Another Look: the cruelest month…

Lake Radner, Tenn (2015)

the cruelest month…

t. s. eliot was wrong—it is not april, but november.

it is november that sucks the color out of the world.

it is november that brutally strips the brilliant textured sweater off the tree and leaves it naked, shivering against the gray, cold wind.

it is november, when sky becomes steel, earth becomes stone, grass a wire brush, breath fog, each day a more rapidly drawn shade.

it is november, when time changes, and daytime suddenly drops into darkness before our supper is prepared.

it is november, when baseball ends, gloves are oiled, grass is covered, and stadiums sit silent and empty, too bleak even for ghosts to want to have a catch.

it is november, when the porch is stripped of furniture, the hose and bird bath put up lest they crack, the gutters emptied of fallen sky, a stretch of street with yards forsaken like the dormitory hall at lights out.

it is november, all gray and brown.

it is november, hangover after the harvest party, period of mourning after autumn’s exquisite expiration.

it is november, the time between—between the joy of ingathering and the wonder of incarnation—when darkness gathers, unwilling yet to be dispelled.

the month, of course, has its joys but they are humble — smell of wood smoke rising, tears for the young gone off to war, college football’s rivalry games and the beginning of basketball, a homely and heartwarming feast of thanksgiving, the quiet inauguration of advent and a new year to live within god’s story.

three of the most wonderful women in my life have birthdays in november—my mother, my wife, and my oldest daughter. this november marked the final football game of my young grandson’s junior year in high school — one of the best seasons in school history — and it was so cold that night we were almost relieved to lose. life will move more and more inside closed walls. we’ll begin rehearsing our annual worries about how to keep the heating bill down and what we’re doing for the holidays. the shivering begins.

november is the cruelest month. between time, gray and brown, it sucks the color out of the world.

Yea, I have looked, and seen November there;
The changeless seal of change it seemed to be,
Fair death of things that, living once, were fair;
Bright sign of loneliness too great for me,
Strange image of the dread eternity,
In whose void patience how can these have part,
These outstretched feverish hands, this restless heart?

• William Morris, “November

22 thoughts on “Another Look: the cruelest month…

  1. November may or may not be the cruelest month, but that is one austerely beautiful photo at the top of the page….


  2. By the way, this year in the Seattle area we have had a lot of nice sunny days this November. The Polar Vortex hitting most of the rest of the country are missing us completely.


  3. I’ve always liked November; it means crisp air, the beginning of winter coziness and family together at Thanksgiving. My mother died in November, but the way I perceive the character of the month strangely gives me solace.

    I’m with Michael Z – although in the milder climate out here in the Coast Range of California, the ready-for-a-change-from-winter time is pushed back about 3 weeks into late February, when it’s quite cold, still raining a lot (in a non-drought year) and the flood danger is higher. (Of course, skiers like this time…) We should have gotten some decent rain by now, but it’s been clear for weeks with no rain in sight; this is not good. (still praying for Australia)

    When I was a very young child in Montana, November meant a nice amount of snow – it was cold, but there was not so much snow that I couldn’t play outdoors. It was hunting season, and my dad often went to hunting camp over a weekend, roughing it with male relatives & friends; sometimes they actually brought home some game. Usually my aunt cooked for Thanksgiving and my mom for Christmas, so I could stay home on Christmas Day and enjoy my toys. I loved being with my aunt & uncle and teenage cousins.



  4. “In November, some birds move away and some birds stay. The air is full of good-byes and well-wishes. The birds who are leaving look very serious. No silly spring chirping now. They have long journeys and must watch where they are going. The staying birds are serious, too, for cold times lie ahead. Hard times. All berries will be treasures.”
    (Cynthia Rylant)

    When I read this, it occurred that this year I would leave the bright red pyracantha berries on the bushes and not collect them to make mantel arrangements for the holidays. I thought they might be food for the winter birds instead.


  5. I love this post. It captures the melancholy of this time of year so well.

    I heard a lonely cricket singing the blues for summer gone the other night.

    “all gray and brown”, indeed.


  6. ‘Hello, it depends on from where you’re looking at it.

    In my country, Chile, (in the southern hemisphere, temperate zone), the sun is shining with all of its vigor, the flowers are full of aroma, and the birds are singing.

    I pray God give you good days and, thank you for the beautiful photos that you’ve given us.

    Good luck –


  7. ‘Hello, it depends on from where you’re looking at it.

    In my country, Chile, (in the southern hemisphere, temperate zone), the sun is shining with all of its vigor, the flowers are full of aroma, and the birds are singing.

    I pray God give you good days and, thank you for the beautiful photos that you’ve given us.

    Good luck –


  8. Hola, depende desde dónde se mire.
    Por mi país, Chile, el sol brilla en todo su esplendor, las flores llenas de perfumes, las aves cantan…

    Ruego a Dios que le dé unos bellos días y esas hermosas fotografías que Ud. nos regala.
    Buena salud


  9. My least favorite months would probably be March and August – when you’ve had the same sort of weather for months (too cold or too hot) and you’re just ready for a change. Sure, the shortening daylight can be miserable, but I really enjoy living in a part of the world where there’s constant change and a rhythm to the seasons.


  10. You know that there is speculation that there is no time between the ingathering and the incarnation. That He was born during Sukkot. Jews celebrate the ingathering in booths as a joyous time commemorating the exodus from bondage. We Christians get spiritual significance from the Jewish festivals of Passover( Easter) and Shavuot( Pentecost). Perhaps in the future we will better understand the spiritual significance of the ingathering. That gives the time following the ingathering( November) whole new significance when considering the incarnation.


  11. July and August the very worst. Horrible hot, biting bugs, itchy poisonous weeds. Everything stinks. November holds the promise of invigorate chill and leaf-off views that never end…and snow, miraculous beautiful snow begins.


  12. That being said, my birthday, along with several other relatives birthday’s, are in November, as well as Thanksgiving. I have too many good memories of November to hate that month, but I get why it’s despised by many.


  13. You beat me to it. I spent the first 42 years of my life in Minnesota, and April was hands-down (for me at least) the worst month…rainy, bleak, windy, never warm for more than 2 days in a row. Spring-like weather seemed a distant dream that would never materialize as winter absolutely refused to loosen it’s grip.


  14. November may be the cruelest month for those who love life, but for the world-weary (Eliot was one), it’s still April…


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