I think November is in stiff competition with February as the most depressing month. It’s not so much that It’s getting colder. It’s not the mention of the f-word (fl*rries) or even the s-word (sn*w.) It’s the beginning of darkness: short days and deep dark nights.
With the return to standard time on November 2, for those areas who follow the daylight saving time nonsense each year, we seem to have plunged into darkness. On one day the daylight lingered into evening, and on the next day it was too gloomy to see my keyboard in the afternoon.
I make it a rule to try to find the positives in any situation, however dreary. Surely there must be some bright spots in gloomy November?
There are no mosquitoes. Why is it that we don’t notice their absence as much as their presence? November, for me, marks the beginning of no bugs. No longer do I have to fan my hand to whisk away potential biters and stingers. There are few flying critters about; mosquitoes, wasps, and hornets have disappeared. There are no ants invading the sugar bowl. A few lazy ladybugs and opportunistic flies are trying to make my home their home for the winter, but other than that, we’re just about bug-free.
A lull between seasonal work. In this area of Ontario, November is often?but not always?that period when neither lawn mower nor snow blower is needed. Although there’s plenty of other work to do, there is still that holiday feeling that comes with the absence of some of those bigger chores that accompany summer and winter.
Working is no sweat. While much of the outdoor work ends with the first heavy frost, there are still a few outdoor chores waiting. Several cords of wood to be re-stacked near the door to be ready for winter use, gardens to be turned, bulbs to be planted, and outdoor furniture to be stored for the season. With temperatures barely above zero, we can work as hard as we want and never break a sweat.
The outdoors no longer distracts. Summer’s siren song is long gone. It’s hard to work indoors with the summer sun beckoning. In dreary November, I study with fewer distractions. I take more courses during the dull months, and plan a lighter course load for brilliant summer. Working at my studies through winter helps the time pass quickly, too. If it was pleasant outside all year, I’d never advance toward my degree.
Curling up in front of the fire. Dark evenings induce us to stay home more. This means more time to curl up with all those books I’ve been meaning to read. With a toasty fire blazing in the woodstove, the cold and dark are kept at bay.
Snow doesn’t always mean snow. Tucked between the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers, the easternmost point of Ontario is on the Snow Geese migratory highway. Twice a year hundreds of thousands of Snow Geese fill the skies in vast, disorganized flocks on their way between their northern breeding grounds and their wintering grounds. We look forward to the corn harvest in our rural area in November, because the leftovers in the fields attract clouds of brilliant white geese. The incredible spectacle and the noise of thousands of geese gabbling all at once never fail to thrill us.
While we stacked wood this week, a brief cloud of snowflakes swirled around our heads. Although I dread the coming of winter, the first few flakes are a delight. It still seems impossible that we’ll soon need boots and shovels, but that brief flurry reminded me that It’s time to get prepared. And, while the time for me to look on the bright side of November is diminishing, there are yet days to savour.
If the dark does get me down, I’ll just count the days until the winter solstice on December 21. Once we’ve passed that magic and dark date, every day gets longer?and lighter.
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario