“In November you begin to know how long the winter will be.” –Martha Gellhorn
It rained all this past week, with brief breaks now and then. There’s been a wind advisory the past three or four days, and the sound of waves crashing against the shore has been constant. When the clouds lift, you can see the snow line slowly moving down the mountains, even though there has yet to be a frost here at the lake. Autumn is slipping away, and with the time change in my sleep last night, darkness will spill over the house, well before dinner time, and it doesn’t seem that much lighter here in the morning dark. An Arctic front is predicted to make a swipe at us this upcoming week. That will end the geraniums on the porch, and we will know the gods are serious about bringing on another winter.
We had an unexpected snow storm this time last year, which covered the outdoor furniture before we could put it away, so I don’t want to be greedy–this fall was long and spectacularly beautiful, glorious. But, still. When November comes, it’s a new chapter, which begins, “It was a dark and stormy night…”. I often think of November as one of those pause months, like in January, where time stands still for a while so you can sweep up all the holiday glitter and quiet down the house. In November, there’s still time to get ready for winter, but darkness is coming on fast, and I find myself peeking through the slats of the bedroom shutters at 3:00 a.m., to see if any lights are visible across the lake, and l listen to the pounding of the waves.
I find that I really need November, to get prepared. Reading in bed last night, I finished George Colt’s book, The Big House, about one of the original grand homes on Cape Cod. It’s the third or fourth time I’ve read this memoir, but, on the heels of our visit to Chatham, I was at it again. Near the end of the story, in late fall, a hurricane is threatening to hit Buzzard’s Bay, and all the families leave early to get off the Cape, but George stays behind to batten down the hatches. He spends all day with the usual preparations for a hurricane, and then he sits on the piazza, near dark, and watches the broiling gray clouds, wild surf, and feels the fierce winds moving onto shore–getting ready for what might happen. It’s a bit like that, here in November, on a dark and stormy night.
Carol called from Arizona the other day, and said the air was soft, and a pleasant 75 degrees, with cool night-time temperatures. After thirty years of living here in the Flathead Valley, she’s happy to be a snow bird. I tell her all the time what’s she’s missing.
Some of my friends claim they could
never live in California. They find
the regular beauty too much like
a postcard with its predictable
And, anyway, how do I ever get
anything done with the sun luring
everyone to the first tee
or the pari-mutuel windows,
much less the way the chairs
all seem to lean back under a tree,
a cat ready to curl up on my lap
or at my sandaled feet.
They prefer the bracing rigors
of snow and rain. They write
about its feet and inches, all
they endure to buy an orange
or see a movie as they
picture me, probably, still on
my chaise, their letter falling
from one languid hand onto
the voluptuous lawn.