Welcome to the Autumn Equinox. The time of year when the length of the day is equal to the length of the night. In the Northern Hemisphere, the full moon closest to the Equinox is often called the Harvest Moon.
The Harvest Moon appears larger, brighter and often imbued with a spectacular orange hue. This is because the moon rises shortly after sunset, and is therefore closer to the horizon causing an optical illusion that makes it appear larger. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, it is called the Harvest Moon because it extends the light of day into the evening and was traditionally bright enough to aid in the summer-grown harvest.
While we focus on the bounty of the harvest, preparing for feasts of pies, turkey, stuffing and such, we may be forgetting the lesson plants and trees are teaching us about releasing and letting go. They’ve released their fruit, berries and vegetables to us all Summer long, reminding us that we too will have to let go what is most precious to us.
And why shouldn’t we gloss over that lesson and reach for another piece of pumkin pie?
Releasing people, cherished ideas, dreams of the future, and our stuff – all brings with it some sense of loss and grief which is hard. But whatever we must release, it all results in one thing: a reckoning with our sense of who we are.
This past year, Molly and I have undertaken wave upon wave of releasing. Releasing our identity as home-owners, for example, as we put our house on the market and sold it to strangers. Releasing our dream of living elsewhere than our small northern community. And consolidating our two-story house (plus basement) into a small one-bedroom apartment has meant cycles of donating, trashing and selling.
Some possessions were easy to release into the wild. Off they go, to bring joy or be of use to someone else.
Other possessions were more challenging to release.
Those I found the most challenging were not the largest or the most expensive. They were those that remind me who I am.
Once upon a time, I danced flamenco. Weekly, I would put on my black and purple ruffled skirt and black shawl, strap on my shoes and stomp until I felt myself come back to life.
Flamenco demands passion. A flamenco dancer is not judged by how well she photographs, her weight, or her height. She is judged by the intensity of the passion she expresses during the dance. It is also not a solo dance: others dancers, musicians and spectators all participate in each number, spurring each other to empty themselves of all the emotion in their beings. It can look strange and feral in our controlled and moderated culture.
I gathered with a small group of women in a run-down room with full length mirrors and we learned and practised under the loving guidance of our teacher. Together, we had permission to conjure our wild selves to life.
What do you call a group of feral female dancers? A pack? A troupe? A coven?
I stopped dancing flamenco when I moved back to this small northern town where there are no flamenco dance teachers. Or covens.
But I kept my shoes. And my skirt. And my shawl.
I kept them packed away safely, lovingly. I clung to the notion that a flamenco teacher would move to our town and I would pull them out again and dance myself back to life.
It’s been over ten years now. There are still no flamenco teachers in my small northern town. And I don’t have room to store the past anymore. And besides, the fabric is fading, the black turning into a mottled grey, the purple losing its depth.
And I myself am fading into an ageing body, a plumper waistline and feet that groan at being squeezed into any type of shoe.
Clearly, it is time to let go.
But in the dark of early morning, feeling the collar of routine tighten around my neck, donning the uniform of my office job, I could not feel more distant from the flamenca who buckled her shoes and stomped away the darkness.
Only the ruffled skirt, shawl and shoes provide evidence that I once did.
And if I let go of these mementos, what will remind me of who I am? If I give away this skirt, what proof will I have that I once danced away the darkness?
Why do I need proof? I wonder. Who is it that I need to convince?
The world tells us who we are – which seems to be all that matters to it. And without visual proof of our identity, we forget who we really are. So we selfie, and we record. Our sense of ourselves becomes dependent on our relationship to things and validated only by the gaze of others. If it was not captured or documented, did it happen?
It’s only me that needs proof. Because with each passing day, I feel myself forget who I am beyond my job title, my instagram bio, my pronouns, my mixed settler heritage – all of which say so little about who I am and what ignites me.
I cling to my dancing shoes to prove to myself that it did happen. That I am a dancer. A flamenca.
And with each passing day, I believe a little bit more who I am told I am.
And forget a little bit more who I know I am.
No wonder it is so hard to let go of things.
But I can’t keep it all. And the fabric is old now. And it no longer fits me. And I have no women to flamenco dance with. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That I didn’t light myself on fire with the passion of the art form. That I didn’t learn not to judge myself and other women by their weight, and their size and their height, but rather celebrated the fire within them that lit up the room when they danced. And that I did too.
I carefully fold the skirt and place it lovingly into the donation box.
…I keep the shoes though.
Who are you beyond what the world tells you?
Do you need proof?
For more reflections and journal prompts, check out my latest book.