Because I missed October this year, I’m attempting to embrace November for the first time in my life.
I genuinely like winter, so the advent of cold and snow is not the problem with November. It is the long, slow, inexorable march toward winter. It’s the taunt, as the days get shorter and colder: “It’s coming, it’s coming.” It’s like a novel, in which the author constantly foreshadows that SOMETHING BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN, but takes forever to get it over with already. Just let it start, for God’s sake.
In November, you can still see summer right behind you, remember how the warm air felt, and how much you anticipated fall. And it’s dark. Really, really dark. At this point the day is done by 4:45 and we’re still weeks away from the solstice.
So, how do I find the good in November?
I remind myself that I am lucky enough to live in New England, and in New England every season has multiple charms. Before I lived here, when I imagined this life, I always saw a late fall landscape. This is probably due to Thanksgiving’s successful PR campaign.
Living in Minnesota in the fall of 1996, I purchased the November issue of Bon Appétit because the cover story was “A Colonial Thanksgiving.” It spoke directly to my romantic Thanksgiving ideal: families gathered in rugged historic homes to feast on local food, after dinner hikes in the fading light against a backdrop of browning hills and trees with their last few leaves. I vividly remember devouring the issue: the survey of Pioneer Valley restaurants, the family gathering in Longmeadow, the remodeled kitchen near Boston. Within two years, I was living here and it felt just as I had imagined.
In our corner of the world, November brings my favorite annual events: Franklin County’s celebration of apples and cider and the cheese/hard cider tasting that we rarely miss. Veterans Day actually observed, with a good old-fashioned parade and a cannon shot that always takes me by surprise. Open Studios at the Arts an Industry building—a chance to peer into artists’ studios (and, I suppose for those more well-heeled, the chance to actually buy art). Bag Day—Northampton’s version of Black Friday—when most stores in town take 20% off and you can wander the streets and see everyone you know.
The quality of light makes November worthwhile, the way its flatness causes the remaining colors on the trees to pop. With the brisker temperatures it seems as if scents are enhanced. On a recent walk I enjoyed the aroma of wood smoke at various spots, bacon outside the Smith faculty club, the pastry of a woman walking in front of me, and cinnamon when I passed my son’s school. (Now I know their secret: they induce us to take our children back at the end of the day by sprinkling them with cinnamon).
November means savoring a holiday that belongs to everyone; one that is about gratitude, harvest, and history.
I kissed my husband for the first time in November, learned of both of my pregnancies, and found both of our dogs.
November is for turning inward, nesting, getting cozy, preparing for winter. Making soups and stews and sipping milk punch. It’s fireside dinners with wine and friends. (This would be even better if we had a fireplace.) It’s rediscovering wool socks and favorite Novemberish songs like Gordon Bok’s “Turning Toward the Morning,” Greg Brown’s “Brand New ’64 Dodge,” and Archie Fisher’s “Ashfields and Brine.”
Turn ’til the north wind’s cold in your face
Ask and you’ll find a calm peaceful place
A clear-running stream and a forest of pine
A morning for dreams and an evening for wine
Far from ashfields and brine
For the record, I have no plans to reconsider March. March just sucks.