HARD WINDS, DARKENED clouds roots feeling the new cold of the earth. These are the milder forms of nature's violence as November begins to clear away whatever stands in the path of winter. The effort is not large, because many of the crucial changings and passing have already occurred. The migrant birds have left. The hoarders and storers - from squirrels to ants - have done their stashing. On farms, bedding for the cattle has been set out in the barn, the rows of the woodpile packed high and the pantry shelves lined with the filled jars of the autumn harvest.
What all the activity means is that November's warnings are being heeded. When news reports announce that snow storms have hit the Midwest and Northern plains, we look up and know that the gray sky of late autumn will soon be the snow sky of early winter. Our turn comes to be vulnerable. In spring and summer, we can manage and control nature, and even push it around to the point that we think that perhaps nature doesn't know best. But in November, the warnings are too clear to be missed, much less ignored. The darkness in late afternoon is warning to get inside early, because harsh nights are ahead. The hardening of the earth warns that the long freeze-up approaches when nothing can grow for months. The faintness of the sun warns that heat must be sought from other sources.
In our reaction to these warnings is slight, and we think that November is little more than the 30 days of boredom between the blandness of October and the dullness of December, perhaps it is because our senses have been captured by the civilizing "influences." It could be that Sigurd Olson is right when he states in "Reflections From the North Country": "Man has removed himself so completely from the natural scene, whcih used to give comfort and pleasure, his reactions have atrophied through lack of use."
This November, nature has been using its power well to rally the senses and emotions. Rains, winds and low clouds that are doing the advance work of winter are also invitations to recover from our atrophy and get back to the natural scene.