November is a difficult month. It’s the shock of losing the hour and the suddenness of it – it always feels more like losing two when overnight it’s dark at 6.00pm instead of 8.00pm. A sixth of the day gone, just like that, slipped out of the day and vanished into the blackness. I think the body reels from it for a while, misses the light without knowing what is the matter or what it is missing. It seems like a starker thing here in Connemara where nature is magnified; bigger spaces, bigger winds, giant silhouettes of mountains and grey days of rain in blustery torrents or invisible misty sheets. It’s taken me a long time to learn an acceptance of this and I have spent too much time resenting the end of the year and fighting the gloom of the approaching Winter with a grumble and a moan.
This changed for me after a trip to Brigit’s Garden just outside Galway city where I began to see the Winter garden sculpture (below) for what it is. This image of the sleeping woman is such a beautiful one. She is so peaceful looking and such a quiet, gentle figure in the space that you want to tiptoe around her for fear her slumber might be disturbed. Unexpectedly, it was she who woke me up to the reality of Winter as a necessary time in the cycle of the seasons. Just as we humans must sleep at the end of the day, the earth needs to rest and recover, to shed it’s leaves and all it’s colour and to sleep, so that it can prepare for new growth ahead. The secret for me was to see this changing time as a human form.
Image taken from Stream
Robert Frost has personified the gloominess we might feel at this time of year in his poem ‘My November Guest’ (below).
My November Guest
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture land.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list;
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reasons why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.
Robert Frost ( 1874 – 1963 )
The humanising of sorrow in this poem lessens it. It is no longer an overwhelming feeling but a human being, a woman who has simply stepped in, although she is uninvited. Frost acknowledges her presence and by doing so he accepts these feelings while he tells of the beauty of Winter, the ‘faded earth’ and the silver ‘clinging mist’. It’s a struggle because she ‘vexes him for reasons why’ but he is listening and seeing nature’s beauty for himself, he has learned to ‘know the love of bare November days.’
As I think perhaps I have too.
Cover image is ‘Harsh Life’ by Inez Streefkerk