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.
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