Darkness and light
In the countryside, the falling leaves are oblivious to calendars and to the strange world of binary numbers. Mystics and mathmos are no doubt enjoying their various ecstasies today over the remarkable date. It is pretty remarkable, isn’t it? (Somewhere, someone may have had a baby at 11.11.11 on 11.11.11. Let’s hope it was someone who followed the Gregorian calendar!)
Here, though, it’s just another short day at the fading end of the season. And it is ridiculously dark here today. The sort of day that makes me think of that poem about ‘No sun, No light, No-vember’ and wonder again who wrote it and where on earth can I find it again. The sort of day that is the reason for so many people thinking that November is the most depressing month of the year. Yesterday, I walked in the woods and it was mild and perfectly still and a deer watched me from the rusting bracken and the mist lay lazily in the hollows, and I thought I’d write a post about how I love November. All that, plus the scent of woodsmoke, and Christmas coming! And the melancholy pleasure of the year closing down and snuggling in, rather than Spring’s more challenging joys of the year opening up with possibilities, which always fill me with a sort of existential dread. Or maybe the dread is just the memory of summer term athletics. (I’m sure one’s preference for summer or winter reveals a good deal.)
Today, however, I have been struggling to like dark November. So I thought I’d better go out and face it, with dogs and camera as always. On the first photo, the camera decided it needed a flash to see. This was the result:
That, as you cannot see, is a picture of a lochan with two wild swans on it. At lunchtime. See what I mean? Well, no, of course you don’t, it’s too dark. I switched off the flash and tried again.
There is a sort of quiet beauty to this weather, isn’t there? (Isn’t there? she says rather desperately.) In the city, the lights from shops and windows outface the gloom. Here in the countryside, you just have to try to make the most of it. I noticed the subtle shades of grey-green, layer upon layer as the hills recede. And the tracery of bare branches, ink black on the pewter sky.
Underfoot, fallen leaves on mud made for treacherous walking conditions. I slithered along cautiously. Here and there, a leaf still inexplicably green brightened the dark ground.
But it’s no good. I’d rather be hibernating. Heading home, I knew how lucky I was to have at my disposal the age old weapons against the dark and cold (not that it’s particularly cold at the moment): light, fire and hot food. The family den was so dark when I got back to it at around 2 p.m.,
but in the kitchen I put some soup on to warm and switched on the new fairy lights strung across my beloved kitchen dresser. The lights were inspired by a friend whose house we visited recently, arriving as dusk was falling: a magical cottage in the hills, lit only by candles, pumpkin lanterns and strings of fairy lights. These little sparks of light are an uplifting antidote to dark days: alternatively, you could say that without dark days, we couldn’t enjoy fairy lights so much.
Now my soup was ready: sweet carrots and onions from the garden, a couple of leeks and some chicken stock. Perfect comfort food.
As I ate, I thought about Armistice Day and the young men in the mud or dust of battlefields, who were not able to come home to these simple pleasures. I have been really struggling with the symptoms of my head injury this past week or two, and feeling pretty low about it all. But the old adage about counting your blessings still holds true. Food, warmth, light; and peace in which to savour it: even our dark November is full of blessings. Yes, I do like November.