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Gray Days of November

If months were marked by colors, November in New England would be colored gray.

T.S. Eliot called April the cruelest month in his poem, “The Wasteland.”

He understood that April is about waiting, waiting for the spring that he feared would never come.

I believe that November is about anticipation—anticipation of the winter that will come as we adjust our bodies, our houses, and our minds to this darker, colder season. We put another layer of insulation in the attic to keep out the cold, and turn the lights on early in the kitchen to keep out the dark.

The landscape has become monochrome. The brilliant foliage colors that had painted the hills in cheerful reds and yellows just a few weeks ago have been transformed into a carpet of dark brown leaves which we feel underfoot. Do I kick the leaves to get them out of the way, or do I do it as a protest against the season?

The beautiful Green Mountains are neither green nor white, except perhaps at the very top edges of Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump, where they are sprinkled like sugar by a hand from above. Snow, I think would be welcome because it etches the trees in sharp black and white.

Am I projecting too much of my mood on the landscape, I ask myself?

Is it really the disconcerting health care debate that makes the world look gray, or the weighty decision Obama has to make on Afghanistan that is making me feel cold drafts? Why can’t the world be like a summer day, when I thought that health care would be an ethical decision and wars existed only to be stopped? How much does the weather affect our moods?

One of the reasons we live in Vermont is that we love the cycle of the seasons—the contrast between hot and cold, wet and dry, wind and calm. The suspense that each day’s and each hour’s weather brings, keeps us guessing. We even get used to the idea that the weather is in fact, not predictable. It always gives us something to talk about. What do people talk about, I’ve often wondered, in parts of the country where the temperature is steady and the sun shines every day?

Surprise! This morning I woke up to blue skies and fresh winds. Even November can fool us, fortunately. Maybe a health care bill will pass after all, and a solution to the war in Afghanistan may be found.

This article originally aired as a commentary on Vermont Public Radio.

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