I rather tend to overlook this month, in the great scheme of things, the month whose gems are topaz and citrine, and flower the chrysanthemum (my mother especially liked spider mums). I'm typically too busy to pay it much attention, and dispirited at being back from Aosta or Rome, Lucca's medieval towers or Glyndebourne's Mozart, with worries and work and the long desolate winter ahead.
But this year I mean to court it, appreciate its special gifts, give it its due. To enjoy the leaves starting to turn red on my little Japanese Maple (that have been preparing themselves for this moment all year).
November's signs are Scorpio and Sagittarius—the constellation of the archer based on the centaur Chiron, half human and half horse, a goodly combination, who taught Achilles archery. The learned healer, bridge between humans and beasts. I had in fact just written Sagittarius into my story, my detective after eating little pears and chocolate with his archaeologist girlfriend (who writes about the Carthaginian goddess Tanit) laying his head on meditation cushions in the walled orchard of a derelict old finca in Alcúdia and regarding the stars.
My writing is hung up between Mallorca's Roman theatre and Santa Fe's cathedral, more than forty years ago, when her little patron saint was stolen. (Not in November, but it does feel like a month for loss or wavering of faith, as the light goes, and life apparently with it.)
So I muster my saints, the first of the month being Sant' Uberto, protector of hunting dogs (Black Labs, of course) and hunting horns (which Mozart uses to such great effect) and foresters (my father's father, for one, and myself—forestress manqué, amateur and sadly ineffective guardian of trees).
I'm off on pilgrimage to the ocean, on his feast day, and then to my adobe hideout with its brilliant dahlias and warm sepia Edward Sheriff Curtis photos. I'll take my camera, look for shorebirds, eat good chowder, find what's unique in these first November days.
“In November, some birds move away and some birds stay. The air is full of good-byes and well-wishes. The birds who are leaving look very serious. No silly spring chirping now. They have long journeys and must watch where they are going. The staying birds are serious, too, for cold times lie ahead. Hard times. All berries will be treasures.”
― Cynthia Rylant, In November (children's author and librarian from West Virginia)
images: November, from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry