Now that Thanksgiving, Halloween and Remembrance Day have passed, it’s slow sailing for the next few weeks. November is sort of that nothing kind of month that, if it has a personality, it’s not a personality we’re often drawn to. It’s probably the darkest month. It’s too early to be excited by Christmas and if it snows too heavily, it seems too early and if it doesn’t snow, it’s usually just cold and damp.
Of course, some of us have birthdays and anniversaries that may brighten things up a bit but I was born in March and I don’t think of March as being a particularly cheerful month because of that.
My mother used to say November was her least favourite month and I tended to agree with her and I can’t really ever remember anyone telling me that they loved November.
But I’ve changed my mind.
I think November is the perfect Canadian month. It begins with a bowl of candy and that’s fun. But it quickly turns into a time of reflection. We think of the sacrifices of those that came before us and it’s probably a time when we think about others the most and ourselves the least.
The leaves are mostly gone from the trees and we know what lays ahead because every year of our lives we get some version of the same thing, the same weather that reminds us to be humble in the face of it and occasionally makes us question the wisdom or the idiocy of our ancestors when they decided to come here instead of somewhere more temperate. God, they had to have been tough. Tougher than we are now and tougher than we might even imagine ourselves to be.
The grill is put away and the patio furniture is covered and we turned off the water today so the pipes don’t freeze. We’re lucky enough to have a fire place and we’ve burned logs already as we eat cheese and drink wine and listen to music while we read by lamp light and brace ourselves for the winter on the horizon. We put away our bikes and change our tires and remember to leave the light on because it’s dark so early now.
Rituals. They are necessary for our survival but when we’re fortunate enough to not be just surviving, there’s a comfort in battening down the hatches for a few months.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really like winter. I don’t play hockey or skate anymore. I don’t even watch hockey or basketball or football anymore. But if there weren’t this thing we call Canadian winter every year, I don’t think I would love May and June as much as I do. I don’t think the change in the smell of the air in September would resonate with me in the same way. Thanksgiving would lose some meaning if we knew the weather would stay the same and the leaves wouldn’t drop. It’s all about variety, contrast and appreciation.
So, my favourite thing about November is that perhaps December will be pretty. And kids will get excited for the holidays. And we all know we’ll just hunker down for a while, while we wait for spring.
If there are a hundred days in your life that you will cherish in your old age and remember on your dying bed, November is the month that represents all the rest. Maybe there are sweet memories of recent times, anticipations of future excitement, but more than anything, these days are the days when it’s time to read, to take care of your house and family, perhaps drink some tea or hot chocolate, and maybe take a few minutes to just stare at the fire in the place you call home.