Been running around quite a bit this month, promoting the new book. The response to The Last Altruist has been very gratifying, more so than any of the previous books. I’m particularly grateful to Longfellow Books, Sherman’s Maine Coast Books, and the South Portland library for the boosts. And, of course, thank you to everyone who’s read and/or bought The Last Altruist.
It’s a bleary rainy October Tuesday morning on Trout Brook, which reminds me how close November is. November has always been a mixed blessing for me. We’re more clearly losing the light (commonly rendered as “the days grow shorter,” which isn’t quite accurate). The garden is cleared out, the soil turned. Garlic planted, the dead asparagus fronds cut back and composted. More bulbs and perennials planted against the need for color when we need it the most: come spring.
Most of my life I’ve dreaded November, feeling it deeply as the dying of the year. The brown and the gray take over the green, the rain takes over from the sun, the chill buries the memory of warmth. It’s always a temptation in November to indulge the lugubrious side of my nature.
This past year, I added a couple of rocks to that bag. As some of you know, I lost both my parents in quick succession last year at this time, my father on November 7, my mother on December 12. I still think of them every day, of course, and though the loss doesn’t diminish, it becomes more manageable with time. But it darkens November that little bit more.
I’ve learned to manage my own response to the slow dance of November, though, by not taking on grand new projects, by doing my best to recognize it’s a better time for me to batten down the physical and emotional hatches against the cold dark days and nights ahead. What sustains me, too, in a transition to rest is the love of my remaining family and the care and feeding of, and by, my friends.
We speak knowingly of natural cycles, acknowledge how weather and the natural world undergo periods of activity and contraction, flourishing and rest. We wax on about the gorgeous foliage without remembering that the death of the leaves makes possible the next crop. And we rarely apply our knowledge of nature’s cycles to our own natures.
We push ourselves through our schedules and our disciplines, often without acknowledging our need, like everything else in the world, to rest and regroup. Which is why I’m trying to learn to see November as an opportunity, rather than a time to be gotten through on the way to somewhere else, an opportunity to rest, to be calm.
If you can find it in yourself to breathe, to allow yourself a little rest here and there, I’d recommend it. The work will always be there, as will the responsibilities and the expectations we carry. The road is long. A breathing space will not brighten your month of November, but it could very well ease your heart.