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‘The solemnness that is November’

This morning I was reminded of a section from Anne of Green Gables:

“It was November – the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.”

Oh, what a description. To be able to write like that, swoon.

Though November marks the month of my mother’s entrance to this world, and Joe’s favorite holiday, it has always been a melancholy one for me. I meet it with sadness every year. I’m unsure as to why it sits so heavily upon my soul, but each year the calendar turns, and with the falling of leaves, I can feel myself settle into the solemnness that is November.

As such, I was having a hard time feeling fun and lighthearted when I sat down to write this. Nothing was springing up from my seemingly never-ending well of silly stories. Instead, I was feeling a tug of sorrow.

It’s strange to me – an autumn lover – that the fall would touch my spirit in a mournful way. Yet, in some ways, I feel this is fitting of a season that encourages us all to embrace the notion of grief and letting go: different for everyone I suspect.

Recently, my students wrote papers about their own lives, and I was particularly touched by one who stated that grief wears a different face for everyone it touches, and it cannot easily be defined. I read over this student’s words a couple times letting them sink in, and I thought how simple and true – how well timed. My husband just lost a childhood friend in a tragic car accident, and his grief looks lost on his face. He’s having a hard time defining it.

When I walked outside of campus Friday, on my way to my car to hurry home to try and get chores done before the children returned for the day, I thought of all the people who walked by me, and all the faces of grief that they were wearing: looking differently than others in this autumn light. I wondered if they knew that I recognized them?

Another student of mine just asked me how to explain death to her child. This happens to me a lot, people tell me things, and ask me things – sometimes unexpectedly. I answered the best way in which I could. I told her to tell him to watch the harvest. To see how beautiful the process is, how the corn had grown, had given its bounty, and returned again to earth. It’s how my parents explained life to me: we are all born to give our gifts to others and then we return to our giver, Mother Earth (my parents were hippies).

Recently, my boss announced his cancer diagnosis, and this rocked not only me, but everyone that knows him. I felt as if the world shifted and tilted me into November, quicker than I was ready. I’ve felt off kilter, worried, concerned, afraid. Self-centered in my grief. I have said, several times, “This isn’t fair,” and then am reminded, “life isn’t fair.”

Life isn’t fair ... it’s just life, and one of the most beautiful things about life, is death. Certainly, that’s a tough bit to digest. For anyone. But it’s also the most beautiful part of autumn, and the most endearing and touching aspect of November.

For when things become hard, people gather. When people are dying, people gather. Just like children raking leaves that have fallen, people come together to help, to assist, to laugh, to champion, to eat, to mourn. Autumn, most especially November, connects people in ways that many other months fail to, simply by embracing the cycle that we all are a part of (and pie helps too).

Yet, in my melancholy, I remember the rest of that Anne of Green Gables piece, “Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”

And so I step outside into our brisk fall day, and do the same, knowing that grief comes and goes. That Novembers are meant to feel this way for a reason, and that everything is cyclical, and recognizing that and being a part of it? Well, that’s a Thanksgiving blessing.

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