Trekking Tales: November – No month like it

Back in my teaching days, I discovered a mournful poem called November, written in 1844

Back in my teaching days, I discovered a mournful poem called November, written in 1844 by Thomas Hood as he watched the London fog roll in. He bemoans the arrival of this month as it heralds the disappearance of many of nature’s beauties.

November is certainly a month of change in both hemispheres. In Queensland, where I grew up, increased heat is now shrivelling gardens but it is also ripening delicious mangos and other juicy fruits.

“No sun,” Mr. Hood begins about foggy London, adding later in the poem: “No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.”

You get the idea. But I beg to differ. This month, twice in one day, John and I drove by Dutch Lake. In the early morning almost-light, wispy mist playing above the water made the reflections of the trees look fuzzy, eerie even, the whole scene gradations of grey. A few hours later, with more light though still without sun, the lake mirrored its surroundings to perfection. No swimmers, paddlers, fishermen, no birds or wind rippled its shiny, now colourful, surface.

“No leaves,” also moans the poet.

Ah, that means we have a clear view to see beyond the bare branches to sights invisible to us during the green months of summer. Other features catch our eye. Driving south along the gravel road beside North Thompson River from the blue bridge towards the confluence with Clearwater River in early November, John first commented on the low water and extensive sand bars now high and dry.

However, our eyes were soon drawn to the sandy bank with hundred of holes, nests awaiting the swallows’ return. Wind and water has sculpted their surroundings into nature’s dark brown, larger than life-size art.

It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps because of the English connection with Thomas Hood, I remember showing slides to a Yorkshire family in 1963, a short time after taking an unforgettable trip to the Lake District. Two girlfriends and I had a week filled with sunshine, my photos showing lots of blue sky, including one of Lake Windermere.

“What a shame that tree is there,” remarked the man of the house. Lake and sky stretched in every direction beyond and around my central feature, apparently blocking the real view for this gentleman.

The colours of autumn leaves were not quite a memory as the month began, lying there awaiting me and my rake or strewn along lanes and back roads looking ragged and dead. Happily, they will live again in the new growth of spring.

“No flowers,” the man sighs. But defying the diminishing of colour in early November (pre-snow), a few tiny snapdragons, deep red, were still blooming bravely beside our house. Fall crocuses were even brighter with their mauve petals.

“No moon!” he states emphatically. Not so, I say. The full moon of mid-November found its way through the clouds to beam on snowy trees. Our now white lawn reflected so much light I could have safely and easily trekked anywhere that night – but I managed to resist going out in my pyjamas.

“No birds,” he ends sadly. If only he could hear those pileated woodpeckers piping and laughing at the neighbour’s place, the ravens gurgling in our back lane, and see that pretty goldfinch upon a bare limb.


So you see, this month is not all bad, Mr. Hood, at least in Clearwater, and I do hope you found something wonderful during the other months of each year.