September Serenade

September 8, 2021

by Hagar Harpak

Beach day at the end of Summer

Happy (or interesting, or deep, or loving, or gentle, or lit up, or peaceful, or fierce, or enlivening, or grounded, or spacious, or evolutionary, or whatever you are calling into your life right now) September! 

Can you believe it’s September already?! How?

I have always had a complicated relationship with this month. As a kid, school started on September 1st. I was building up sadness through all of August in preparation for this horrible day that marked the end of freedom and the beginning of a tightening feeling around my neck.

Mind you, I went to a super artsy, open, liberal school that didn’t have tests until 10th grade, and taught students to develop in the direction of their interest, talents, and passions. Still, I felt suffocated. 

And I love to study! Just let me live under a pile of books! And still, when it was imposed from the outside, it was as if my life wasn’t mine.

Growing up in Israel, the Jewish High Holidays always carried a melancholic feeling for me. The energy was too holy, too heavy, too serious. And while Rosh Hasanah marks a new beginning, it is also associated with Fall, with darkening days, with longer nights, with cooling weather. It initiates our journey into the underworld. It’s the beginning of the end. 

I felt like Persephone, abducted by Hades and taken to the world of the dead beneath the earth. I was also Demeter, looking for her beloved maiden daughter – the joy, the meaning, the light of her life – desperate, and angry, and grieving, ready to cast a spell of loss on all the land. 

The mention of Fall made me feel like a leaf about to fall off a tree, knowing that no matter how strongly I hold on, the winds will come and take me. I wanted Summer to go on forever! I wanted sand between my toes, and salty hair, a face full of freckles, and waves crashing into my handstand (my dad would take my sister and I to the beach, and knew I was safe in the water as long as he kept seeing legs up in the air). I craved late sunsets, play time, and making art drenched in sunshine. 

At least the holidays gave us a few days off, and allowed for more family time. And that was always a gift. 

Yom Kippur brought with it 24 hours of streets without cars, taken over by kids on bicycles. It wasn’t associated with going to temple, asking for atonement, or fasting for me. Oh hell no! My dad would take me on long bike rides, or journeys around Jerusalem on my roller skates. Coming back down the street, we would smell the amazing meal my mom was cooking. We definitely were not fasting on Yom Kippur. We were feasting.

The air of September is filled with a return to structure, while nature moves toward chaos, with getting clear, as the winds come and sweep away the dried up parts, with organizing, before nights grow darker and navigation through the world gets harder. 

Once Autumn Equinox passes, I find my groove. Back when I was a kid I didn’t know I was in rhythm with nature. 

It took adulthood for me to fall in love with Fall. It took a softening to allow for less sunshine to be comforting. It takes daily visits with my shadows to become more accepting of myself as a whole, and to be able to call myself a home. 

It took some investigation for me to consider that Persephone was scared, but also excited. Perhaps she wasn’t abducted. Maybe she was ready to individuate, to carve her own path, to become her own woman. Maybe she was thrilled to ride toward the sexy, dark world down under, with this hot as hell rock & roll dude. She was ready to leave mama’s nest and make a home for herself – a place and a self to call her own. 

It is right there, in the land of death and decay, that the maiden of Spring not only makes a home, but she becomes a QUEEN.

Old selves must decompose in order for new paths, new experiences, and new possibilities to emerge. A trip to the underworld is key to every living thing’s growth. 

It takes time to become Hekate, the wise old woman, who can travel between worlds, who is the bridge between the old and the new, the dark and the light, the mother and the maiden. With her support, Persephone embodies her own independence and interconnectedness. She maintains her queendom of the underworld, and rises as the green goddess of Spring when the time is right. She reunites with her beloved mama and showers the earth with her freshness, but she must return to the underworld to reclaim her autonomy. Every. Single. Year. 

We come home to ourselves when we are willing to hold the whole of ourselves within that home. It is when we continuously invite all of our parts – shadows and demons and ghosts included – to gather around the hearth fire, to be nourished and warm, and cared for, that we become the queen (or king) within our own skin, within who we are, within our evolution. 

On the full moon that follows the new moon of Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot rolls in. With it comes harvest, the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one. The tradition is to make a home outdoors for the week, building a temporary structure into which one invites guests and showers them with hospitality. 

My secular family didn’t build a sukkah outside, but my mom would help my sister and I create these magical structures in our room, and we would spend hours crafting and decorating them. Then for an entire week we would invite each other, and each other’s dolls and stuffed animals, for meals and tea in our little temporary homes. 

We are temporary, short lived, tiny little structures, making a home on a spinning planet of molten core and breath and soil and waves of flowing water. We spin around a burning, fierce, and golden star that gives us warmth and light and conditions to grow, along with other bodies in the space around us, somehow finding our place within a spiral galaxy – an ocean of milky stardust – within a universe that came from the infinity of smallness, and is stretching endlessly into immeasurable vastness. 

I mean… what the fuck, right?! 

This life is too precious not to take it to heart, 

not to bring the whole of ourselves to the hearth 

not to make a home for who we are. 

It’s too magnificent not to be in awe of it,

not to marvel at its wonders, 

not to taste as much of it as we can

It’s too important not to take it seriously, 

not to be furious and worried and depressed sometimes,

not to love deeply and grieve like we mean it, 

not to be touched and impacted by the beasts, 

not to be blown away by the beauty. 

It’s too gorgeous not to rise with Persephone and bring back the Spring when time is right.

But we must first journey to the underworld, 

partially horrified, 

Somewhat intrigued,

Kinda turned on

Deeply invested in the journey of life as a whole

Of self as a home

A well rounded, season cyclist, 

Maiden. Mother. Crone. 

So eat an apple with honey, open up a pomegranate and scatter its seeds, dance alone in the dark, have a nourishing September, my dear! L’shana Tova! 

May 23, 2024

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