Sunday, 2 November 2008

Seasonality

It is November. How can you like one month above another? Months just are and without autumn there would be no spring. Each has its charms. All are necessary to the cycle of the seasons which I love. I tell myself this but I am aware that of all the months of the year there are two which lower my spirits: November and February.

This was always the case and it is odd that, living out here where the seasons hit you in the face, I have not noticed any increase in my dislike of November, in fact perhaps the reverse. Here there is more to look at, more to notice and this is a distraction from the main cause of my dislike: the shortening days.

November is the month when we turn to winter. October has been full of hedgerow harvest and turning leaves, gold and burnished when the sun shines. There are October days warm enough to take your cup of tea outside, even to eat lunch on the bench. Sheltered spots in the garden - the bank below the little quince tree, the herb bed by the wooden greenhouse - hang on to summer and to warmth. Sometimes planting bulbs and working outside I will have to take my jumper off.

But November will be grey. By the end of the month all the trees will be bare. Looking out now across the valley the clumps of trees run into each other, green and gold and russet. Soon they will be distinct, black and grey against the green of the fields. We have no curtains or blind at our bathroom window. You can watch the bird feeders while sitting on the loo and when you lie in the bath you see the branches of the yew tree dipping gently towards the house. No one can see in for the curve of trees up behind the house. In a few weeks the leaves will be gone. It will be lighter and looking through the bare branches you will be able to see the field beyond the fence where our neighbours sometimes put their ponies. You can't take your privacy for granted in the winter. Every now and then someone will trudge beyond the fence and I will have to grab for my towel.

November is the month when life turns inward. There is a sort of relief in the pause of relentless activity in the garden, although I shall be sitting by the woodburner with my notebook, reorganising the vegetable garden, reading Beth Chatto and Val Bourne, making plant lists and sketching plans. But we will often be unable to see across the valley for mist hanging solidly behind the pigsties where the ground falls away steeply to the stream. Sheets of rain will drift across the view. Under foot it will be slippy and muddy. Putting the chickens to bed or bringing in logs will involve waterproofs and fleeces and rigger boots, torches and a dash through the dark and rain. Ian will be spending his weekday time here in darkness, leaving before daylight and coming back every night to the intense dark of our hillside. It is not as bad for me as I have a couple of days here when I am not away for work but I miss the evenings when we could walk up the hill. We won't see our neighbours at the farm, or only rarely. Everyone is inside, battened down against the wind and the rain.

By December I will have adjusted. Christmas will be on its way and making Christmas cake and pudding will be happening. We may start to get the cold crisp days which make everything vivid again. The tulips will all be in and there will be no more sessions of frozen fingers from bulb planting in the raw cold. The house will be warm and I might even have started some of my winter sewing projects. I still have an oilcloth bag cut out and some more cushions to make. In summer I just want to be outside.

I remind myself that there are lots of good things happening in November: visits from friends, a trip to my parents, the enjoyable weekly round of yoga and Welsh classes. Time to be ready for winter. Now I am going to take my stinking cold back to the fireside!

33 comments:

  1. The picture that you have at the top of this post shows a view that would capture my eyes and heart. It really is so beckoning.

    Then, I read how you describe the changes that this November will bring. As you say, perhaps November is more bearable when you learn more about it, and observe how it treats nature as well as people.

    May I again tell you how much I enjoy having access to the beauty of the countryside through your postings!

    xo

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  2. Hi Frances. I think I had better change the picture at the top. It is a bit lusher and greener than it is today!

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  3. This is lovely.
    I don't share your hatred for November but I do for February, that is the month I would like to remove from the calendar.
    Welsh winters are something else aren't they.... and seasons are short. But hibernation appeals to me, possibly to my lazy side.

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  4. November is still warm here. I walked through the back yard with the dogs this morning in my bare feet. November is when we really experience autumn. The trees are just hitting their full color, the air is just becoming crisp morning and evening. I love November.

    I am with you on February, though. Of course if you lived in our climate, you might be happy toward the end of February as you were out beginning the process of taking your garden back to life.

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  5. it all sounds so appealing, through your eyes.

    november and march are the two Great Transition months--november starts out autumn (today it is sunny and golden and 61 degrees) and ends up winter.

    just as march starts out winter and ends up (sometimes) spring.

    more than any other month those two feel the change.

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  6. What a heart-warming blog. I too am not keen on November. In the past it was an endless whirl of present buying and Christmas preparing, but now that's slowed down.

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  7. I cannot abide November, either. I think it is the shortening nights & the knowledge that there is a long time to go till the shortest day. After that we can look forward to Spring. I can put up with February because of the promise & nearness of Spring! However November is a very depressing month, I think!

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  8. So sorry you're below par, Elizabeth. Weirdly I don't mind November - maybe because it's James' birthday month. It's Jan and Feb I really loathe.
    But can imagine it's different for gardeners.
    Keep warm. jxxxx

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  9. I'm ok with November, like Jane above it's Jan and Feb I can't stand. But what a beautifully written blog - I can just see those sheets of rain. Snuggle up to a nice jolly fire - and I hope that cold goes away soon. Roll on December!

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  10. Cheer up welsh hills - that picture at the top of your blog is so beautiful plenty of people would give their eye teeth to see that view every day. Know what you mean about November but I love February - mainly because it is so short and when it is over Spring is definitely on the way.

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  11. I do rather agree about November, but I'd rather be here in a howling gale than in London!

