I am not a winter person, though I have in recent years become more appreciative of the season which is, perhaps for many of us, a period to be got through rather than to savour. I realised years ago that my mood can be greatly affected by natural light, or the lack of it, though thankfully not determined by it.
During my winter working week I leave the house before the sun rises and return after it has set, making those weekend day light hours all the more precious. I hope for bright, dry days and the opportunity to get outside, even if it’s cold, and even if it’s only in my own tiny garden.
My personal perception of when winter starts is more in alignment with the old Celtic calendar, beginning on 1st November when the temperatures drop and the first frost arrives (though this year has been exceptionally mild) and ending at the start of February when the earliest of spring flowers start to emerge from the still frozen ground and the world slowly starts to become green again. The midwinter solstice is a big clue to how our ancient ancestors calculated the seasons. So, in my world, we are already a month into winter, even if it’s still officially autumn.
It will get worse before it gets better. The lack of light, that is. As the weeks roll on towards the December festivities, the nights will draw in ever earlier, with lamps and candles being lit by mid afternoon, just to provide a comforting glow to defeat the gloom outside. Even though the days are shorter still by then, December is redeemed by the air of festivity, the bright twinkling lights and merriment, the general goodwill and coming together. January brings a sense of new beginnings, a new year on the calendar, starting again and time in reverse, visibly stretching out that bit longer. November has no such merit. It’s a no-man’s land between the splendour of October’s rich palette and lingering warmth and the primal energy around midwinter. The autumn colours have mostly faded, temperatures plummet, it rains – a lot- leaving the oppressive odour of dampness that penetrates wood and bone. All but the most valiant of the summer flowers have died back and faded away.
November also brings some sadness, a time of losing loved ones, human and furry friends, memories of other dark, rainy days when the sun never really came out.
If you are still reading at this point, not yet discouraged by the miserable tone of this post thus far, please take a second to look back to the title. Feeling a tad guilty about my maligning of November, and a touch unappreciative of this dull and unremarkable time of year, I embarked on a little reflection and a very short walk close to home to rediscover November, which, I gladly concede, has a certain grace and its own subtle appeal.
The bold and bright petunias, lobelia and marigolds are long gone, but the ivy, in new hues of pink and pale green, is offering its exquisite winter display. Even the flowerless stalks now have a new form, different but no less engaging. The last of the flowers appear even more resplendent in their scarcity.
Nature keeps on giving.
A perfect antidote to grey sky, an abundance of bright and lustrous berries hang heavily from trees and shrubs, not only a joy to see but providing much needed nourishment to feathered neighbours.
…and snails in trees
When, perhaps more than any other time of year, there is little new growth, it is even more exciting to come across an unexpected surprise. A flourish of delightful pink roses, still faint with perfume, pushes through a fence to exhibit its last flush to an appreciative audience, all the more wonderful in the month of November.
For me, getting outside, regardless of the weather, is a necessity. Fresh air and movement. Observing and taking part. Appreciating the beauty in the mundane. It’s there if we want to see it.
On those days when going out isn’t an option, it’s no coincidence that so many Scandi-Noir have been filmed or are set in November: bleak, Nordic days when the sun never shines, providing a tense and angsty backdrop for a chilling crime. Keep the lights low, make a hot chocolate and enjoy the season.