This is a real “Rose of Sharon,” as referenced in the bible in the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs as we know it in Hebrew – “I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley.” The real rose is, as seen, I kind of lily. This year I saw them for the first time, or at least was introduced to them, and acknowledged them as the real deal. They bloom in the autumn on the sea coast, springing forth from the sandy rocks. So beautiful a fragrance, such delicate thin white petals, spread out along the cliffs they blow gently in the breeze, dancing.
My name in Hebrew is Sharon – it’s what everyone calls me in Israel. Irène is reserved for my English and French language identity. It took me a long time to like my name. Irène Sharon – “peace” (from the Greek goddess of peace, Eirene, protector of Plenty, and revered by Athenians), and the forested plain region of Israel – often identified with this lily. Now that I know that this unique flower blooms only in the fall, only here, and that I learned these things at a time when I was in such crisis, so tested, means all the more to me. I love my name. I want to work harder. I want to be worthy of such a powerful, important, and beautiful name.
A test of survival – this last month was the most difficult one I have known in years. It rivals studying for 5 AP exams while acting in a play while applying for college. It rivals writing half a dozen final papers in two weeks. It rivals the last week of sleepless nights finishing an honors thesis. Yes, all academic references – but these were some of my roughest periods. The task I was given did not require months and years of research in libraries. It was kind of an opposite task – not cerebral – but practical. A job job. Logistics – coordinating the actions of 50+ people, scheduling 200+ wine tastings within a 2-week period, training 100+ people within a week, monitoring and assessing the success of these events, and troubleshooting at a moment’s notice – it was a kind of mad dance – the highest usage of email, telephone calls, text messages, and meetings – long drives, rushed taxi hops, running to train stations, and constantly being called, always fixing problems. It might seem like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. 10-16 hour days for a month, playing Sudoku with the largest spreadsheet I’ve known (as my bosses refer to it), moving people around like chess pieces, around the country, from day to day, hour to hour. All this to sell wine, aggressively, on a large scale, during the holiday rush. Now that I think about it, it really was like chess – strategic moves in a sales war. It’s no wonder my bosses refer to this mad task as “hunkering down in the bunker.”
And I survived. And I’m so happy. And I love my job. And I’m a sappy sappy sod, but I don’t care. It feels good to work hard. It feels good to have finished an arduous task. How did I survive? Sadly, or not so much, with a lot of single malt, chocolate, club soda (I love club soda), coffee and early morning news (BBC or France 24 at 6 am – not kidding) to feel connected to the world like a real grown up with a routine, and KAYAKING. I kept at it. Yes I did. 6:30 am once or twice per week, dragging myself to the beach for the greatest physically exhausting high – paddling kilometers during lessons with a professional, learning the techniques of the craft, to master control of the vessel. Me versus the sea and wind.
And it was my kayak instructor, a typical gruff wiry leathery sort of sportsman, who pointed out the lilies, the delicate חבצלת חשרון, and bent one down from a high cliff for me to smell. It a special sort of thing – that this flower blooms at the end of the Jewish new year. Well, it actually crosses over – end of the year is also the beginning of the next. It ushers out the old and brings in the new. Kind of like my life. A very new and different phase. It’s much more like physical labor than mental labor. Maybe it’s good for me. For now. It may make reading books and relaxing with friends more – more – fun? Thinking for pleasure?
What is certain is that wine goes with food, and food will never leave my life.
Shana tova. שנה טובה ומתוקה. A sweet and good new year to you all.