As we slip further and further away from summer, I feel this column (originally published on November 28, 2006) aptly describes our feelings on this cruel month. Enjoy...
As I write, the late-afternoon sunlight of a late November day is withdrawing across the valley before us and the sunlight lighting up the kitchen will, in a few moments, fade as its source disappears behind the long hill behind us.
It was a treat to see the light today, even if the mercury in the thermometer never managed to climb more than a degree or so above the freezing mark and the air, at least when I was out for a walk around three o’clock, felt like it had had a close call with a lot of ice cubes.
November this year has done a good job of living up to that old poem of Thomas Hood’s in its honour:
No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
Several weeks ago, we set out on one of our semi-annual jaunts to see friends and family in Ottawa. Various events had delayed our travel and we were anxious to get there and back before the snow began to fly. We needn’t have worried. It was raining as we drove away from the farm. As we crossed into Maine on our way to a Bed and Breakfast in Lennoxville, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, it was raining. We stopped in Bangor for what an English friend used to call an “un-puff” (i.e. a quick meal) around two o-clock and by the time we left around three it was already dark.
It was pitch dark and raining as we pulled into Eustis, in the Carrabassett Valley to get gas. The girl at the counter said it should take (she seemed to stress the ‘should’) at least half an hour to get to the Quebec border, and added that, as it was rutting season, a lot of creatures we wouldn’t want to run into might be encountered on the road.
We crept along the winding road toward the border with one foot poised before the brake pedal and one eye on the rear-view mirror for the other hazard on that stretch, lumber trucks that are either fully loaded and in a hurry to get where they are going, or are unloaded and in a hurry to get home again.
It was raining when we got to the border and - incredibly - had to go through US customs in order to get to Canadian customs! I remember that border crossing in the old days when a US border guard told me about a great place to get apple pie in Bangor. Not any more. The US border now seems to extend across the road. It seems, now, that whether one has a Canadian passport or not counts for little if you were born in the States. Coming and going we were told we were US citizens. “They’re looking for draft dodgers,” I said to my wife as we motored the twenty yards or so down the road - in the rain - to the Quebec border. “Surely not after all this time?” she said. Probably. I actually don’t think they have a clue what they’re looking for; they only know that they’ll be in deep doo-doo if someone who shouldn’t, gets through at their station.
We arrived in Lennoxville a bit before eight - in the rain. It rained much of the way to Ottawa, rained most of the time we were in Ottawa, and rained all the way back to Lennoxville, on the way home. And then rained ever since, practically.
It didn’t rain the Saturday after we came home, however. By nine o’clock a black cloud bank hung beyond the far side of the valley and the sun had heaved itself over the edge into something very like a clear blue sky and the air was almost balmy. It was a sign we were determined to make the most of. The old chicken house behind us had needed considerable repairs, not to mention re-shingling; and we were not likely to see a day like that again, any time soon.
By the time the sun sank to the hill behind us, much shingling had been accomplished and the rotten boards on the side toward the weather (which also happened to be the side toward the sun) had been replaced with new boards. I watched the sun slide down into the trees on the hilltop and knew, as I finished with the last board and felt the sudden chill in the air, that all was well. The perfect not-November day in late November had lasted just long enough.
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.