I've lit a fire in the firepit, and fed it up to strong blaze. I crouch over the glowing screen of my phone, pick out a playlist, and hit shuffle. Then I pick up my hoop, and I dance.

I can hear the cars passing on the road not a hundred yards away, here in my back yard on the very edge of the city. But for now, this is a holy space, sacred to the moon and the fire and the dance.

I am not a dancer.

Strike that. I never used to be a dancer.

After I started fencing again, I might have said along with one of our other fencers, "I only dance with steel in my hand". But there's a long story about a girl: she gave me my hoop - 3/4" black plastic tubing, bent into a circle three feet across and wrapped in cloth tape - and taught me the rudiments of the dance. She gave me inspiration, and the gift of dance, and she broke my heart.

A Friday night in August, effectively the last night of the 43rd Pennsic War. A plan a year in the making has paid off: the Dancer and I are out running the circuit of the final-night parties. This is halfway through fourteen months of heartbreak, but for right now we're at Cloven Shield's bonfire with the drums and the dancers, and I get to watch her dance.

The hoop that the Dancer made for me has a couple ounces of water inside the tubing: this gives it an ever-shifting, dynamic momentum. At the height of the dance, the hoop is a partner, not a prop, with its own flow and movement answering to my hands and body. If it's quiet enough, I can hear the air whistling around the hoop and the water rushing inside it.

The fire is still burning in the shelter of the oak tree. The rain started a while ago, and I've been dancing in it, but I will finish the night here, sitting by the fire, letting my body rest and my mind clear and the rain wash clean my soul.