Photo courtesy of Kismet Conrad
Let’s go back in time to the Summer of 2008…
At the time, I was initiating into two CAYA traditions: The Wildflowers and what was known at the time as The Amazon Priestess Tribe (who are now The Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe). I had just gotten married, was pregnant for the first time, and had a bone-deep sense of new growth and adventure. It was an exciting and heady time in my life, with so many new beginnings.
The Amazons and I went on a weekend retreat together to Gathering the Goddesses, an event organized by Zsuzsanna “Z” Budapest, in the lush redwood forests of Santa Cruz, CA. I haven’t been back since that summer, although she holds this every year, and today, when I Google it, I see it’s now called Goddess Festival or International Goddess Conference. Picture hundreds of women, most of them seniors, camping together in the woods, learning all about Goddess stuff: herbalism, shamanic journeying, sacred crafting, drumming, etc. It was a lot of fun.
One night, all the women at the camp got together in a big amphitheater for a large-scale ritual, complete with bonfire at the center. There was a lot of singing, dancing, merriment and on-the-spot collaborative magic making. The Amazons have a custom of dancing naked in sacred space to celebrate our bodies as living temples of love, so we did this around the fire, which felt truly awesome there under the moon in the forest. It’s not an orgiastic thing, mind you, but rather an empowering act. When you are dancing skyclad in a circle of women, it’s easy to see that we are all just regular people. We all have cellulite and weird drooping parts and scars and… all sorts of wonderful human flaws. It’s liberating and refreshing, and it emboldens one to stand a little prouder afterwards. It also breaks down barriers of body embarrassment with one’s sisters. Seriously, after you’ve danced and shaken a tambourine with your friends in your birthday suit and jewelry, you don’t worry about changing your clothes in front of them later on.
That’s exactly what I was doing – changing my clothes, that is – after the ritual, when there was a knock at my cabin door. It’s important that you understand the context of where I was at the time, so now you can understand why I casually opened the door with my shirt off. There were only women around, and they were all close friends that would not think twice about my state of undress. I just want to be clear that I do not normally answer the door topless, but this was a special circumstance.
My friends Kismet and Raven stood outside my door, trembling fearfully while giggling, exchanging glances with each other, and clutching a broom. It took a few minutes to get clear on why they were looking for me, because they kept laughing. They conveyed that there may or may not be a raccoon in Kismet’s cabin, and they were afraid to go find out. The broom was for… shooing the raccoon, I supposed, or perhaps self-defense? I caught that there had for sure been a raccoon in the cabin, though they were not certain if one was there as we stood in the doorway, and they were asking if I would go assess the situation.
As I stood there, topless, I contemplated the potential danger. A raccoon could be rabid. Back in Bio Psych class in college, the professor told us of a student who had encountered a raccoon while sitting next to a creek on campus. The raccoon had approached the student in what seemed like a friendly way, so she petted it. It actually let her pet it for a few minutes, but then bit her. She had to go to the ER, and the lesson for us was, “Anytime you meet a wild animal that is not properly afraid of you, be suspicious of rabies.” On the other hand, it was not the first time I’d encountered a raccoon in a cabin while camping. Once, back at another camp, I’d awoken in the night to discover a raccoon climbing into the window directly above my face while I’d been sleeping. Without thinking, I’d punched the wall between my pillow and the window sill, scaring the creature away, then had gone back to sleep without further incident.
So, I reasoned on the spot: There could be a raccoon in Kismet’s cabin. If so, it is probably a normal raccoon looking for snacks, and a little show of bravado and noise will probably scare it away, especially if I leave an easy escape route to the door. However, it could be a rabid raccoon. I don’t know if any of these other ladies will know how to spot a rabid raccoon, so I’d better do it. If the raccoon is dangerous, we’ll need to escalate the situation, probably by calling the park ranger over. That means… I’d better put my shirt on first.
My reply was, “OK, I’ll go take care of it. Let me put my shirt on though.”
I went back into my cabin, finished changing, then took the broom and went to check out the other cabin. I had no idea why Kismet and Raven were laughing. I figured it was because the pregnant lady was stalking the raccoon, or just the general oddity and nervousness of the moment. There was no raccoon in the cabin. When I came out to report that the cabin was free of wildlife, a small crowd had gathered, and everyone was laughing.
Apparently, everyone felt it was funny that I wanted to put my shirt on before fighting the raccoon. They wondered why I felt stronger and braver with my shirt on. Was it “nipple armor?” Lots of jokes ensued. I’ve been teased for years now about this, in a good natured way.
Want to read Kismet’s version of this story? Her perspective is pretty damn hilarious. You can check it out here.
Thanks for reading! If you were there and want to add your perspective, go ahead and leave it in the comments below.