Life After November

20150925_120557The poet Robert Frost often wrote of the earth’s seasons. In his poem “November,” he described the subtle beauty of late fall. The poem also captures the mood of a quiet interlude before winter, a reflective time when we start to brace ourselves for months of cold and ice. November, for those of us who live in the upper Midwest, is nature’s preparation for an icy assault.

Each of our seasons speaks from its own mystery. Each reveals messages about life’s passages and the inner flow of time. In late October and November, the mood of fall changes. Leaving brilliant colors behind, the days take on more subtle shades of quiet mornings and early darkness. The end of daylight saving time directs us toward inward thoughts. Though November signals the dying of a growing year, it does not mean the dying of dreams or the end of growth. In fact, November also marks the start of life’s temporary retreat, a turning back to its roots in search of new energy. November is about becoming recharged for the next leg of the journey. One look around my neighborhood tells me that nothing has really died. To the contrary, shrubs and trees have already set their buds for spring.

With this in mind and with the holiday season approaching, today I found myself thinking about last Thanksgiving’s breaking dawn walk. Always an early riser, I pulled on a down jacket, invited my Jack Russell terrier Winnie to join me, and the two of us set out on a chilly walk. We live in a neighborhood of lovely Victorian homes strung along quiet brick streets. White oaks stood guard along the boulevards, their leaves still clinging to the branches, braced against a sky that told of a coming snowfall. Gray squirrels scampered through the dry leaves carrying walnuts up half-naked English ivy that clung to the stately homes. highbush cranberry and bare lilac bushes lined the alleys.

Wandering through the leaves and deserted culs-de-sacs, Winnie and I observed the first glimmers of lamplight inside the handsome homes. The neighborhoods slowly began to awaken. Watching households emerge from darkness filled me with a sensation of closeness to all those who stirred inside. I imagined them shuffling about in their bathrobes or sitting at the kitchen table with a hot cup of coffee. Some probably prayed, or worried, or simply read the morning newspaper. Within hours their houses would overflow with the commotion of family and holiday guests. It all served as a quiet reminder that there really is life after November, even here in Minnesota.

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