Angela Cannon-Crothers

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The Remains of November

Posted by Angela Cannon-Crothers on November 23, 2011 at 7:35 PM

There is a simple grace to the elemental, stark feel of a November day that my spirit feels drawn to lately. The dark denim sky, treebranches stretched like dancer’s arms, the somber color of fallen oak leaves scatteredunder low lighting beg me to answer solitude with solitude, to nestle in, tofind rest. We’ve had snow twice this season up in the hills, once enough tostick and hang heavy in the trees like a winter wonderland. Then the weather warmed again into the 60s to call me back to the garden to dig the last of the purple heirloom carrots, pull what onions remained, and eat one hard and roughskinned squash after another.

Formations of geese passed and the last of the monarchs disappearedwhile hardy yellow sulfurs continued to flitter here and there. I always waitto hear the low wonk-ing of snowgeese traveling by night, but even they must have found southern territory bynow. There is no season as lonely as November, when everyone has left by wing, insidethe wrapping of cocoons and woody galls, or down deep into roots to slumber.The annuals leave only their skeletal forms: tiny dried vase-like calyxes ofevening primrose, tall seed bearing stalks of mullein, creamy seed heads ofgoldenrod. November is the pendulum point just as it stops a moment to pause,get its bearings, and swing on to the arc of winter.

All around are the remains of summer’s memories, itsfecundity, its sensual smells and hums and songs. If I look closely I canremember it still and take comfort in its passing. In the naked limbs of my most closely acquainted trees are now visible the nests of last summer’s birds.Behind my bedroom is a robin’s nest, built above the crook in the tree branchand lined with grasses, and down in the woods a vireo nest is hung below the branch, just over 3 inches wide, and lined with fine fibers, pine needles, andspider silk.

Along the roadside, high and dangling from a black walnut tree, is a bald-faced hornet nest made from wood fiber and wasp saliva blendedinto a globe of small swirled patches. The bald-faced hornet is white and blackon the posterior with a partially white face. The nest is begun in the spring by a pregnant female who makes a simple set of paper chambers and lays a feweggs to tend. The brood that hatches and eventually pupates are entirely workerfemales who take over their mother’s duties so she can become “queen.” It’s notuntil fall that any males offspring are produced. Late fall’s fertilizedfemales find an old log to burrow into for the winter while the rest of the colony- including the queen - dies.  Accordingto folklore, hanging a bald faced hornet nest in the house will dispel headaches. If you decide to collect one keep in mind that the empty nest often houses other insects and spiders for winter quarters.

Along these slips of land between the lakes and hills I beginto feel confined despite the opening of sky and woodland the leafless seasonbrings. Deer-bow season has ended, which I am wary about but don’t feel imprisoned by. When rifle season starts my heart races, my ears go alert, and   1/4Isometimes duck on my own front porch. A rifle bullet, unlike a bow or musket,can travel up to a mile, or so I am told. There isn’t a straight mile any where around me that doesn’t run into somebody’s house or farm. Rifle season restricts my wanderings as well as my children’s ability to get outside – even at the Naples School playground (if that doesn’t speak for how much we should fear deer rifle season, I don’t know what does). I ache for the end of it, give thanks for our survival and run out into post-rifle season snow like a woman crazedfor freedom.

In this barren season the human-land relationship growsstrikingly evident; from the top of my driveway I count over 40 turbines spinning by day and blinking like Rudolf’s nose by night. A huge orange glow  rises up from the gas substation over the hill across Route 53. Both are constant reminders to me of our dependency on natural (and maybe un-natural)resources, but the latter’s presence make our recent escapade into wind turbine issues look greatly over-exaggerated or at least, like a much lesser beast.When I hear proponents of hydrofracking say that the method of extraction –high pressure fracturing deep underground while injecting a toxic chemical slurryof acetone, toluene, benzene, phenol, arsenic, barium, heavy metals and more to flush it out – as being sound science, I wonder what science they are talkingabout? Gas extraction and hydraulic fracturing science is, I suppose, a science too after all. But it’s far too ghastly of a danger to the environment and human health to be based on anything close to ecological or environmental science.

I often sigh and wonder why I had to be born in the fossilfuel era when there seems to be so little good to say about it. Like many here Iwant to live cooperatively with the land, with the earth and sun, the moon and stars, not as part of a society that will be remembered for blowing the earth to bits deep from within its core, slurping up all it has to give, then burningour drink into an atmospheric-climate-altering smog that comes back down as toxic rain (my environmental career began as an acid rain collector). Surely an intelligent life form (aka – humans) can find a better way to produce energy,one that doesn’t risk our water, soil, climate and fellow creatures? I am thankful for these beautiful hills and Finger Lakes, for hot water, heat, andelectricity (luxuries I have lived without elsewhere) but can we be truly thankful today if what we leave our children and grandchildren tomorrow is a land that resembles only the remains of November?

 

 

 

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