IN PRAISE OF NOVEMBER
A Foggy Morning, photo courtesy of Rae Lee Robinson
Oh my goodness! The day after Halloween I went to the department store to discover Christmas greens hanging from the ceiling. A forest of light-bejewelled evergreens had sprung up where the haunted gallery had stood a day before. Instead of the thrilling, chilling, pre-recorded screams of the tortured damned, they were playing Christmas carols. They say older people get disoriented and depressed when things get changed up on them. I went home and put up my Thanksgiving decorations and stayed inside for the rest of the day until I felt grounded once again.
The bible says "let all things be done decently and in order" (I Cor 14:40). Well, to me, that means take a breath and give the month of November its due. This particular point in the calendar used to be a time of quiet transition. But I think that these days we have trouble with interlude. Too subtle. We'd have to do some thinking, some introspection. "Can you turn up the TV even louder? That still, small voice I'm hearing is annoying the crap out of me!"
November is bleak, stark, dark and somber. It is a time when the Earth puts itself to bed. Somewhere down in the hard-drive you sense the dying of the year. So be it.
November, it turns out, makes a statement. A time when the sun sets early and an evening chill descends, we might hear it speaking to us about the inevitability of things. We hear an audible sigh from the once-colorful leaves as they die and fall to the gray ground below. This season points, with simplicity and elegance, to something that clownish, garish Halloween attempts to caricature: death and decay. The last things. What a bummer, who wants to ponder that?
I know, we can distract ourselves from the fate that awaits us all AND save the economy and therefore our superpower status in the world by starting the Christmas, oops, sorry, holiday shopping season on November 1st! Do your patriotic duty and save the hind-end of our nation by SHOPPING! Get out there now and buy gym memberships for everyone on your list. Some rogaine shampoo for his stocking, and some liquid face-lift renewal cream for hers. Nobody has to get old anymore! Schedule that plastic surgery for right after the holidays, grab some prescription whoopee-pills and go for the gusto with that tawdry, midlife affair! Get your sleigh bells jingling and TURN UP THE NOISE!!!!!!
Oh. Not so much money for all that this year. Reality.
How about we let Truth, albeit a homely beauty, gather us up in her wide lap that we may rest quietly with her for awhile. Bubbles break. What goes up must come down. Sometimes we lose what we love. And what was new is now old but will be new again. What? Will be new again, we are promised.
The bereft, bare bones of the trees raise suppliant arms to the sky, to ask "When?" but never, "Why?" "When will we bear the Spring-spun clothes of our redemptive new life?"
On the wind comes the soothing answer. "Soon enough, soon enough. In the womb of the Earth are all the seeds and promise of life itself, waiting for the return of the sun."
"But sleep for awhile, sleep, sleep, sleep", says the sky, sending her early snow children, the flurries, floating gently down to the Earth below. The land is comforted and settles in.
What comforts us in this, the darkest time of the year? Faith, hope and love. And the giving of thanks. These are the essence of what makes life worth living, and living bravely and well.
We have faith in Our Creator who breathes all creatures into being and faith that He is not only driving this silly bus called life, but knows what He is doing and has a great sense of direction.
We have hope that all that is good, bright and beautiful is right around the corner, if not in sight just now. We are mugged by joy just thinking about it!
And love! Like jello, there's always room for more. If you don't feel it, ask to be infused with it. A prayer that is always answered, I assure you. Share it, spread it, smile it, wave it at that car to let it get in your lane ahead of you, toss a few quarters of it into that bell ringer's red cauldron, and be thankful for it each and every time it is sent your way.
Oh yes, Thanksgiving! November's consolation prize to us! Originally set at this time of year because, after the heavy lifting of summer and harvest, Thanksgiving allowed a bit of time off from the pressures of the early settlers' relentless to-do list. This list contained one word: Survive. Since they had thus far accomplished their goal, they proceeded, with full and grateful hearts, to party and say thanks. Lovely. Sounds Catholic.
So, you see, there is something to smile about and allow November to do. Along with facing earthly life's inevitable conclusion, meditating with Holy Mother Church on the four last things, praying for souls, and praying for a happy, prepared death for ourselves and others, we should also proudly display our pilgrim candles, our turkey salt and pepper shakers, our school children's hand-colored, cut-out cornucopiae (even if said children are now 25 year's old), cut out those coupons for that Butterball, and revel in the richness and beauty of the season at hand.
Array ourselves with the garments faith, hope, love and the giving of thanks. These are the balm of life, the giggling of the bubbling stew, the warmth of the cheery hearth, the smell of coffee brewing, and the candles set in the windows, guiding the weary traveler home.