November 22, 2021
With American Thanksgiving and our family's own birthday and holiday celebrations starting later this week I better get these thoughts published before my seasonal musings turn Advent, Solstice, Yule and Christmas focused.
November 1st fell on a Monday. And the seasonal change of that day was palpable. A new week and a new month, the preceding weekend’s rain and wind had worked hard to mute October’s brillance. They did a good job at their task. Well done sister Wind, kudos brother Rain.
Like the finitude of life itself, what makes October’s beauty so memorable and exquisite is that it ends.
My daily life is set up around work, education, and homemaking, with ample margins cushioning my days. I wasn’t anticipating anything different for November 1st.
And yet there it was, shimmering in the crisp morning air, an undercurrent of Samhain energy, a buzz of possibility, an invitation into a new space. Let’s just call it what it is: magic. Without artifice or effort, it just showed up. And what looked like a normal Monday morning on my schedule felt like crossing a threshold into a new season.
The only thought I’d given in advance to November 1st was the mental note to pay the rent. Halloween was the night before, but I’m not big into Halloween. I expended the necessary energy when raising kids - the homemade costumes and all the rest - but I’m relieved it’s over and I can distance myself from the maw of consumerism that tarnishes the whole affair. (Though I am delighted with my young adults’ halloween shenanigans, all the more because I don’t have to orchestrate them!)
All that to say, Halloween doesn’t factor much into my life except for the late October impulse to add candy to our cupboards. So I wasn’t preparing to feel different on November 1st.
Or maybe I was.
Over the Halloween weekend as I cleaned up the garden, planted garlic, baked pumpkin rolls, cooked a hearty vegetable soup, and had an unexpected visit with an old friend, maybe I was unconsciously shifting into a new season, ushering in a new energy.
The midpoint between the fall equinox and winter solstice, the ending of October and beginning of November is a time loaded with significance in a lot of cultures, present and historical.
Tuning into this, learning more about it, is an interest of mine as my Celtic, Scandinavian and Germanic ancestors no doubt celebrated harvest and feasts during this time.
I have a longing for ancient and earth-connected ritual in my life. The longing has been there for many years but it’s become more noticeable as I’ve distanced myself from institutionalized Christianity and many of its attendant ceremonies.
Some people are really into tradition, rituals, ceremonies. Me, not so much. I don’t appreciate the tendency to romanticize the past - the good ol’ days - that is perpetuated with strong adherence to tradition (religious, cultural, or otherwise).
I’m also not a big fan of hierarchy and “special status” conferred on some and not others. It feels to me that a lot of ceremony from a myriad of cultural and religious contexts perpetuate both a hierarchical understanding of relationships with each other and nature while attempting to delineate who’s in, who’s out; who belongs and who doesn’t; who can and can’t participate. I’ve rebelled against those distinctions for most of my adult life and chucked a lot of that out the window for good when I deconstructed my faith.
Additionally, my whole adult life I have resisted the gender norm expectations of my familial traditions where women have been responsible for cooking, planning, maintaining and keeping ceremony alive. I’ve internally struggled with the inherent sexism, while simultaneously taking on those roles to preserve certain traditions to help our family stay rooted to each other and the past.
In my own cultural and personal context, the burden on women in this area is heavy and that feels like baggage to me.
My husband is unsentimental about ceremony and ritual, he’s forward-thinking and future-orientated. He has low motivation for and little expectation around “traditional” traditions. He’s a strong advocate for new patterns, new solutions, new “technologies” (in the expansive sense of that word).
Sometimes the mental negotiation and emotional labour of juggling all this has been exhausting.
So no, I’m not a banner carrier for “do all the days” and “cook all the special meals” and “observe all the things” because that’s a lot of work I don’t want to do.
In light of all that, here’s what I loved about Monday, November 1st.
It arrived without any emotional or mental labour.
The seasonal activities of the preceeding weekend were life-giving and joyful. The gardening and kitchen tasks, these are well-worn grooves in my life and because school and work largely define my weekdays, these homemaking tasks felt like leisure. I was not obligated to do them. I chose them.
And something in the doing, the making, the marking, accompanied by the obliging weather, shifted the season for me from fall to late fall, not just on the calendar but in my body, in my senses, in my knowing.
As a thinker raised in a Cartesian-influenced, head-centric culture I long for a knowing in my blood and bones. As a grand-daughter of immigrants and a migrant and mover across diverse North American regions, I long for an ancestral knowledge of place and practice. I seek a knowing stronger than reason, stronger than intellectual assent.
Thankfully, the viscera of being a woman and mother has helped me find this over the years - the shedding of monthly blood, the growing of new life in my womb, the making of milk, the suckling of children - all of it, a portal, an invitation to embodied knowing. All of it contributing to the inextricable and ineffable tie to my children that teaches me about sacrifice, love, belonging, and release.
The celestial seasons, by which I just mean the influence of the sun and moon on our planet, also carry with them deep, ancient knowing. How could it not? As does the Earth - land, water, plants, animals. This is the knowing I wish to access. The reality I want to live.
So when I feel a change like I did on November 1st, a seasonal shift experienced in my body and not just as an X’ed off square on the calendar, I am so grateful. Grateful to be alive; to feel connected to the past and present, to Land and Nature, to Divine, to self; part of the whole.
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