November Begins


Today a chill wind blows steadily across a bleak and colorless sky.  The sky says snow, but the air is still weeks from hurling that coldness from clenched fists.  Instead, spatterings of rain slap down, sloughing the last leaves from the trees; the ground is now a sodden crazy quilt, with ragged scraps forming wild and colorful patterns against a batting of brown.

Above this quilted color, though, the rest of the world is swallowed in neutrals; it is a tonal landscape of different shades of brown and grey, a daguerreotype that stirs in the breeze.  The flayed bones of the trees clack against a greyer sky. A few brittle, desiccated leaves rustle at the base of trunks or scuttle across the cold, dried ground.  Even the line of pines hedging the property is more brown than green, the rusty needles pricking the grey mattress of sky.

Wind sifts through the trees; the upper branches sway and drop fistfuls of leaves in batches.  Occasionally I hear the thump of walnut hulls striking ground, or the crack of a dead branch as it loses its grip against the wind.

Now the day has reached its edge, and the sun which has been smothered all day in the grey wool of clouds dims yet further–distinctions outside blur, edges soften, while inside my cabin the halos of kerosene lamps and candles sharpen and cast more vivid shadows.  If I look directly into the flames, the words dim on my page, so I must take my light indirectly; my eyes must focus on the words, or all meaning fails. Inside, it is so silent that I can hear my pen scratching paper, can hear the scuff of my sweater sleeve as it moves across the page.  It is cold enough even inside to see my breath, and my fingers are the first to feel it, growing numb as they grip my pen.

I seem unable to build a fire–all my best efforts, my carefully crumpled paper, my precise scattering of cedar chips over small twigs, refuse to catch flame even momentarily.  The only fire in this room today pools in the spreading wax of my candles on their plate or  is contained in the smoky glass chimneys of my lamps.  I will stay here in the growing cold until my feet too go numb and the chill rises from them to meet my fingers’ chill.  They will rub together like frozen match sticks to produce not flame but frost, and I will head for home then, stamping warmth into my feet through the trudge back.

A leaf knocks against my high window just as I happen to look up.  It is a sign, a rapping up of my writing here.  The lines on my paper have disappeared into the dusk anyway, and I am going by instinct alone now.  The day is spent, and so am I.

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