“November is usually such a disagreeable month.” So wrote Lucy Maude Montgomery.
In those words, the Canadian author captured the disappointment I felt as Halloween brought October to a close. Although summer is long past, once the calendar turned to November, it felt a death knell to coatless walks, al fresco dining, and that delicious quirky sense of freedom that seems to captivate on balmy days.
And why shouldn’t November cause melancholy? After all, seasons are uncanny in their ability to remind us of our own mortality. “A time to be born, a time to die.” Whether read in church or sung by the Byrds, there’s no question about which time is November.
Besides, there’s the impending deadline of it all. Flower pots aching to be relieved of their wilted glory, spigots needing to be turned off, their hoses coiled for hibernation, and lawn furniture that looks plain embarrassed to be left outside.
Every year November begins with a bang. A one-two punch of vexation to announce its arrival like some harbinger of gloom wearing a waterproof fleece-lined puffer jacket from L. L. Bean.
First, November puts an end to Daylight Savings Time. How better to scramble our circadian rhythms all while making sure we can start and finish our work day in what appears to be the dead of night.
But that’s nothing compared to what’s next. Elections. As if November wants to remind us straight away of uncertainty and possible loss. Maybe, in a moment of schadenfreude, November jumped at the opportunity to have Election Day forever emblazoned on its calendar page. If so, what a grim sense of humor this eleventh month must have.
And this year’s election? It’s a doozy. Thanks, November. There are close to 300 election-denier candidates on the ballot, many who support or dismiss the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, all while they argue against science, women and LGBTQ rights.
Laws were passed in 2021 making it harder to vote and almost 16 million voters were removed from the rolls, most of them in states with a history of voter discrimination. In effect, free and fair elections are on the ballot this year in America. Seriously, November?
Ah, I know. I’m being too hard on this penultimate month of the year. It’s not November’s fault, especially considering it was originally the ninth month of the year. Its name is from the Latin “novem” meaning nine.
Imagine the indignity of being the Roman calendar’s ninth month beginning in spring, then, thanks to some brand-spanking new months, you get pushed to 11th place. You’re not even top-ten anymore. You’ve gone from tender buds on the branch to dead leaves on the ground. It makes sense November’s gloomy. I’d be upset too. No wonder it’s the same month common for the onset of SAD, seasonal affective disorder.
But here’s the amazing thing. Through all the dismalness, November does its best to make amends. It’s hard to believe that this scrappy month brings us through its many challenges to nothing less than a Thanksgiving. There’s that sense of humor again, November. I see you.
What a perfect metaphor for life. How through the dark and dying, the ending and grieving, the bleakness and despair, there is still so much to praise. Indeed, as in Ecclesiastes, to everything there is a season, and it is our dear November that helps us complete that circle. Bless her heart.
So, on the 24th, when I sit at our table, I will look at those I love, the harvest that provides and the warmth that envelops. I’ll look outside at the landscape that sleeps only to nurture a burgeoning spring.
I will look inside to my own beating heart and my bigger knowing that there is a need for November — for all the gyrations, the grand roller coaster of change, that indeed brings us life. And for that, I will give thanks.
Carole Vasta Folley’s In Musing column has won awards from the Vermont Press Association, The New England Newspaper and Press Association and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.