Thursday, November 11, 2010

November Aches

In the heart of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, November is not a month; it is a feeling. Raw. Death. I write this with conviction, drawing upon a lifetime of enduring long, gray Novembers – a time when the final curtain falls on splendid, boastful October.

Damp, blackened leaves – once crisp and artful – curl together in a slimy clump that sticks to the bottom of my hiking boots. The orangey hue that accompanied fresh apple cider, firm pumpkins waiting to be carved and the smell of burning wood, has become grayish and flat. Knowing what lies ahead, jack-o-lanterns stare with menacing distorted smiles on their caved in faces as they rot on the stone wall. The wind and rain rip the remaining, stubborn leaves from the trees, triggering my nesting instincts, making me think that I should have a gray tiger cat to curl up with, but I don’t.

I wonder why the leaves on the ash trees are the last to go and I wonder if the frogs in the little pond have buried themselves in the mud yet, so I look for them beneath the still water. It is too dark to really see anything except for the reflection of bent cat-o-nine-tails.

November aches. Bare trees fade into more bare trees. Shivering dead skeletons of last year’s gardens remind me that I never found out which ones to pull and which ones to cut, so I left them in the disarray of certain death.

I expect the pigs to snort at my presence, but it is eerily silent now that they have been slaughtered. I avoid looking there. I don’t want to see what it looks like with them gone. I curse myself for liking them even though I promised that I would not make eye contact with them. I did make eye contact with them, but only for a few seconds at a time. Does that count? They had blue eyes, which made me look away.

The whey buckets were too heavy; about 50 pounds each when full. Sometimes I carried two at a time. They liked the whey more than the grain. It was sticky, smelled sour and splashed on my feet, but I knew that it was good. I always threw handfuls of mint and mugwort into their pen because I could. Every time I went outside I sang silly songs that I created just for them, improvising on the spot; they were my new audience.

The feasting ends. No more piggie songs. Now they are wrapped up in neat bundles in the freezer. Peanut butter and elderberry jam is my new favorite thing. That’s what happens in November.


  1. I think it's OK to slaughter the same pigs you sing to. Better, really, than the way the rest of us come by our pig meat. Good they were happy when the sun was high. And you. November is hard here, too, but not as hard as February.

  2. I agree. I wish that I had a different feeling concerning the pigs. I knew that they would be slaughtered. I know that they had a healthy, organic diet, therefore the meat is clean and better. It's a 'me' thing. I have always been a dairy farmer before this...collecting eggs...making goats milk products. I am so squeamish.

    You are also right about February. It is similar to that November feeling, but damper and more least here in New England. I think that as an artist, there is something necessary in relation to that. For me, that is where playing the cello comes in...true melancholy. It makes the return of the sun so much more powerful.