I love to write, the fear it puts in me, the danger of stirring up hidden things. Vulnerability has never come easy to me. Writing this does not come easy to me, but what I’ve learned about writing is that it begins when you write the thing in which you are most afraid to write.

I guess this is an ode to my mother, her mother and her mother’s mother. A pilgrimage into the essence of my femininity; an ode to the resistance and embracing of, a power that I have not known how to use until now. A power, which has sometimes manifested as armour instead of silk. Woven metal chinks that I wear on my skin as it thickens to exist within a world and a humanity that does not see the power in softness but hardens to protect itself instead.

A question arose in me, in which it usually does before I am about to dive deep into a thought. The question haunts me like a spirit unable to move on to the next realm until it is faced and given permission to leave. And so, this is my séance, to usher the ghosts of my past forward. To usher the women of my past forward. To break the spell, remove the curse. To allow those who came before me to rest in peace and to urge those who come after me to fight in peace.

The question being, what is vulnerability, and further, what is its relationship to the feminine. A perception that I do not want to change but more so reclaim. A question that I do not want to answer but more so define what it is not. Vulnerability is not weakness. The feminine is not fragile. Vulnerability and femininity are not binary terms associated with a fixed gender, that being female.

And now knowing what vulnerability is not, and allowing what it is to emerge outside the context of my own conditioning, I see its power. And more than that I feel its power, because it is the feeling that arises when you practice vulnerability that defines it, rather than the definitions associated with the word. And in reclaiming the word through feeling rather than knowledge I undergo a re-culturing, a re-imagining of my own feminine essence.

This is my commitment, my marriage, the romantic contract that I enter with myself - to stay strong in my softness and soft in my strength. To be the flame that dances but does not burn. To be the steel flower, which continues to grow, relentlessly, in the face of the most barren landscape. And to create an environment around me that is conducive to the growth of all others that inhabit this sometimes-impossible garden.

Words Shannon May Powell