It is November. This happens every year. Not just the month happens, but this dismal in between time. There’s all this hoopla and hurrah all through the autumn. All through the growing season actually. It culminates with El Día de los Muertos, which is hoopla defined. Flowers, food, music. Family, fun, gathering. Bit too much sugar, maybe way too much tequila. And color! Bright and glorious and free from any aesthetic constraints!
And then it’s November 3rd.
In the desert November is uninspiring, but at least it’s still warm enough in the daylight to be outdoors. More importantly, it’s dry, not drizzling. And the bears are off in their winter dens. Even the snakes and bugs are all snoozing. So on November ambles there is much less need for caution when turning over rocks. Which is a bad habit of mine. The interesting minerals are always in the bottom, you see. Maybe. In any case, I just have to check.
Desert November is blah, but up north? November means grey. Grey skies. Grey skin. Grey thoughts. After the color and pageantry of autumn, you’re slammed up against a slate wall. And then it’s winter. Except… it’s not. The first snow may come any day, but it won’t be real snow until well after the solstice. It won’t last, won’t cover the greyness in glittering winter wonder. November snow is not pretty. It’s mud as soon as it hits the ground. Grey mud.
To amplify the ambiguity, in this country there’s this weird harvest celebration that falls well outside any harvest. Even the livestock have been culled by the fourth Thursday in November. And the colors are all wrong. Pumpkin orange and nut brown. Braying echoes of the autumn we put to bed back at the beginning of the month. There aren’t leaves on the trees, but there are leaves on all the Thanksgiving displays in the grocery store. It’s disorienting.
I go through this grey mood every year. November is like a dreary switchback in the annual path. Right near the top of the ascent, we find our feet heading back in the opposite direction. But the end… it’s just over there… can’t we skip this part? That’s the whiny child in me who wants the days of sparkle and firelight. I can see them up ahead, but here I am stuck in thirty days of grey.
If Thanksgiving actually lived up to its myth, maybe that would be a consolation. It’s supposed to be the day we all come together and express our gratitude. But does that happen? For anyone? For those of us in retail and other dark halls in the House of the Precariat, we don’t even get the day off, never mind sufficient time to gather loved ones and prepare the feast that represents our thanks. And there’s all this television insinuating itself into what meagre celebration we might cobble together.
And then it’s Friday.
Which is approximately my personal version of hell. Oh, there’s color. But it’s ghastly and garish. Plastic glare and too much red. And absolutely no reason for any of it to exist.
I always stubbornly refused to have sales or extended hours in my bookstore. I didn’t even make my employees come in until afternoon. By which time most of the haggard crazies had exhausted the opportunities to save pennies on future trash and gone home. I seem to remember quite a number of pajama story times on Black Friday night. Parents were definitely thankful for the calm interlude I offered. Which makes me wonder why we participate so willingly in the storm.
Maybe just to escape the grey, huh? Maybe we need to come up with some other use of this time, something that celebrates grey betweens.
If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears. Tequila notwithstanding…
for 3 November 2021
You can respond in the comments below or make a Twitter post to the Wednesday Word. Either way, begin your response with #between. Your response can be anything made from words. I love poetry, but anything can be poetic and you needn’t even be limited to poetics. An observation, a story, a thought. Might even be an image — however, I am not a visual person, so it has to work harder to convey meaning. In the spirit of word prompts, it’s best if you use the word; but I’m not even a stickler about that. Especially if you can convey the meaning without ever touching the word.
If responding in Twitter, you are limited to the forms of Twitter. I would prefer that there be no threads because that is difficult. So if you have something long, post it in the comments below. That said, please don’t go too long. Keep it under 2000 words. I’m not going to count, but I’m also not promising to read a novel. Unless it’s really good!
If I receive something particularly impressive, I’ll post it next week. If not, well, that’s fine too. I know you all are busy. But if you’ve read this far, then I’ve made you think about… between.
they wait on the edges eyes gleam in the gloaming in darks fields and high hedges they wander a’roaming they listen at keyholes breathe fog on the glass a shiver of dread flows wherever they pass these wee in-between folk ne’er walk in the light they creep ‘round the signposts and keep to the night they sort through our words that fall like grey snow mumble edicts unheard we fear what they know so we keep anxious eyes out while we puff out our chests till the sentinel cries out and summons the rest and they pour from the cracks silent fists at their sides they will take it all back because earth abides
Composed upon seeing an image of Greta Thunberg arriving at Glasgow.
©Elizabeth Anker 2021