I’m trying to love November, or at the very least make peace with it. Each year, I mourn the end of Daylight Savings Time, and grumble about the painfully early sunsets. Only the heartiest few roses remain in the gardens in town, the sidewalks slippery with fallen leaves. Plenty of people have cleared out in search of someplace warmer. But I have nowhere else to go.
Melville wrote “whenever it is a damp, drizzly November” in your soul, then it’s time to take to the sea as soon as you can. I can only imagine how magical it must have seemed for those whalers of yore as they sailed further southward, approaching the equator as their homeport grew ever colder and darker by the day. Those sailors are long gone, as are their families who waited for their return. But their houses remain, their logbooks, and their letters. When the days get shorter and the tourists depart, you can feel the old soul of these scragly, sandy places seeping out around the edges. The past seems closer to the surface in November.
Leaving this part of the world and sailing for the south seas is out of the cards for me. Instead of taking to a ship, I usually settle on a long November walk, one that makes the most of our limited daylight. This time of year is perfect for walks just for the sake of walking, without a destination, just to feel the sun on your face, your body moving.
When I am somewhere untamed--the dunes, or the moors, or some other expansive place--I am just the right size. I do not take up too much space. I am not too loud--the roar of the ocean or the wind in the grasses will always be louder. I am not too quiet, either. When I am in a wild place like this, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
The other day, I went out to the dunes to catch up with some friends. I have been lucky enough to find people who share my belief in a curative power of a long, meandering walk. The kind of walk that is so long that you aren’t sure if you are ever going to make it home. After a while, you don’t even worry about where you are going, or even if you might return. If we got lost, we could always follow the shoreline.
As we walked, off and on in silence, our long November shadows stretched across the sand. The light in November, limited as it is, glows warm. But signs of the new season were all around us. Already a seal carcass or two sat nestled in the sand, picked over by scavengers. Already the winter birds were arriving. Familiar paths we followed in summer looked different, the wind and tide and light conspiring to reinvent this place. Out here, you do not need to travel southward for a change of scenery. All you have to do is wait.
At the end of our walk, a blanket of stars fell across the November sky. We tried to remember the constellations we learned as children, the same ones those ancient sailors would have searched for on cloudless night. Illuminated by starlight with the wind at our backs, November didn’t seem nearly so dark and drizzly. We had followed the stars and made it home.