I agree wholeheartedly with Jodi’s sentiments about November over on Curious Acorn. (Y’all, get to know her if you don’t already. She is one of my best-beloveds.) It is truly one of my favorite months, second only to that holly-crowned queen of a December. Strangely enough, however, I seem to forget just how splendidly I love it until it rolls around again in its modest way, stealing up so quietly I almost don’t realize it’s there until I’m in the midst of it.
“How can it be November again?” I always ask myself.
And why is the year so inexpressibly, unbearably beautiful in its slow death? I am tempted to say that even the wild greening of late April is unable to compare with the loveliness of blood-red dogwoods and ambered hickories. The scent of woodsmoke and decaying leaves is enough to bring tears to my eyes, and there’s a wistfulness to the angle of the light that brings out every detail of the landscape with the fineness of a delicate etching.
Autumn color doesn’t arrive full glory till November here in Dixie, but when it does, you forgive her any delay. The sassafras is scarlet, the grapevine is golden, and the trees of the field seem a very rhapsody of crimson and flame. All but the cedars and the pines–they are deepening and intensifying their greens to an almost blue-bloom of freshness, in readiness for their great honor come December…
When I’m adorning my table, I always look to seasonal fruit and garden offerings. This little arrangement from a very special luncheon is a combination of damson plums, mistflowers, Japanese maple and and peegee hydrangeas clipped from my mother’s yard. I do love hydrangeas best in the fall, when their hues have mellowed into the pale greens and rust-tipped ivories that remind me of Jasperware.
There is no author I love better in late autumn than George Eliot. Her poignant insights and descriptions fit my mood like a glove. Right now I’m reading The Mill on the Floss, and, while I’m not sure where the plot’s going, she has given me enough clues already to suspect that Maggie Tulliver’s way in life will not necessarily be strewn with roses. I am literally savoring the words, she writes so beautifully.
We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it,–if it were not the earth where the same flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers as we sat lisping to ourselves on the grass; the same hips and haws on the autumn’s hedgerows; the same redbreasts that we used to call “God’s birds,” because they did no harm to the precious crops. What novelty is worth that sweet monotony where everything is known, and loved because it is known?
George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
November also means certain tasks in preparation for Christmas, like ironing the linens, giving a shine to all the sconce globes, and polishing the silver. I have to confess–I absolutely love polishing silver. There is nothing like the satisfaction of taking something deplorable and dingy and making it sparkle again. There’s a parable right before me every single year as I’m buffing loved things into brilliance once more with a soft cotton cloth.
And lest you think I’m a glutton for punishment, I will let you in on a little secret that a friend of mine shared with me several years ago that has upgraded the act of polishing silver from a job to a literal magic act: Put your kettle on to boil. Then line your sink with aluminum foil and sprinkle it with a generous cup or two of baking soda. When the water is boiling, pour it over the baking soda in the sink and immerse your silver into the sizzling brew. I promise, if you haven’t seen it before, you won’t believe your eyes. The tarnish literally vanishes. Try dipping a corner of a tray or an edge of a plate just to underscore the magic. It is so amazing, and all that remains is to rinse and polish with a nice, soft, dry cloth.
Another thing that November has come to mean is novelling. Yes, that is a verb. Just ask Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month, endearingly known as NaNoWriMo. I’ve done it in the past, and it has definitely left its mark. So much so, that my writing partner and I have spent a couple of mad Novembers scribbling frantically after a ridiculous goal we have set for ourselves. And holding each other accountable over the finish line.
We’re at it again this November. I’m plowing through a rewrite of the draft I started last winter. And she’s off on the adventure of a new book. (And trust me–hers is going to be good. You can say that you heard it here first.) The actual word-flow has not been quite the youthful garrulousness of that first NaNoWriMo spree. But it taught me, as I believe nothing else could have, to just keep putting the words down. One after another. That’s all we can do, really. The rest is not our business…
In closing, I would just like to wish you all the Happiest of Thanksgivings, the crown of this month of blessings.
God be with you all, friends.