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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Friday, November 3, 2023

If I had to pick a favorite month that isn’t summer, November would probably be it. September will always and forever be associated with going back to school so it’s off the list. October is too overwhelmed by witches and skeletons so it loses a bit of its personality to consumer culture. December is just an explosion of Christmas, which unfortunately starts seeping into the cracks at the seams of fall a little too early for my liking. But poor November is just there, like the redheaded stepchild of the season, all fall-glorious and forgotten.

Even Thanksgiving barely gets a nod as everyone rushes off to deck the halls. So today I am paying tribute to this month and the multitude of reasons to spend a little time in it. And thus I bring you a list of… November things.

Thing one. Gourds. Yes, of course you can have gourds all fall, but November is the best time for them because you’re deep in the heart of it now. The sun is low in the sky, the treetops are on fire, the jack-o-lanterns look like toothless old men and meet their ultimate demise. Gourds, however, last almost indefinitely. I don’t know what the universe makes them out of, but you can keep a gourd for a ridiculously long time and it will continue to look orange or green or white or pointy or round or star-shaped and continue to brighten your days. Every time I go to the grocery store I sneak another one into my cart. The problem is that like seashells and pinecones, they call to be admired, and every one looks even more unique and interesting than the last.

Thing two. Indian corn. I do not have any currently but I suspect that will be easy enough to remedy on my next shopping trip. I love the colors and the papery husks. Indian corn also goes nicely with pinecones, if I do say so myself.

Thing three. Turkeys. Preferably the live kind. Roasted turkey is one of the most boring things on earth. The only reason, as far as I’m concerned, to roast a turkey, is to promptly dump it into a giant pot of water and turn it into soup. Turkey soup is some of the most spectacular on earth. Live turkeys, however, are even more fun. Especially the wild ones that just hang out looking turkey-ish because nobody is fattening them up for a table. The fact that they can fly is astounding, and something to behold.

Thing four. Soup. Soup of all kinds, giant pots of it steaming on the stove all day. Butternut squash. Lentil and sausage. Split pea. Black bean. Italian wedding. It smells amazing while it’s cooking and it’s perfect comfort food for a chilly fall day. What’s better than sticking your face over a bowl of soup and having all that delicious steam waft up into it?

Thing five. Glowing candles. I love lighting candles but they aren’t quite as effective during daylight or warm weather. But once November hits with all its roaring wind and pelting rain and dark hours, the candles come out. Especially that chestnut persimmon. And pumpkin spice. They smell good enough to eat.

Thing six. Baking. Since I can’t eat candles, I’ve got to put something in the oven. It hardly matters what. Apple pie is especially appropriate. Cookies work nicely. Bread, of course, is a given. I rarely use the oven during summer, mostly because we keep the windows open no matter what the temperature, and when it’s already 87 degrees in your kitchen you are not inclined to put on the oven. But once fall hits, and let me tell you it HIT this year with its 25 degree evenings, I’m all about the oven. Last week I baked butternut squash rolls that were so fantastically fantastic that I was worried someone might cook me for Thanksgiving.

Thing seven. Crunchy leaves. A few things annoy me about living here. I may have mentioned them once or twice. But one of the truly irksome things is the sheer amount of landscaping they do. One guy with one leaf blower will walk up and down the parking lot literally for hours on end blowing every single leaf off. One at a time. Sometimes I walk through the piles just to scatter them all over the sidewalk again. It’s sort of a cut-off-nose-to-spite-face scenario, but I love a good crunchy leaf. They belong on the ground. They are beautiful on the ground. And they are as fun to walk through as they are to jump into piles of.

Thing eight. No more Daylight Saving Time, which is depressing, but on the plus side when you look at your watch because you’re sure it must be very late, it’s only like 6pm and you have a whole night in front of you to hang out having a cocktail or writing a blog. It’s also a good excuse to eat dinner at 4pm and then go to bed early. I’m old now so I get to do that anyway. It’s just easier to do this time of year.

Thing nine. Acorns. Come on, don’t you just love them? Little seeds with hats? Adorbs.

Thing ten. Squirrels. Squirrels get a bad rap but they are pretty cool. They run around burying acorns all over the place for winter, because if they buried them all in a single place and another animal found and ate them, it would be bye-bye squirrel food. And squirrels do, in fact, remember where the acorns are buried. Not only that but they remember where their own stash is buried even when other squirrels have a stash in the same spot.

Thing eleven. Osage oranges. They fall off trees at this time of year like giant yellow rainballs. They look quite stunning on the ground and even though you can’t eat them, they’re fun to pick up and play with. They were apparently on the menu for wooly mammoths and other giant creatures of yore. No animals eat the fruit today, but squirrels will crack them open and eat the tiny seeds inside. You know I cracked one open. They are very cool looking inside, too.

Thing twelve. Hay bales. Every fall the farm across the street rolls up the grass into big round wheels. They dot the hills like something out of a painting.

Thing thirteen. Afghans. I like to sleep with about ten blankets when it’s cold. For one, it keeps me warm, and for another, I like the weight of all that coziness and squish. Just yesterday the afghans officially came out. I have the blue-and-green one that my mother knitted. I have the gray-and-white one that my mother knitted. I have the mini-merlot-coverlet that my mother knitted. Are you seeing a trend? Sometimes I put them all on the bed at the same time. Sometimes I walk around the house with one draped over my shoulders. In a box in an attic somewhere I have a pink-and-purple one that my aunt knitted out of yarn that is so heavy it’s like sleeping under a hug.

Thing fourteen. Thanksgiving. Don’t worry, we’ll give this underrated holiday its due when we get there, but you can’t help love a month with a holiday that is dedicated solely to food. Yes, yes, we’re supposed to be grateful. FOR FOOD. Just saying.

Thing fifteen. Cinnamon and spice. All the spices. Clove, anise, ginger, nutmeg. They are some of the best scents and flavors that exist. I have jars full of whole spices that are as beautiful to look at as they are to breathe and devour. I even have a clove and orange soap bar that I would eat if I could. They’re delightful any time of the year but they are especially perfect in November.

Thing sixteen. The smell of outside. It’s a very November-ish scent. Sort of wet leaves plus hay plus chilly plus fresh. A little bit of wood burning fire. You know it when you smell it. When it gets cold and you shut all the windows, then have that one nice day where you open them again, you immediately know it’s November coming in.

And now I’ve got my persimmon chestnut candle lit, there’s a warm rye in my glass, and a peanut butter cookie that didn’t make the list but I suspect will go very nicely with the month. That plus once pumpkin pie spice malted milk ball should make for a perfect evening.

Photo: some November leaves in Lynn Woods, Massachusetts. As perfect on the trees as they are on the ground.