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November 6, 10 and 13

My apologies to November

November offered three perfect warm, calm, sunny afternoons, a gift that is best accepted with grace and gratitude. And while I did hike the woods and take photos, I found myself reluctant to write of it til now. As I sit, it is not the beautiful gift of those days that is on my mind. It is the reluctance to bid them goodbye and accept the gray and rain of this evening.

Each of those walks was perfect. Each offered its own delight—one more swallowtail butterfly, defiantly red maple leaves, a canopy of gold as the sun shone through the yellow maple leaves. And each of those delights said, “Not yet, I’m not finished just yet, but soon. I’ll be finished soon.” Those last bits of color shout defiance at winter and ultimately, they will lose the battle.

I am sorry November. You deserve better. You deserve to be praised for offering up those perfect afternoons. You deserve respect for the defiance. You deserve applause I cannot muster in the darkening days.

November 22, 2010

With a grateful heart, I accept yet another November gift. This sunny afternoon was peaceful in my heart. The warm tan of the beech leaves, both the fallen and treed, felt comfortable, calm, and perfectly quiet. These leaves resonated with the sun, exchanging phantom warmth through the glow.

Dry leaves crunched under every step; it was nearly impossible to walk quietly. This crunching alerted the deer well before my arrival at their afternoon grazing. Two doe and a four point buck bounded effortlessly away, sparing only one backward glance at the noisy, two legged intruder.  I’ll wait for quieter days before stalking them with my camera.

The endless crunching set the birds flying as well and as a large shadow crossed my path, I looked up and saw the Great Horned Owl lite in a nearby tree. It had been months since I’d seen or heard the owl and was delighted to see it again. I’d worried that something had happened to it or that it vacated the woods, but no, there it was. The photo I took is distant and poor, yet I’m glad to have it at all. I can look at it and know the owl is fine.

November 29, 2010

Two beautiful afternoons close out November in my woods as I will not go tomorrow in the rain. November’s beauty is not what we’ve been trained to see; it is subtle not bold. It is simple not opulent. Bare trees direct us upward to a deep blue sky and mare’s tails clouds. Bare trees direct us down to the warm brown bed of leaves. The decaying leaves go quiet underfoot.

The woods open up. Seeing through to the shape of the hill, the curve of long shadows, the exceptions to brown stand out. Now it is possible to see the Downey woodpecker against the leafless branch. Look up through the branches and there, the hawk is hunting. Up the path in the bracken, the deer freeze and eye the potential danger I represent. November opens up the woods. It gives the gift of a distant gaze.

Shapes and shadow are November’s aesthetic. They teach us to unlearn. Grade school was wrong. Tree trunks are not brown. They are gray. Beech trees are a glowing, smooth, silver gray, maples, dark and broken pewter. Tree trunks are green with moss. They are many things and they are not brown. Rocks are not gray. Rocks are white. Rocks are black with fungus and green with lichen. Rocks are red. Rocks are sometimes gray and sometimes sparkle in the sun.

Water is not blue; water is no color at all. Water is the color of what surrounds it. Water is brown as it travels over leaves and soil. Water is dark as it travels over rock. Water is yellow when the maple trees turn. Water is only blue when it looks directly at a blue sky above. November releases us from the silly rules of colors we learned, if only we use our own eyes.

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