The November People

November wood

There’s something a little different about the month of November. I think (in my slightly superstitious Celtic bones) that it’s because it follows on the heels of Samhain, which we commonly call Halloween nowadays. Where I live I can’t kid myself that it’s autumn anymore, because the bones of winter are on full display, often without the soft covering of snow just yet. November is, undoubtedly, the ‘thin month’, when the veil between this world and that is stretched very thin.

I was walking in my neighbourhood park this morning, which is a large area bordered by forest. There are generally one or two other people there with their dogs even on chilly days, but this morning it was just me and my two dogs all alone.

Generally I love November’s palette—the greys and browns, the soft reds and blacks, the pewter of bare branches and the deep green glow of the evergreens against the backdrop of white. But today it all felt too dark, and slightly ominous. Because November is the haunted month, it’s the month when ghosts seem to roam abroad even during the day and most certainly at night when the moon is shrouded in a thick cloak of mist and chill. At about the farthest point in the park, farthest away from the road and the neighbourhood above (the park sits down below the neighbourhood which is situated on a bluff of sorts) I suddenly had the strong sensation of being watched. I have (as I assume many writers do) an overly active imagination, but still, imagination or otherwise, it feels real enough in the moment. I walked a little faster, with that strange sense that something was going to touch the back of my neck any moment, something was going to curl its sepulchral fingers in my hair. Rationally, I knew there wasn’t anything corporeal there, but my primitive brain, that bit that sits right at the top of the spine, was convinced otherwise in no uncertain terms. So I walked faster, breath high in my throat and heart thudding hard in my chest, my dogs looking at me wondering what the heck was going on.

So now, sitting here with a hot cup of tea in hand, tea lights flickering in the fairy house on my desk, salt lamp glowing against the grey of the day outside, it seems faintly ridiculous and a little delicious because there is nothing like the aftermath of that feeling, once you’re safe and tucked up in your house. But it also makes me think about that sense we often have of eyes watching from the edge of the forest, or from the dark shadows at night. There are times it’s probably no more than an inquisitive mouse, or shrew eyeing us up from the door of their snug burrow. But there are other times, when I wonder what else lingers in the grey air, sitting upon a mist-dark bough, viewing us from the loft of an evergreen bough. What eyes prickle the nape of our neck, what fingers reach out across time and brush our wind-reddened cheeks? What foot walks amongst the roots and frost-heaved soil, leaving no imprint in its wake? What shadow slips across our peripheral vision that we cannot see when looked upon directly? I think, perhaps, they are the November people, those free of the fetters of this earth, who yet linger amongst rock and root and soil and frosted ground. Sometimes they are content to linger at the edge of the forest, or behind that mounded hill, or sit narrow-eyed upon their boughs high in the steely air. But sometimes I think they slip down, like a ribbon of liquid dusk, and they follow in our wake, catching the furled smoke of our breath to mask their own, and sometimes I think they reach through the chill air of November to touch the warmth of what they once were, but no longer are. For what they are now is the November people.