November. Old Man Winter reaches out and his touch is cold, biting. But it’s November, and his arrival is necessary for the circle to remain intact.

Somewhere far north of here, the creeks are probably sluggish and drowsy, soothed into slumber by the Old Man’s first tentative caress. At home, the yard is littered with leaves; my little parcel stand apart from those nearby in that I haven’t mown it in quite a while. I like the crunch of brown leaves under my soles, am lifted by their frolicking tumbles across the lawn in the breath of the north.

Though I dread the forecast for a harder winter than we had last year, it is part of the cyclical nature of things. Winter is something I’ve tried to harden my resolve to, knowing that if I’m ever to abide in a mountain climate I’ll have to brace-up for it. It’s worth the effort.

Farther north from here than my beloved creeks, the upper peaks of the southern Appalachians are dusted in light snow. The tourists are likely dwindling, and many of the mountain towns are turning ghostlike. They thrive, mostly, on the industry of visitation. In winter, they turn sleepy and their streets free of choking traffic and gawking spectators.

I don’t disdain the visitors; I am one of them, when I can. A head-oscillating, enthusiastic recipient of those natural environs in the national parks and national forests that were thankfully preserved. Ken Burns called those public places “America’s best idea” and I have to concur.

November, and Thanksgiving around the corner, Christmas not much farther along. Bogie has put on his thicker coat, readying for the season. The old house groans and creaks, somehow manages to stay colder inside than the air outside by the time I get home after work. It seems to hold the night air within preciously, like a treasured gift. I wish it held the air-conditioning so devotedly in summer!

I’ve been dreaming of horses lately. I’m not sure why. We had horses when I was a kid, up through my early teens. I started out with a Shetland named Nancy and eventually graduated to a quarter-horse named Kate, who remarkably shared the exact same birthday, down to the day and year, as me. But in my dreams, I am riding an Appaloosa, and the landscape isn’t the cane field roads my dad and I rode back then, the ones where the casino is now and the expanse of the parkway; no, in my dreams I am riding a prairie, grasses undulating in a crisp breeze, and far in the distance the jagged expanse of the Rocky Mountains lifts itself up from the heart of the world. There is smoke, somewhere distant, a narrow column drifting west, and in my dream I am making way to it, certain there is something there, someone there, worth knowing, holding for me some erudition I am badly in need of.

That’s become pretty much par for the course. Every year that passes, I grow more and more restless, discontent in my environs. I dream of open spaces, of close, tight forests, of broad rivers and streams I can step across; these are actual dreams, not waking wanderings of the cranium.

“Eye on the prize” has become my motto as I sit down to write the stuff that isn’t work-related. Novels, short stories, memoirs. “Eye on the prize,” I tell myself when I get the occasional writer’s block, or get frustrated with editing, or promoting my seven already-published books.

November, and soon we’ll be in full winter’s cloak, eyeing the new year with apprehension as much as expectation. My writing has evolved from a job and a hobby to a means to an end: Escape. A place on the margin of wildness for us to recapture the sincerity of thriving. I prize, reward for toughing it out, paying the dues, towing the line.

Eye on the prize. I am no Hemingway, but I have confidence in my work, because good folks like you have planted the seed of it. All things that come from the heart are good, I think, if the heart is not corrupted. Words, music, art, romance, fishing, you name it. In November, the heart grows solemn and brooding, slowed by winter’s march, but in such calm it rests, is reflective and self-searching. You can learn much from your heart in November.

2 comments to November

  • blufloyd

    Well happy thanksgiving. I gave up on invites this am and sprung for a bird.
    Been popping hybrid stripers on a 4wt been a blast. Clouser like flies size 8.
    Fish have my back screaming though.

    Hoping to return to Loozy in December.

  • “Loozy”?
    No respect!
    Don’t wantcha.
    Pete – and damned proud of my Louisiana roots!

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