This morning the air was deceptive. It was one of those odd fall days that smelled of spring. With the subtle scent of new growth and soil, I felt my heart lift. Ah, Spring… But no, this was November… These days I’ve been trying to get a better grasp of what November really is, trying to rediscover it’s essence; I’ve been trying to redeem it from the dismal thing it seemed to be in my childhood. This is a start.

As a child of seven or so, November seemed gray and endless. Trees were bare, the wind stung, and often there was no snow on the ground to make the cold worth it. Sometimes there would be snow on Thanksgiving, sometimes not, but I remember it always being cold. I can remember the Miller family playing a game of touch football in the school field across the street on Thanksgiving weekend. I can remember the silhouette of the oak tree limbs against the white of the sky. I have images in my memory of the leaves we’d cut from yellow, orange and brown colored construction paper, taped to the windows of our classroom, long after the real things had fallen from the trees and lay in sodden, depressing clumps on the ground. I don’t remember feeling much hope in that month. To me, as a young child, Christmas may well have been a year away. November was long and dreary.

So far this November we’ve had several nights well below freezing, we’ve had snow, and we’ve even seen tender shoots appear from beneath the fallen leaves. As I try to take a new inventory of what this month is from my adult perspective, I come up with a short list, and I feel I’m getting closer to reconciling with the month.

It seems November is a leafless month, a month of transition before the final closure of winter. The weather experiences a sort of climatic ambivalence. It’ll get down to business, and I’ll pull out the box of hats and gloves one morning in a panic, then the next day we’ll leave our coats indoors as we tend to our backyard chores. There is no color in this month to speak of. (That is consistent with my memory.) Whether related to climate change or not, I can’t say, but my current day experience of this month is that it is not brutally cold. The cold that November has presented us with so far gently reminds us of the cold that is yet to come. It’s a month to really hunker down in earnest. To finally drain and put away the garden hose. To cut back the butterfly bush if you haven’t already.

Ok. I think I am good with November now. She’s doing her job. She wasn’t trying to pull a fast one on me this morning with all that fresh-scented air. She’s not quite ready to get down to business. I understand. So I’m going to enjoy this day as best I can, but tonight I’ll make sure that we know where our gloves and hats are so we’re ready to go when she is.

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