Poor old November. Poems have been written about its lack of personality. Yet it’s a month full of ordinary magic.
1. There’s the chance to revisit ‘No!’ (or ‘November’) by Thomas Hood.
No sun—no moon!
No morn—no noon—
No dawn—no dusk—no proper time of day—
No sky—no earthly view—
No distance looking blue—
No road—no street—no “t’other side the way”—
No end to any Row—
No indications where the Crescents go—
No top to any steeple—
No recognitions of familiar people—
No courtesies for showing ’em—
No knowing ’em!
No traveling at all—no locomotion,
No inkling of the way—no notion—
“No go”—by land or ocean—
No mail—no post—
No news from any foreign coast—
No park—no ring—no afternoon gentility—
No company—no nobility—
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member—
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
Thomas Hood 1844
It’s a cry against dreariness – but as he was also a humorist it’s also clever and funny. Humour is one of our tricks for saving ourselves from gloom.
The poem appears in different forms. This version includes all the lines I could find from various sources.
Hood was writing about London in a fog, apparently. For me, though I’m still experiencing November from a Northern Hemisphere, European, UK (English, West-Dorset) perspective, things are not so bad.
Nature performs all kinds of magic. Here’s a colourful spot in the sky – part of a sun halo seen late afternoon in early November. Probably ice crystals in high cirrus clouds.
2. As the month begins, the trees are still undressing.
3. It’s a month of exciting transitions, from the whiff of gunpowder to the prospect of Christmas. November begins with a bang.
4. November can be modest too: it appears to have borne its shift from ninth month in the early Roman calendar to its current position as eleventh month without complaint.
5. November isn’t quite winter yet. It’s only late autumn. Not every day in November is sombre: we sometimes have bright and clear days.
6. In November it’s easier to remember what a blessing it is to have warmth and shelter and enough to eat and drink. Perhaps that’s why we’re more inclined at this time of year to give to charities, to buy that copy of the Big Issue, or think about what it means to be homeless. I’ve slept in a tent in November and am grateful for solid walls and a roof that doesn’t leak.
7. Sometimes you can wake to a morning when you don’t have to rush outside. You can keep dry and warm and enjoy a special breakfast. There are so many things to enjoy in just this one bowl: a total treat.
A funny little face:
- apples came from a nearby tree
- red hair: the last of the autumn raspberries from the garden
- organic oatmeal in delicious low-cal coconut milk topped with vanilla soya yoghurt – all available to buy within a five-minute walk of home
- three little spice biscuits for eyes and nose – a seasonal Dutch treat from the store cupboard
- a beard of chocolate hundreds and thousands – Fairtrade, brought back from visits to the Netherlands.
- the teaspoon is a pen sticking out of its mouth. Did you think it was a pipe?
Though it’s always a little sad to eat the face, especially the eyes, it’s another reminder of life’s transitions. Also, it’s delicious. Feasting is another way to defeat the gloom!
8. The birds return to the garden. Blackbirds seem to stay away in high summer, perhaps put off by the shrieks of nesting seagulls. In autumn, they return, flicking dead leaves across the path, enjoying fallen apples. This one has white feathers in its tail.
The messiness of the garden lends itself to searches for spiders and insects: visits from blue tits, long-tailed tits, the wren and the robin.
Changes and tidying up, if done slowly, allow the garden to adapt. That’s my theory! The territorial robin warbles its deceptively gentle winter song, singing up at the kitchen window from the top branch of the unpruned black elder.
9. Rain refills small garden ponds and replenishes the ground with moisture lost in the long summer drought. A little gentle rain softens the soil – and makes it less likely for water to run off when the storms and downpours come.
Rain is notoriously difficult to photograph. In films they have to have ‘special rain’ that can be seen. But on a day when the rain lashes the windows it’s easier to see and easy to appreciate being indoors!
10. Number ten? Well it is nearly December! As the leaves fall, bare twigs and branches are outlined against the sky. The structure of things has its own beauty.
On dark nights we can be cosy at home – if we are lucky enough to have one. Every day that is a little shorter brings us closer to the winter solstice and the turning of the year. Let’s enjoy every day as it comes. There’s no need to hurry things along!
What’s November like where you are?
What do you enjoy about November?
If you need to keep your spirits up, what works for you?