I slip into a sweater and sandals, my breath shallow in the darkness. The kittens are awake, their clamoring paws racing through the dark hallway. I have time, before the alarms, before the grumbles of teenagers and the making of lunches, to disappear. To follow the shadows.
I move through the pre-dawn hours from a window in the back of the house to a door in the front. I turn the bolt silently, months of learning it's click and shift brought to this moment. Stepping into the October chill, I close the door slowly behind me, glide down the front stairs, and exhale into the darkness.
October's full moon is the Hunter's Moon. It's light shines deep into the evening, allowing farmers to bring in their harvest after the heat of the sun falls beneath the horizon. It is the also the time when animals rut, when the deer are fat and the fowl are moving, when preparing for the long and cold winters means hunting for family meals.
I grew up in the north woods, nestled among the jack pines and blueberry bushes. October meant grass crunching with frost on my way to the bus before dawn, and barely an hour of sunlight when I returned home from school. October meant my step-father drove home from the night shift only to walk behind our house and hunt, goose and duck and deer. October meant weekends spent with his mother, the men hunting and the women quilting and the children screaming to be let outside, allowed only in the brightest of orange.
And October meant hunting shacks. It meant that nothing seemed strange to see men coming and going from deer stands and duck blinds all weekend. It meant that it was easier for my step-father to take me "hunting" with him.
But the only thing hunted was me.
For years, the guise of bringing home meat for winter was used to bring me into the woods, once my safest place but far too long the land of nightmares. My step-father, in his friendships and business deals and through working the night shift, had a vast network which he used on me. For me. Betraying me. I was his product, his precious commodity, and the mystery of hunting shacks and deer stands and duck blinds became a maze of flesh and bone and the grinding sound that no body should make.
The full eclipse is starting to slip, the blood red a drying umber, the silver light hiding on the edges. I walk between the houses, barely five feet apart, the neighbor's lights already on behind their tall curtains. My phone cannot capture Her splendor, the blur of my shivering self in the damp chill causing a lost image, unidentifiable, a smear across the screen.
I do not want to go inside. I do not want the alarm to sound, to make the lunches and wake the teenagers and play with kittens who are boundless in their curiosity. I do not want to turn my back on the moon, my forever protector, the Huntress, the constant guiding light.
5:58am. The grass isn't crunchy, but wet against my toes. I turn the knob, open the door, and tip-toe back inside. My kitten chirps a greeting, her white fur florescent in the dark house. I slip off my shoes and carry them to the bedroom. The alarm begins to chime.
For years I refused to wear orange, refused to go out in the woods in October, the most painful of months. The memories are not isolated to one time, one place, one month. They are scattered as Autumn leaves across years of sadness, of hunting, of being the prey. Running nearly naked through the woods, bedclothes torn and stained a drying umber. Shivering in the hollow of a tree downed a previous summer, the bark dried and peeling. The whistle, the call, the cursing of a man who has not gotten what he paid for. And my pale skin, a luminary in the twilight, a beacon.
I was always terrible at hide-and-seek.
A silver candle, a wand of selenite, the scent of palo santo: tools of a woman writing through the mystery of the Hunter's Moon. The Blood Moon. The Sanguine Moon. The first full moon after the harvest. The deepening. October the wild daughter, the sacred whore, the child of flesh and magick and something dark, something beyond language. Pushing through the pine branches, pushing through the yellow and the red and orange leaves, pushing past deer stands and duck blinds.
Tools of a woman writing through the memory. Tools of a woman writing on the edge of a chasm she cannot see across. Her unknowing is her saving grace, the mystery of what lives behind and beyond the lies of hunting trips and fingers of strangers across her flesh.
As a child, I was the deer, the goose, the mallard being hunted.
As a woman, I am the wolf, the fighter, the Huntress herself.
I am the moon, and the moon is me.