Copyright 2010, Elizabeth May
November can be austere. Stripped of October's flash and all the Halloween hype, it's pensive, thoughtful--like a bookish cousin to the previous month's party mentality.
The former exclamation points of vivid leaves dotting our Pennsylvania hills have died down. Now it's just bare bark and the few last burnished brown oak leaves stubbornly clinging to their branches. Days are short, and mornings bring thick, robust frosts.
My decorations echo November's sensibility. I stow away the bold orange and black Halloween gear, and leave out garlands of muted fall leaves, gourds, Indian corn. I bring out wheat sheaf candle holders, wooden turkeys, and the ever modest Pilgrims figurines. I make hot tea. I sit in my front room and watch the world outside my picture window.
I've come to enjoy this quiet, unassuming month--sandwiched between the two biggest commercial holidays of the year--for what it is. A respite. A time to slow down. While I've met folks who go right from Halloween to decorating for Christmas and buying for Christmas and planning for Christmas, that's not November for me.
November walks--or most winter walks, for that matter--reward only the observant. I've had to learn to look with new eyes, in order to see beauty where I previously saw nothing. Now I can appreciate the etched look of black branches against the sky. A few vivid red rose hips on an otherwise barren bush. Scallop-edged pale green lichen patches on extravagantly textured tree trunks.
If I had to guess what November's defining personality trait was, I'd have to say humility.
Humility is not something we think much of much these days. "If you have it, flaunt it," seems to be the motto of the 21st century--certainly not "pride comes before the fall," or " the meek shall inherit the earth."
If you think humility seems like a quaint, old-fashioned concept that doesn't have much place in today's society, take a moment to consider what a few of the world's preeminent thinkers and scholars have said about humility.