By Shep Glennon
September, you need a makeover. You need a name change, first of all. Your name literally means 7, yet when we write the date on government documents, we have to mislabel you as month number 9. All because some Christians thought it would be cute to make the coldest, bleakest time of year – January – be the New Year, instead of gorgeous spring. Celebrating New Years in Spring is more like a pagan practice, and a nearly universal one at that, and it also makes sense because everything is new again.
September, we’re just going to have to de-number you, that’s all. No more nines, not even sevens. We’re going to start off this makeover by untying you from Christian mishandling and the boring blandness of reducing your complex beauty and wholeness to a number, as if you were some warden’s prisoner, or some bureaucrat’s statistic.
And I mean, look at you now, September. Aside from an amazing Earth, Wind and Fire Song that even a Gap advertisement couldn’t destroy, we humans let your name become meaningless, devoid of connection. Your name is the vulgar absurdity of being somehow seven and nine, like naming our first daughter “One and Only” before proceeding to procreate siblings for her like a factory assembly line. Come, let’s get your name a makeover…Google! Wiki me September!
“September was called “harvest month” in Charlemagne‘s calendar
September is called Herbstmonat, harvest month, in Switzerland. The Anglo-Saxons called the month Gerstmonath, barley month, that crop being then usually harvested, and for the Native Americans, it was full corn moon month.
Both Native North Americans and indigenous Europeans referred to the moon this month as Harvest Moon. Likewise, for the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is a harvest festival also celebrated in Vietnam, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.”
Below the equator, even though it is the equivalent of March, it’s also harvest season. Grains are ready to be harvested and eaten; September is thus the “grains of sorghum,” titled Hlakubelé (Sotho). In another South African language (Xhosa), it is called “month of first fruits” (EyoKwindla).
Anything that has the word “herbs” in it is naturally attractive to me, so I put “Herbst” in Google translate, and it’s actually synonymous for “autumn” in German, and synonyms for “Herbst” include Spätjahr, Rückgang, Sturz, Baisse, Absturz. I like those, especially Ruckgang (to recede) and Sturz (to fall). But what does “herbst” (pronounced like Pabst but with a silent P) mean exactly? Well, herb in German means: tart, dry, bitter, harsh, austere, severe,
Dour… cruel… and rude.
So, it might be rude to some to interrupt summer and vacation, but I personally find February and March to be more so in its bitter coldness, so I am going to go with “tart” as a synonym for September. Tart in German is sauer (pronounced zow-wah), from which we get sauerkraut. Why choose tart? Because it’s good, despite being a bit sour or angry around the edges, maybe like an uncle we know?
The air itself smells tart. Breathe it in and reflect on what it means for you. The tart, sour apples are falling from the trees; it’s now apple season. Walnuts fall to the ground and rot along with the leaves. We are the harvest, we’ve got to reap and pluck things in our lives before they rot on the vine. We’ve got to live our best life before we stagnate.
But because we’re so good at waiting to the last minute, we might mess up and miss it. Not to worry. We’re going to take that mess and let it rot and ferment a bit, because that’s how you make sauerkraut, that’s how you make apple cider. Things will die, that’s a fact. Yet it is the dead that also ferments, being rotted and crushed and having a kick to it, which when imbibed are known as “spirits.” Alcohol. Our cheeks might get lifted up, our mood may elevate. Easter, with its rotten grapes-turned-wine, maybe should be held in fall? But with chalices full of hard apple cider of a Dionysian Jesus,
a Jesus with surrounded by our uncle’s shady biker friends,
Enlivening on any occasion, yet rough-around-the-edges
You give a hard edge to things, reminding us none of us are perfect. We humans poke each other in the eye all the time, mostly without meaning to, but just out of the sheer fact of being different, and coming at things from different angles. That’s good for our growth. Like apple cider vinegar, it’s helpful. But if you don’t cut it with water, it burns. So we learn to balance time with edgy friends and relatives whose wisdom sometimes comes in moments of discomfort or in waves of discontent, with the comfort of friendships where good vibes come easy. We’ll water down our days of sour with the sweetness of pleasure, and carefree joy, too.
So while everything is dying all around us, thanks to you September – sorry, Sauer – and thanks to our hot mess-ness, we are reminded to engage in self-care.
We are reminded that: Anything good will not come easy. We cannot force anything, we can only cultivate the seeds which the Most High has planted. And thank you so much for planting these seeds. Thank you Sauer, for making space for us to cultivate these relationships, and to enjoy their fruits. Sometimes we get lucky, and find relationships where we don’t have to try so hard, where things just happen naturally. May we reap our carefully cultivated relationships. Hopefully what we sow into them, the hopes and our good intentions to bring joy and prosperity into this world, get to see the light of day.
May that be our harvest.
The Center for Earth Ethics welcomes Shep Glennon, as our new Field Ed student for 2018-2019.