Jim McGuire: Mid-November’s gleaming heart

Today we reach November’s center—the midpoint day of this transitional 11th month. Time keeps hustling along, and Thursday-after-next we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving!

“If I were a turkey,” the cashier at the feed store jokingly remarked, “I’d be getting nervous.”

I’d stopped in to buy a couple of 50-pound bags of sunflower seeds and cracked corn. Victuals for the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and sundry skulking and uninvited critters who regularly visit my feeders during the dark of night.

“Well,” I said, “I’m not a turkey…but I’m getting a bit nervous myself.”

When she raised her questioning eyebrow, I explained that my wife and I heat our riverbank cottage with wood. And how, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I always like to have at least half my winter firewood supply cut, split and stacked.

“I need about four or five cords for the winter,” I added.

“How much you got on hand now?” she asked.

I shook my head and shrugged ruefully. “Maybe a cord-and-a-half.”

She pursed her lips, gave me a half-hearted smile, and tried to appear sympathetic—but I’m pretty sure she was thinking I was a turkey after all.

Why does spring arrive so slowly while autumn flies past in a rush? November is always a fooler. Autumn’s colorful leaves suddenly begin falling like gangbusters. They clutter backyards and woodlands, swamp trails with their colored confetti, and pile against fences in browning windrows.

November displaces October and immediately there’s a visible makeover.

The numerous huge sycamores which line the banks of the river near the cottage are now skeletal—their towering maze of interlacing limbs and branches stripped, devoid of even a single leaf. A couple of weeks back, their canopy was still fully intact—masses and truckloads of golden-tan leaves, with quite a few still greenish.

Then they all came down within a couple of days. And just like that the view through the riverine woods on the island went from a few feet to a thousand yards!

One look and you know emphatically November’s definitely not October! Which isn’t a complaint.

What might surprise you is the fact that today, we’re not only halfway through the month, but we’re also exactly halfway through autumn. Yup, it’s still fall! Winter doesn’t officially arrive until the passing of December’s solstice on the 21st.

As much of the season still awaits ahead as now lies behind. And I must confess, the more Novembers I witness, the greater my liking for this seldom-appreciated interregnum month.

I think November’s list of virtues can compete with any month’s. For example, no other month can match November for the quality of its light.

Naturalist Hal Borland once wrote how November’s skies were such a deep blue, that April and June were “almost murky by contrast.”

I agree. And November doesn’t just serve up a single blue, either—it gives us a whole palette. Blues borrowed from roadside chickory, wild iris, Jacob’s ladder, periwinkle, gentian, forget-me-nots, violets. Or in avian hues, blue-jays, bluebirds, and indigo buntings.

November’s skies are magic. And this remarkable quality is infused into the light. Blues intensely deep and sometimes so striking they can stop me in my tracks, filling my heart to overcoming with their wonder and joy.

“Painterly light,” an artist friend calls it. Light whose overall color on a sunny day is bright silver, voluptuously luminous, almost lunar in tonality.

Even in midday the illumination is clear and crisp— singularly unique. You simply can’t mistake November’s light for that of any other month.

Yes, November has its share of gray and sullen weather— though not as much as you probably imagine. But even when skies are ominous, awash in scudding black clouds, there is less sense of overall darkness than excitement of dramatic weather a’brewing.

I truly love such wild November days! They energize me to my core, stir my soul, and seem to awaken some latent power and attitude that possibly hearkens all the way back to those quirks in the ancient Celtic DNA which still flows through my bloodstream.

When clouds move in November’s light softens, becoming quietly incandescent like well-polished pewter. Or it might turn moody—sometimes glowing with infused highlights tinged gold or copper, or perhaps brooding, becoming dark and edgy. Druid light.

Regardless of whether November skies are cloudy or clear, the days are perfect for being outdoors. Not too hot, not too cold. Just a refreshing, invigorating coolness that makes you want to breathe deeply. Life is better is November, and today we reach its gleaming heart!