How gray and blustery it is, so suddenly and absolutely. As if a tempest is blowing in from some ghoul-haunted forest. The sun hides his face from us as we slip into the dark time: November.
Waiting Month, Month of Clouds, a time of stillness that in the north is foreboding, holding storms in its belly.
A time to remember the dead. Ancestors whose names I did not even know before this year, and those loved from childhood. My mother. My grandmothers. My sister. My aunties. My beloved cats.
A spirit for every golden leaf fallen from the silver maple.
Earlier in the day the dimness was lit by the inner lamps of yellow-green grapevine, coral pink creeper across my window, deep-gold coins of pear tree, fiery gold of crabapple with its bright red fruits.
Though even then, skeleton branches like fingers clutched their few remaining leaves, some grasping only sullen sky.
But the day has grown darker, more leaves blown to the ground and now I look to the candle's flame for remembrance. Fire for remembrance of all those bright, beloved lives hovering over my shoulder.
So this day, I choose to be here.
Where this takes me, there I choose to go. I choose. This I choose to do. Thunder on my right hand. Lightning in my left hand. Fire above me. Frost in front of me.
—Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith
I dug up a last unwanted elm seedling hiding amid the stems of my little Saskatoon serviceberry. Filled the bird bath and stored the garden hose in the garage. Put out suet for the woodpeckers, nuts for the jays and seeds for the dark-eyed juncos migrating through. I mulched leaves and left them to shelter whoever lives beneath them.
It is a practical kind of ritual.
Then the wind chased me inside.
Now I am here with you and my musings, my broomsticks made of twigs marking me as a lover of all things crooked and powerful...messy, earth-wild and every shade of brown: leaf, pinecone, grasses, bark, branch, mushroom, acorn, seedpod, feather, muddy river, dark soil to which we all return.
A female house sparrow had tucked a few strands of tawny grasses into the window well beneath the air conditioner, planning a snug spot out of the weather. (My only clue such activities were taking place was that the cats had been sitting side by side, staring intently at the window for two days.)
We saw her flutter to the window with more grasses, only to find the air conditioner gone and the storm window closed. She clung to the window frame with her tiny claws and stared, quite understandably bewildered to find that her alcove was no longer accessible. No longer the safe spot she imagined.
My regrets, little sparrow. I wish you well snuggled in to another cozy spot by now.
All this is to say: Winter is coming. We draw inward, we hurry through the landscape, we huddle by the fire. We turn to all the tasks and occupations we've neglected for months in our great push to fill ourselves up with sunlight, petals, planting, traveling, outwardness.
Shakespeare wrote, "The bright day is done, and we are for the dark."
Terry Tempest Williams wrote, "Do not fear darkness, it's where one comes alive."
I write, blessings to you who feel darkness weighing on you like a mourning cloak.
Embrace this season as a time for rest, a time of slowing down and the healing of slow-mending wounds; the feeding of hungers unrecognized and unacknowledged amid the bright hum of doing.
Let us have the perceptiveness to see all the ways in which we have grown since the last turning of the sun, and to take encouragement from that—especially in dark November.
For myself, I call to the owl, whom I have never found, though I have searched.
Be my guide, owl, you who sees in darkness what others cannot.
Teach me, you who consumes what is needed and purges what is not.
Call to me, you who flies on silent wings, bridging the gap between this world and the Other, a being of mystery and magic.
I ask the earth that it may be so.