If given a choice, most people would not say that they prefer November. There’s not much to November. In the progression, August is summer. It is filled with all sorts of special, the waters and the woods, the festivals and so much green. September, most would argue to be fall, but I argue that it’s summer, mostly. Some years summer, others years fall, it has no particular allegiance. It’s like March, a pivotal month that can swing to either side without any concern for our feelings. October, that’s fall. No doubt about it. Fall. The leaves are brilliant, the water still boat worthy, the temperatures vacillating between warm and cool, other times cold. It’s a great month, October. I think everyone can agree on that. Rauner supporters and Quinn supporters, some love bankruptcy and some don’t, but everyone loves October.
November doesn’t inspire any romance. It doesn’t have any long breaks to celebrate it, like summer indulges. It doesn’t boast warmth and it doesn’t dress up in winter whites. It’s just a month, in between the month that we all love and the month that signals the start of winter. Winter, that’s a season that inspires much discussion. It’s a season we all love to loathe, but it’s a season with December magic. With holidays and football and sweaters and hot chocolate. You know who drinks hot chocolate in the summer? Communists. Of the several winter months, December is the only one that generates affection. If you moved to a warm weather climate, after being raised in the Midwest, we’re all so happy for you. But while you’re roasting under a December summer sun, you cannot tell me that you don’t miss the winters of your December youth. I think that’s a dirty secret, or at least an open lie, of those that move to the south to live their full time lives. They must pretend to not miss winter, and while they may indeed not miss any of January, they certainly miss December.
But November. It’s in between full on fall and full on, cheery, young winter. People sing about summer, and Paul Simon sang about spring and fall, but only Axl Rose sang about November. In doing so, he gave it no fair shake. There is no justice in telling everyone about cold November rain. There’s cold rain now, but there’s cold rain in October, too. June has miserable cold rain, as does May and April and, if we’re lucky, June. I’ve seen cold rain in August and felt it in July. December can offer up cold rain. November is nothing if not a month that falls between the first cold rain of the year and the last, so there’s no reason to think that November and cold rain go hand in hand, except for that memorable tune.
I see November today, and I like what I see. I see fields of grain, some standing and some mowed to the ground. I see combines driving at night, their lights bobbing through the fields, methodically, as if guided by GPS and piloted by farmers that are busily tucking their kids into bed via FaceTime. I see corn spilled on the county roads, spilled because the yields are so high, saving some of the pain caused by the prices that are so low. I see pumpkins in fields, strewn about, passed over by the pickers as being less than perfect, not exactly round, too green on one side or yellow on another. I see fields of grass, some bent and others upright, clumps here and there, providing hiding spots for fall deer and pheasants, for grouse and for turkeys. I can see into the woods now, with the leaves out of my way, and I see dimension in forests that in August showed only a dark green hedge. I see November, and I like it.
I used to see this month as a slow death, as a transition between what I loved and what I hated. I used to feel lost in this month, when I couldn’t boat nor fish nor stroll with sandaled feet. I used to hate the tease of open water that’s too cold to enjoy. I used to wish for it to be winter or fall, but always preferred summer. Now, I wish only for today. I wish for 50 degree days when the wind doesn’t blow. I wish for 48 degree afternoons when the rain comes, and blows hard and straight, or falls soft and distant. I don’t really mind any of this November weather. Warmth is unexpected, so it’s celebrated when it shows. Cold is expected, so it’s met with acceptance when it arrives, but a frosty field on a sunny November day is a view that I’d vote for any time it was on the ballot. October is so showy, I love it for the vibrance. December is filled with anticipation, for that first snow and that first wreath and for children’s faces on Christmas morning. But November is right now, and whether it’s raining or it’s sunny, whether it’s warm or it’s frigid, it fits my eye more now than it ever has before.