“But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods… for their glory terrestrial had departed and their glory celestial of spirit and purity and whiteness had not yet come upon them.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars
“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape–the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” Andrew Wyeth
“In November, the earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures. The bed is white and silent, and much life can hide between its blankets. In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still.” Cynthia Rylant, In November
November is the eleventh and penultimate month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars, and one of four months with thirty days. The name ‘November’ is believed to derive from novem, the Latin word for ‘nine.’ In the ancient Roman calendar November was the ninth month after March. Its birthstones are the topaz, especially yellow, which symbolizes friendship, and the citrine, often called the success stone because of its bright energies of good fortune, luck, and generosity. November’s birth flower is the chrysanthemum, also known as the ‘mum,’ which is one of the prettiest varieties of perennials that start blooming early in the autumn.
As November approaches, many of us experience a feeling of melancholy with the passage of autumn and the arrival of winter. When preparing to pen this newsletter, I was heartened to come across quotations that cast this month in a more favourable light. Who among us has not marvelled at the novelty of the first snowfall when a blanket of white ensconces everything in sight, making our surroundings pristine with sublime wintry images. The Houghton Mifflin Canadian Dictionary of the English Language defines ‘novelty’ as “The quality of being novel; newness, originality. A new or unusual thing; an innovation.” When I choose to view November from this perspective, I begin to appreciate the peace, contentment, dormancy, and silence–the stillness that is the essence of the soul.
During no other season do I value our current creature comforts more than in winter. Years ago when I began to write my Understanding Ursulatrilogy, I was able to identify with some of the hardships experienced by our pioneers. I certainly do not claim to have lived in a soddie, but I was born and subsequently spent almost my first six years in “The old farmhouse … It had embodied the hopes, dreams, and realities of their life in the small farming community in Saskatchewan.” Even when my family moved to Manitoba, although we had electricity rather than kerosene lamps, we did not have the luxury of running water or indoor toilets, and our furnace was fed by wood and coal, which did not last throughout the night. At a young age, I acquired the chores of starting the furnace, fetching the drinking water, and chopping the wood.
Today, whenever I awaken to the first snowy canopy of my yard, I gaze out the windows complacent in the knowledge that my central heating will keep me warm, hot water will flow from the taps, my husband can use his snow blower to clear the sidewalk, and even my vintage Prelude has heated seats. I do concede that I usually journey to warmer climes for three to four weeks every winter, although I shall never become a true snowbird because one thing I love most about our great country is the beauty and novelty of our pronounced changing seasons.
This month as I approach another birthday in my ‘Indian summer,’ I realize how fortunate I have been to pursue my childhood dream of writing. Now that my restlessness to absorb every autumnal colour of every changing tree and shrub has waned, I shall press on with my current novel. I so often wonder if I might not be lingering with Lords and Lepers because the characters intrigue me and the creative process affords me hours of purpose and entertainment.
Please join me in two minutes of silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of November to remember all those brave women and men who died in the line of duty.