Login | December 10, 2018

Embracing November

Pete’s World

Published: November 26, 2018

Here in northeast Ohio, October’s typically been a month that signals summer’s last gasp. It’s also a very short-lived sliver of time whose beauty, warmth and fleetingness coalesce to create a very magical occasion that sends throngs of people outdoors for a last hurrah.

Parks abound with hikers, recreational bike paths and the backroads are teeming with cyclists, and roadways are flooded with car loads of leaf-watchers, everyone craving that final jolt of warm sunshine and vivid Kodachrome colors before the inevitable 50 shades of winter’s cold and grey set in come November.

And November leaves, no doubt there’s a foreboding transition that’s about to transpire.

Ah yes, poor, poor November, you might as well call November the Rodney Dangerfield of our 12 calendar months, “It get’s no respect.” And I’m sure this has a lot to do with November being everything that October isn’t. November’s famous for its cold, almost hauntingly brisk northwestern winds, its ashen, leafless forests, its dreary, steely grey skies, and its occasional “tweener” days where wisps of wet snow fall from the sky only to melt when the sun mysteriously reappears.

Yet with all this being said, I have to come out of the closet and admit that I really dig November. Go ahead and call me a lunatic, but I’ve grown to savor the somberness of November just as much as I’ve been celebrating the cheerfulness of October. Indeed, November’s a month whose virtues are far less visible and far less appreciated than those in October.

So in today’s column I’d like to give a little love to the month of November by revealing just a few of the hidden gems it has to offer the outdoor enthusiast. First and foremost, while October typically brings everyone outside, November usually ushers most people inside. Yup, the transition to muted hues, cooler temps and shorter days seem to trip the hibernation switch to on with most Ohioans.

Yet their hibernation is my good fortune, because I suddenly have roads, trails, and multi-use paths almost totally to myself. And how wonderful it is to experience near total desolation along all those thoroughfares.

That transition of going from full throttle humanity in October to desolation boulevard in November - in one fell swoop - provides a very unique opportunity to savor the kind of peace and quiet that’s usually illusive throughout the warmer, more populated months. It’s a peace and quiet that allows ones mind to wander in any direction it takes, with no human interactions to interrupt all the mental musing.

I also relish the wonderful sensory stimuli which are so characteristic of a November day in northeast Ohio. Bike, hike, run, or jog through forest, field and farmland and you’re treated to all these amazingly subtle sights, sounds and smells that bespeak a melancholy farewell to the year.

There's that faint rustling of desiccated oak leaves in the forest and corn stalks in the fields, those withered, sandstone-colored leaves and stalks clicking and clattering in what appears to be a defiant last stand against November’s blustery winds.

There’s that earthy pungent smell of decomposing leaf litter permeating the air, totally overwhelming any remaining vestiges of those many floral scents from spring, summer and fall.

There’s that evocative silence that seems to surrounds you at all times, this likely due to a majority of the bird and insect life having left the scene.

And finally there’s those slate-grey skies, those early sunsets and late sunrises, those crystalline carpets of frost across the ground, and those delicate, paper thin coatings of ice on ponds and streams.

Indeed, all these little November subtleties somehow provide a bit more clarity to my life than do those warmer, more carefree, more picturesque days of October.

Maybe it’s because I sense the yearly transition fast approaching, a transition I know I’ll also be a part of, a transition I’ve come to revere and respect.

So…before you decide to commit yourself to what could be months of hibernation, consider getting out there for a hike, a run or a bike ride. Take that first tentative step into the soul of November.

I guarantee that if you slow it down a bit to look, listen and feel, November will grow on you just as it did with me.

Cool, crisp, earthy, black and white, somber and desolate, November is the harbinger of an eternally transitioning world - precisely what I love about this eccentric month.