November for November's Sake

November was a lot colder when I was kid.

I grew up on the Canadian prairies and November was winter. Maybe that’s why I treated it mostly like a prelude to December, the month of my birthday and of course Christmas. November was a month you got through on the way to something better.

The thing I recall most clearly about November was our frequent Remembrance Day trips to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins. Remembrance Day wasn’t a statutory holiday but we’d get a day off from school and would make a long weekend trip to northern BC to spend time with my mom's sister. More cold, more snow.

In the early years of our marriage, as I began my homemaking vocation, November was part of the train ride into December and Christmas.

I started planning for Christmas in September; budgets, to-do lists, menu ideas, plans that I divided into a grid of four months, September, October, November, December. It was just Damien and I living in a little apartment. I can’t imagine now what required so much planning. But I was new to the job and also didn’t have many other creative outlets at the time, no knitting or soapmaking, no photography or writing. Christmas was the creativity.

In one of those early years of marriage, when I had the energy of Santa’s workshop, I sewed Damien a fleece vest, over the fall, as a Christmas gift. I remember choosing the pattern, buying the fabric from the best place in the city, making day trips down to my mom’s house so she could help me.

Damien maybe wore it once. It was one of my first big sewing projects and it looked like it. I haven’t attempted any sewing project like it since.

When we started to have children and my home-centered work expanded to eventually include the kids' education, I discovered new creative interests besides Christmas. And quite significantly, we moved to New England where fall was an actual season, not a three week window of yellowing leaves between summer and winter. I didn't spend my fall preparing for Christmas. I spent my fall living fall.

New England gifted me with the experience of September as late summer and harvest festivals, a time of transition. Followed by October’s brilliance in all her colors. November wrapped it up, subdued, stately, stark.

Each month of fall has its own activities and tasks, is embodied by a unique emotional, creative, and spiritual energy. It has its own “feel”.

On an afternoon in October, or the beginning of November – a fresh watery afternoon, when the turf and paths were rustling with moist, withered leaves, and the cold blue sky was half hidden by clouds – dark grey streamers, rapidly mounting from the west, and boding abundant rain – I requested my young lady to forego her ramble, because I was certain of showers.

I’ve been reading Wuthering Heights with Brienne this fall, it’s a perfect November story actually - grim, dark, brooding.

This short passage from the book is an apt description of early November. A month of watery, yellow light, moist, withering leaves on the path, dark grey streamers, boding abundant rain, certain of showers.

When the kids were younger I was bothered more by the darkening days of November. The rotation of the earth moving the northern hemisphere further from the sun, helped along by the end of Daylight Savings time, was an emotionally low time for me. A harbinger of the long winter ahead.

It’s different now. Maybe because the kids are older and the energy has shifted (there’s a lot of energy in a household of teenagers, regardless of season). Maybe because I take a handful of supplements everyday. Maybe because I’ve been using my Happy Light now for years and I don’t feel so light-deprived.

still harvesting kale from the garden

I love November now.

I adore October, but it carries for me a lot of memories of when the children were little and all the things we did during fall. I miss those times and I mourn the loss, even while living a beautiful, full-on parenting present (it’s an interesting tension living in the full active present, while remembering the past).

November has a different energy entirely. It never was about leaf jumping, apple picking, hay rides, and farm visits. All of which are no longer part of our lives. It was, and is, about winter coming.

In November you face the inescapable truth that this year's growing season is over; September teases, October dazzles, but November tells it like it is. And I appreciate the honesty. Something is coming to an end, and there is comfort to be found in acceptance.

In November, we know for certain that winter is coming, with her crystalline cold beauty and blankets of snow. She will force us to stop, to rest, to pause; and so we prepare, we get ready.

It’s a time to re-organize space and storage for winter gear. It’s a time for making herbal remedies, candles, and soap (all of which can be given as Christmas gifts but are in preparation for winter needs, more than Christmas needs).

After preparing for cold and flu in October, following my cold and flu protocol, this month I’ve been preparing muscle rubs and topical healing remedies. I’m planning a handcraft for this winter, deciding between something for the home, or something for my wardrobe. Maybe both? Whatever it is, it will be cozy.

As a family, we think about skiing plans, Damien researches on-a-tight budget options for pursuing snow sport this winter. We put away the summer hiking gear, bring out winter boots, ski mitts and toques. We make the appointment for our winter tires.

November is a creative month, a get ready month. The inclement weather, the dark nights, winter’s first icy breath, all of it turns us inward.

Those years we lived on the Gaspe peninsula, our three winters with the wood burning stove, encapsulated the heart of November’s energy. A gathering around the hearth.

We don’t have a hearth now in our Montreal apartment, but my days and long evenings are infused with the energy and activity of November.

A month I have grown to love and look forward to; for her own beauty, her own rhythm, her own sake.

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