Beauty of November

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(Host) After the color and before the snow comes November. Commentator Madeleine Kunin reflects on this month of transition and quiet beauty.

(Kunin) April is the cruelest month because we feel that spring will never come. November offers a different challenge: it is the hardest month because we know that winter is sure to come.

Short days, long nights, put us a tough diet of slender sunlight. Our bodies strive to adjust as we hunker down for early evenings, switch on the lights and pull the shades tight. But if you look carefully for subtle colors, November has a shaded beauty of its own.

Driving from Burlington to Bennington and back, I was struck by the myriad variety of tones of gold, yellow, rust, ochre, brown, beige, and an occasional burst of rose. Most of the top leaves of trees have fallen to the tufted carpet below, but the lower leaves, not unhinged by the wind, still cling.

Oak leaves are the strongest, flaunting their rich copper abundance, even into winter. The evergreens are dark in the November light, tall against many hues of watercolor grays, washed across the sky.

On this day, the sky hung heavy and low, as if ready to drop on our shoulders. Snippets of clouds, like pieces of white cloth, had fallen down to the mountain ridges, obscuring them from view. They did not stay in place, but moved gently across and down the hills in a misty rhythm of their own.

The wet tree trunks formed dark silhouettes against the leaves, making them look like Japanese prints, stretching up on a scroll. The fields I passed surprised me from time to time when I saw a large grassy expanse of Kelley green, not yet victim to a killer frost.

The corn fields offered the greatest variety. Some were completely turned over, revealing rich brown loam, already set for spring planting. Other farmers left the corn stalks standing, close to one another, forming a wave the color of dull gold. Most cornfields were sliced down to brown stubble. If I ran my hand across them, they would feel like a rough brush.

November requires patience and planning. It is a good month for museums, movies, and concerts.

November has a strong punctuation mark — Thanksgiving — when we can feast at the groaning table with family and friends, talk and laugh and tell stories while the children run around in circles and we allow ourselves to be tempted by just a sliver of a second piece of pie.

As the month moves on, I grow accustomed to the stillness of this short month providing a gray calm before the white squalls of December.

This is Madeleine May Kunin.

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