Today we began a new month, with its own fresh page on the calendar.
November is the last full month of autumn, a fact I suspect a lot of folks forget—especially when a north wind comes whistling around the eaves and sleet rattles like buckshot against the windows. Or a skift of snow dusts the new-fallen leaves like a spilled barrel of flour.
Oh, yeah…it can do all that in November.
But November can also be sunny and bright, shirt-sleeve warm. Soft, sweet days filled with the scent of cider and woodsmoke, and radiant, golden light that sweeps into every corner of the now-opened woodlands, and sparkles off the riffles like the sunniest day in spring.
That's November, too.
November can blow hot or cold, mild, crisp, chilly. It can blow in gentle zephyrs, like a lover's caress, or draw across your body like an icy razor that slices straight through flesh and bone to your spinal marrow. Sometimes November's breeze comes scuttling through the yard, catches all those leaves you so carefully raked into a neat pile, and hurls them aloft like so much confetti. There! What do you think of that!
The thing is, you just never know about November. It's this and that, and everything in-between—always changing, unpredictable, kaleidoscopic, full of surprise.
The best way to waltz happily through November is by thinking of it as sort of the seasonal version of going to one of those big family reunions they have down in the hill country. You know, the ones that are held the same summer weekend every year, so folks from out-of-town can have plenty of time to plan their vacations around attending. They always take place on the grounds of the local Baptist or Methodist church, because there's plenty of comfortable shade out back for folding chairs and blankets for seating, plus the fifteen or twenty makeshift serving tables made by laying 4X8 sheets of plywood between two sawhorses; and should it rain, room in the church's basement—just barely, if everyone crowds in—to eat and visit.
Now the pertinent part of such a shindig as it relates to November, is the food on those groaning tables. All homemade, of course. (A true Mountain Southerner would no more come a'callin' to a family reunion carrying a bucket of fast-food chicken, than he would without first giving his pickup truck it's annual wash and wax, or fail to bring along Ol' Rattler, his favorite bluetick. Yes'am, hound dogs enjoy reunions, too.)
Anyway, as I was saying…the food is homemade and probably the cook's best dish. Or best half-dozen dishes, not including pies and cakes, and their personal take on banana pudding. Why, it ain't neighborly to come carryin' just one thing to share on a table.
The point is, it's all good. Every last bite.
Sure, this bowl of chicken-and-dumplin's is not quite the same as that bowl of chicken-and-dumplin's—or any of those other twenty variations you do your best to sample. Just like none of the home-canned green beans taste alike, or the creamed onions, or the macaroni-and-tomatoes. There are too many cat-head biscuits for an honest assessment; too many pones of cornbread (none with sugar…uggh!), and more potato dishes than even a hungry man with a good appetite could manage.
We won't attempt to discuss dessert, especially pies—apple, peach, rhubarb, gooseberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, chocolate, cocoanut, peanut butter or about twenty-five others. And cakes. And cookies to fill out those odd corners after the three-hour meal.
Good. All good. Good. Good. Good!
Just like November. Sun snow, wind, rain, clouds, blue skies…good. All good.