trying new and creative ways to keep warm- multiple layers, extra blankets, hanging out by the fire until my clothes were warm, sleeping in a hat, sweaty lovers, but none of it worked. I was cold the entire time.
After that debacle, I knew I needed a new approach. ANOTHER helpful lesbian told me about this genius invention- the thermal blanket. It was like aluminum foil folded up super tiny into a little packet, you unfolded it and put it between the air mattress (the giant heat sucker of doom), and your sheets, and it would radiate your warmth upwards. This was a great idea- and it actually worked, except that if you moved in your bed AT ALL it sounded exactly like rustling a giant bag of potato chips. I was left exhausted, awake, and HUNGRY in the middle of the night- but at least I wasn’t cold.
By this point, I’d finally been volunteering long enough that I was eligible for worker storage- and could buy a sheet of plywood and a foam mattress, creating a remarkably cushy bed raised on 4 milk crates. It was the very height of luxury. That year, I was warm, I was comfortable, and my bed wasn’t giving me the midnight munchies- but I did manage to tip myself AND a lover out of the rickety contraption in the middle of the night: apparently there were too many moving parts, both women and infrastructure.
But for the last 10 years, my bed was perfect. SURE, I had to haul the damn thing out into the woods and set it up- a sweaty, time-consuming, mosquito-infested process. One year I drove a splinter into my hand so deep that it had to be cut out and bandaged. But the whole thing was sturdy, crates and ply carefully zip-tied together, wrapped in warm Canadian fleece sheets, and in the middle of the afternoon, with dappled, tree-scented sunlight warming it and sound check coming through the woods, it was the very best place in the world.