Jim McGuire: November begins!

November begins! Autumn’s final full month, which bridges the seasons. Change is visibly afoot. The natural world is everywhere in glorious transition.

It worth noting that today is when the meddlesome Big Brother governmental silliness of Daylight Savings Time ended and we returned to Eastern Standard Time.

Yup! We finally got back that hour stolen in March! Depending upon your habits and schedule, the only real affect this latest timekeeping change will have on your life will be visual. Unless you’re a late riser, your early mornings will now be brighter—at least for a few weeks. Of course, on the downside, twilight will occur almost an hour earlier.

As time’s great pendulum completes its swing from equinox to solstice, we lose a tad over three hours of daylight. Almost half this loss occurred during October, though another full hour will be lost in November.

The switch back to Eastern Daylight Time simply—and abruptly—drives this point home. Days suddenly seem shorter and darker, as if the calendar’s turned page precipitated a headlong rush into darkness.

But I counter that November is simply too dazzling, too exciting, too glorious to warrant the least feelings of depression or any notions of gloomy prospects during the days ahead.

November is also the month when legions of overfed turkeys nationwide give their delectable all to multitudes of famished Thanksgiving dinner consumers. As one of those annually celebrating carnivores, I do sometimes suspect our deliciously roasted birds manage a bit of mild revenge by inducing a post-meal tryptophan-induced stupor.

The month’s first week or two can often be as colorful as any served up in October. Leaves might be past their peak—but not yet by all that much. Both on the trees as well as on the ground, there’ll still be plenty of golds, yellows, reds and purple-brown leaves remaining, along with a surprising number of still-clinging greens.

When you live on the banks of a river, you’re wonderfully situated to witness firsthand the fundamental truth of that old country saying about how autumn “goes slipping downstream.”

For the past couple of weeks, the hundred-yard stretch of the Stillwater, which flows past our modest cottage, has been awash with multicolored leaves.

Leaves clogged the riffles, stacking in tall, soggy clumps against the upstream side of their numerous rocks. Leaves drifted sedately like a confetti blanket through the pools, carried by the moderate-but-steady current. And directly across from the house, rafts of leaves spun slowly counterclockwise, a bobbing merry-go-round waltz, circling about in the large eddy near the island.

As October’s bright leaves began falling, the thick woods covering the island across from the cottage began to thin, the view through the canopy and and understory opening bit-by-bit.

Masses of leaves piled along stream’s exposed banks. A foot-deep layer covered the long gravel bar which the great blue heron habitually uses as his breakfast fishing platform.

This long-legged fellow is a regular visitor. Maybe he doesn’t like starting off the day with wet feet. Most mornings, the big predatory bird regularly comes gliding in to prowl along the bar’s dry, stony edges.

He leans over the adjacent shallows, neck in a serpentine coil, head low. Yellow eyes are fixed and fiercely intent on the water, rapier beak cocked and ready as he slips along. A death-dealing gray shadow waiting to nab any hapless minnow.

However, when the gravel bar got topped with all those newly-fallen leaves, ol’ heron’s favorite stalking venue became compromised.

It’s doubtless impossible to go skulking along like a feathered ghost when you’re forced to shuffle through knee-deep leaves! So the meal-hunting heron first tried wading along the bar’s edge. But that didn’t work, either, because an apron of wet leaves extended well out into the water.

After several aborted attempts, the blue heron simply flew off upstream—presumably to scout for a new fishing spot free of interfering leaves.

A bird’s gotta do what a bird’s gotta do to eat!

November’s days often come with a clarified sky of deepest blue, and air scrubbed clear and clean, without even a smidgen of haze. Many days are mild enough that a light jacket is sufficient—or even an old flannel shirt.

And there are those magnificent days which make you think of apple cider and bird dogs locked in fervent point; when you want to take a long walk, shuffle through windrows of crisp leaves, maybe cast a bright streamer into that cloistered pool where big smallmouth like to hide.

As Thoreau noted, “November’s thinnest yellow light is more warming and exhilarating than any wine.” It is, indeed. November begins…hooray!