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  12. I like November, even with the added work load of cows being in - the cosy, warm hibernatory feel of winter is still a novelty; I become desperate in March when spring refuses to happen and I'm exhausted with lambing and calving and the cattle will still be in for another couple of months...but I won’t think about that. I'm so looking forward to meeting you in a couple of weeks time - that will lift any flagging spirits!

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  13. And, ahem, it is also the month of my birth!

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  14. I love what you have written - and it resonates with me. Although February is my worst month.
    We certainly do get "The Weather" here in Wales and it is a time for turning inwards.
    K

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  15. A very good try at rehabilitating November, but it's still probably my least favourite month!

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  16. Agree totally, wet and mizzly and muddy and slippery, just awful. I could quite happily lose October - March, in fact April. The dream of a saefront house on a Greek island appeals more and more.

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  17. Beautiful piece of writing Elizabeth. I too love the seasonal change in this country and the anticipation and security it creates. It is a beautiful land we live in, still.

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  18. It is interesting to see who shares my anti-November feeling! Sorry Chris, did not mean to dis your birthday month. I think it is the going downhill, days getting shorter nature of it that gets to me although I am trying to get myself into Paula's cosy, hibernatory mood!
    I know what you mean weaver about the shortness of February, not short enough for me though.
    thanks so much for all your comments. It is great getting them!

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  19. I'm sure you know this by Thomas Hood. November was no different in 1844.

    No sun - no moon!
    No morn - no noon -
    No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
    No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
    No comfortable feel in any member -
    No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
    No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!
    November!

    Today has been such a day - the clouds have settled on the top of our mountain. The light levels were very low - then suddenly the sun broke through and lit the golden leaves of the larch and beech, only for a moment - but in that moment I knew I'd rather be here than anywhere else. Even in November.

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  20. February is my worst month Elizabeth, which is odd as my eldest son was born then. Suh a short month and yet so brutally cold. I loved your previous post - jelly making is such a lovely thing to do and you have quite inspired me to have a go this weekend. xx

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  21. I get through November by treating it as a countdown to Christmas and then as soon as Christmas is over, then I look for the first signs of spring (Catkins in January help a lot . . .) Then I can cope with the Wet Welsh Winter . . .

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  22. January/February time is the worst for me - I'm gagging for Spring by then. Huddle up by that log burner!xx

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  23. I do know what you mean about November, Elizabeth. The only high point in it for me used to be my birthday, but even now when that comes round, it's just another reminder of life's ultimate trundle into darkness... Beautifully told, though (and I think January is inevitably worse - always colder and foggier for a start). Look forward to battening down those hatches and mixing up some lovely plum puddings.

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  24. Hope you're soon through your Novemberiness and celebrating December with gusto!

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  25. Lovely photo... as you commented on my little blog, thought I would return the favour. One of my dearest friends used to live up a hill in rural mid-Wales, nobody but sheep for company and used to send me the most marvellous photographs taken from outside her home, stretching across valleys and so on. I envy you the view... but would like to point out the only reason I have the freedom to have my varied week, and they are not always as varied as this one blogged, is because I have health issues which prevent me from working, often from leaving the house unaccompanied. In case you were thinking I was a member of the idle rich.. far from it!

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  26. November is bearable because of the excitement of F9 and his birthday and the canter towards Christmas, not just because of Christmas being Christmas but because from then on the days get longer which makes Jan and Feb bearable. It's all doable. Just that May is better.

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  27. I know November can be grey and cold and tiresome ... but I do love the seasons in Britain. I always think I can bear anything up until Christmas. And we got married in February ...

    My November, on the other hand, is sooo hot! The skies are hard and bright and blue and the trees are blazing with blossom. The heat of the sun chases you into the shade until a breeze creeps up from the river during the afternoons. November is a lovely month here, the mosquitoes are bearable and the nights are cool enough for sleep.
    x

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  28. Oh cee, now you have me yearning for your November! sounds like paradise and here we are at the beginning of winter. I must remind myself that I love the seasons too.

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  29. You write so beautifully, and your love for your part of the world is so evident. And you even make November sound marvellous, altho that wasn't your intention.

    I always feel soothed when I come here, as if you put the world in perspective for me...it IS all about nature, seasons, cooking and family isn't it? Those are the elemental things we need to get right...

    lovely post as usual.
    Pigx

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  30. Elizabeth - I think we live in remarkably similar places. I think we live at the same point up the hill, with similar views, similar weather. Your header picture could be any of the ones I can see from my hillside too. I even have an ancient Yew tree which sits guarding the house! And I have a rainbow picture almost identical! All of which means, of course, that I can identify so very well with what you write. And you have written it so very beautifully. I have always disliked November, but, you know, like you, I was thinking the other day that sometimes it's not as bad as all that...I think February is the one that really takes the biscuit!

    Anyway, you've made me feel I can look forward to winter a bit more than I was, with all the good things that that season can bring too.

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  31. PS: have also popped a comment on your previous blog, which I greatly enjoyed too.

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  32. And I think I love November and February the most of all the months. I don't 'have' to get out and do things. I'm allowed to settle inside with a warm stove and my books. There's an open look about November I love - the 'bare bones' of the trees, and the wide views that are hidden in the summer when the trees are in leaf. In February I love the light and the cold clear nights. I'm a quiet person and these are the quiet months so they suit my nature, I guess.

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