Tuesday, November 16, 2021

November moods

November is a moody month, an in-between month.  Thanksgiving has passed and the only holiday we celebrate in November is Remembrance Day, its very name calling forth the spirit of introspection.  After our glorious long autumn, we've turned abruptly to winter in Saskatchewan, and the days have been grey--and will continue like that for a while, according to the weather reports.  But our three encounters with very high temperatures last summer have surprisingly flipped a switch in my brain, so I don't feel so blue when we have a string of them.  They're a relief, rather. Maybe the possible freezing rain will change my opinion of grey November days, leaving me with fewer and fewer days in the year when I find the weather congenial.  That's the essence of the adaptable part of climate climate change:  we feel less at home in the world, and so need to rethink our relationship with it.  But solastalgia doesn't even come close to the effects that the heat domes and mudslides and forest fires that climate change is delivering to us.

While we could see the cold and snow coming in the forecasts, we had a few nice days.  Because I've been trying to turn myself back into a walker and because walking is one "exercise" for my vertigo (though I can return home very dizzy), I got myself out to walk on those few last days.  What I love about November, both here on the prairies and in the Cathedral Neighbourhood, is the subtlety.  I live not far from Wascana Creek; its high banks are a good place from which to see how fall is progressing, a place where you can still be up in the light even late in the afternoon.  

 It's the texture that I love and find so beautiful.  When the trees drop their leaves, I am oddly grateful--both for the extra light during the dark months and as if they are giving me a lesson.  I'm afraid I personify them, imagining them allowing themselves to be seen in all their strength and vulnerability and honesty.  They let us see how they have grown, how their bark has responded to the ways they've grown, as if bark were a record of the good years  and lean years, of bark's need to stretch in order to accommodate the seasons of their lives. They are like us:  their age is written on their bodies.They are also strong in their individuality:  have you ever seen two trees whose growth is exactly the same?  They have general patterns:  an elm reaches upwards and then arches out and down.  Maples confine themselves to roundish profiles. I know that physicists get excited about the fact that there are no two identical snow flakes, though I don't know how they've established this.  But I think trees and clouds should be included in the list of nature's distinctive creations.

The textures of November evolve over time.  The willows and Russian Olives seem reluctant to give up their leaves. They're eager to grasp the last of the setting sun that irradiates them.  Along the creek bank, the wild roses reveal their tangled lives and maybe suggest that our own tangled lives--especially in the middle of a pandemic--aren't that unusual. As I was turning homeward after my first November walk, late sunshine also lit up a ragged line of sea gulls returning from lure crops north of Regina to Wascana Lake. The light caught them from beneath so that they looked, in the dusky sky, like a diamond bracelet casually dropped on velvet.

 I love people-watching as I walk.  The clearly retired people who still hold hands like young lovers.  Those who are going to be comfortable, no matter how they look, who pile on colourful layers, toques, and scarves.  My next door neighbour, a former kindergarten teacher, still walks at 81.  She wears her parka when I'm still in a heavy sweater and raincoat, putting on ear muffs and tying her scarf at the back of her hood, like a kindergartener.  But my favourite sighting this year was a very tall, well-tanned man sitting on a bench with what Bill and I usually call a "dust mop."  Except that this was a very well groomed and brushed little fellow who wanted to flirt with me.  His owner explained that he's a "complete suck."  When he stood up, I could see he was wearing a Janis Joplin sweatshirt.  I wonder how old it is?

We have a rabbit who regularly comes through our yard because I haven't replaced fences and gates that have fallen apart or been knocked down by the new garage.  Partly I don't believe in fences, partly I don't have a lot of light in the back yard--enough to grow tomatoes but not carrots--and I don't want a high solid fence to block out any more sunshine.  We feed the birds and the rabbit comes by from time to time to dig in the fallen seed and eat, I suspect, the wheat the birds leave behind in their eagerness for millet.  He too is in between:  a chalky brown that still contains the vigour of spring and summer but that is getting ready for winter's shroud.  Maybe he's mapping out his meals during the colder weather, establishing his supply chain. 

Yesterday it was foggy, but water drops clung to the branches of the lilacs outside my study window--round beads of glass or balls of mercury. The outside world was distancing itself, giving me permission to reflect on what matters as we narrow our lives down for the solstice. Tomato apple chutney was simmering on the stove, and I'd  just wound up a hank of wool to do a gauge swatch for a cabled pillow cover I'm making for Veronica for Christmas.  Winding wool and listening to the jars bubbling in their final hot water bath, I felt as if I had walked through a portal to the past. Yet the foggy day had muffled the outside world and the smell of chutney lingering in the air, the sounds of jars in the tin canner, the feel of wool on my fingers made this moment immediate, demanding.

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