Nov 29, 2014

Leaving November Where It Lies

How swiftly November came upon us, and not even a proper courting before the land froze solid, thawed, and then chilled again.  I was walking in the tamarack a brief month ago, and now I can't even drive up the hill without encountering a few feet of snow.  Autumn seemed so rushed to leave - such a fleeting lover.  My lips were barely kissed with warm rain before the winds came and tore every leaf from its job, waving at passers by.  So short-lived were the oranges and the flaming reds. The Summer held on so long this year, that Fall only had time to give a sly wink and then moved on.

I've taken much of November as catch-up.  I work two jobs in October every year, and with putting the gardens to bed, running wild with the book giveaways all month long, and of course the usual cat, niece, and parent herding, I was a bit ragged by Halloween.

Like a good granddaughter does, I visited my grandparents' graves on All Souls Day, and washed the stones and left flowers and a treat for my grandfather. He usually gets my homemade cookies, but this year I found some Eccles cakes in a shop and knew that it was the perfect offering.  His mother used to make them, and we all keep the recipe sacred in our family.  I'll make some at Christmas and be sure to take him another treat.

I had a lovely chat with my friend's 92 year old mother about her celebrations of All Souls in Bangladesh.  When they lived in the area, there had been a large Catholic contingent, and the celebration on that day stretched through the town.  People would come singing out of the little hill settlements, and down along the roadways, and everyone would meet at the cemetery to clean the graves and lay flowers and candles.  Afterward there were prayers at the Catholic church and feasts later at homes that hosted hundreds of people passing through.  My friend's birthday is on November 2nd and she says that those birthdays growing up in Bangladesh were the happiest of her life.  She felt honoured to have a birthday on All Souls Day.

The souls themselves have lingered as Autumn moved on. The 'thin-time' seems to be always, but it is perhaps a more pronounced feeling as Winter approaches.  The sounds of the vitality of Summer and the buzzing of the earth have been quieted in sleep.  This slipping in to hibernation tends to offer up the space for the softer voices to be heard, leaving no buffer against the silence, save the growing bustle of the holiday season.  And what else are the holidays for, really, but keeping the fires lit and the spirits lifted to weather the long, cold months ahead.  Even as we celebrate we keep an eye to door, lest the wolf, Krampas, or Marley's ghost find their way in.

"There is an old tale that Herne the Hunter,
Sometimes a keeper in Windsor Forest,
Doth all the wintertime, at still midnight,
Walk around about an oak with great ragged horns;
And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle,
And makes milch-kine* yield blood, and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner:"

* milk cows

The winds are battering The Valley this week.  The ice has come early, and settled in.  The Wild Hunt is riding and the Old Woman of Winter is sending the deer into the lowlands looking for food. The meagre offerings left in my front flower garden will not sustain them for long, but they are wise and know of the silly woman who talks to deer and leaves seeds and nuts out for birds, and extra helpings hidden under the trees just for them.

And so, as Autumn gives up its last breath and is defeated before the rash advance of ice and snow, I will leave November where it lies, with a quick kiss on its hastily turned cheek.  It gave me but a moment's rest before the excitement begins anew in December, and for that I am thankful.

I hope November leaves you safe, well-fed, and warm, with the good cheer and stamina to enjoy a December as restful or raucous as you like.

My late November-December reading choices: 

"Phantom Armies of the Night: The Wild Hunt and the Ghostly Processions of the Undead" by Claude Leconteux
"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens
"Acadian Christmas Traditions" by Georges Arsenault

*quoted text from Shakespear's Merry Wives of Windsor


mrsduncanmahogany said...

I agree, November has quickly slid by. I commented this weekend that this time last month we were gearing up for Samhain. Now, the coldest winds blow here on the prairies and we really did not get much of a "quiet" November. Last week saw wind chills of -39 one morning. Too soon, too frequent! Stay warm!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I know it's the end of November because it's the Grey Cup today! Not quite Herne the Hunter, but hey.

Rue said...

Grey Cup - yes! My mother and I were out shopping yesterday, and she had to buy my dad chicken livers and bacon. It's his Grey Cup tradition. That, and a goodly amount of yelling at the TV.

sandra hagan said...

A fun read Jen. Personal and informative and moving the spirit in me.

Traditions of value need to be carried on and on.

Some of those you shared are new to me. Further research I will do!

November we spent in High Country South Carolina. Visiting North Wild Georgia, Clayton.

I gathered goodies from the woods.

Happy tomorrow Jen Rue...Dazzle Magic December.

Aidan Wachter said...

You have quite the eye & way with words, Jen!

Thanks for the reminder of 'Phantom Armies' just pulling it off the shelf!

Magaly Guerrero said...

Your friend's mother's celebration of the dead sounds very similar to what we did in the Dominican Republic. Good days...

November has been a tad tough on me; I've been sick so much this month. I'm hoping his departure takes away some of the pain, so that December and I can do some dancing.

Love this post. ♥

Rue said...

And I have much hope for better, brighter, and pain-free times ahead for you Magaly. You so deserve a break from it all!

Debra Nehring said...

Beautiful, Jenn. Such a sentient view of November.
Loved it,

Anonymous said...

I've been the same, the whole year has just flown by for me.

I can feel the bite in the air now, and we're getting the first signs of snow. I will be wrapping up warm and drinking lots of tea.

Hope you and yours keep cosy this winter <3