Into November

You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. "If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. ~ Leviticus 26:2-6 ESV

November is here in the northland. I woke up this morning feeling November deep in my body: I have been taken to the very edge of autumn. My cells are grinding to a halt. My joints are stiff and thick with fluid that refuses to soften and move. My hands are thick and heavy and my feet feel wooden. Every part of me is a little swollen, a sign of the waste products building up in each cell with no where to go. Nothing is working as it should. The side effects of the radiation linger because my body is losing it's capacity to heal in it's semi-functional state.

I went for a walk around a nearby lake to wake my deadened senses. All around me, autumn is coming to a close. What starts so flamboyantly with the scattering of seeds and conserving of sap in the core of the hardwoods, resulting in those flaming maples and umbre of the oaks, is now grinding to a mushy, windswept conclusion of barrenness. The once-golden carpet of leaves beneath my feet no longer swish pleasantly; the beauty of the leaves is turning to sludge in the cold. The wind has swept all the trees bare; the grasses have scattered the beauty of their heavy heads and rustle brusquely as dry coarse stalks before the gusts. The songbirds have long since left, and with them most of the ducks and geese; we are left with a few brave gamebirds and the crows and vultures for the winter.

Because the majority of us experience life in a very predictable progression of seasons, that is what I had come to expect. Childhood was like coming out of winter, just wakening after hibernation; my teens were the muddy wildness of early spring. My early 20's, late spring: crocuses, daffodils, planting the fields, the warmth of the soil rolling over under the cultivator for the sun. Then the warmth of early summer, as I bore my children and began harvest. There were hot, humid days when my work seemed stagnant and cumbersome and all I wanted was a long, summer nap. How surprising, to descend into November when so much summer was left! I am surprised to be here. I am praying this is a brief interruption, a little foretaste of seasons to come later in life. My intuition tells me that winter is a long way off, that summer will return, uncharacteristically bright and refreshing.

For now, here I am. In November. Taking long hikes by myself. Wondering how I will ever get warm again.

In November, the earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures. The bed is white and silent, and much life can hide beneath its blankets. The bare November trees are all sticks and bones spreading their arms like dancers.
~ In November, Cynthia Rylant