November is an oddly colorful time here with brooding purple skies broken by immense flocks of birds and hillsides of burnt sienna oak leaves punctuated by evergreens and the gray brown architecture of leafless trees. It is still sort of a gloomy month though, partly because most of us know what is coming and partly because, as our weather people tell us, it is our cloudiest month with only 30% sunny days.
This 30% number seems like a high estimate to me as I can only recall seeing the sun twice since November started almost a week ago, and then it only showed itself for a few minutes. We console ourselves with brisk walks and a rapt study of the few moments of unusual color- like this flower kale and its pair of intrepid bees.
As we talk to those of you in warmer climates, it begins to be the time of year when we long to hitch a ride in our packages to you for a visit in your balmier worlds. This year, we do have the gift of Thembi to help us see beyond the chill of New Hampshire to the wonder of it all. On the first day there was ice on the koi pond, Thembi came into work in a state of awe bordering on disbelief. She reported that her husband Charles had told her that come winter she would be able to leave a cup of water outside overnight and in the morning it would be ice. She had thought he was teasing her but on that day she had found out this was true. We looked at the koi moving sluggishly below the skim of ice and saw it all afresh through Thembi’s eyes.
At the close of the week, several of us met up with Thembi at a giant used winter clothing and equipment sale. As people raced by with carts full of vests, coats, snow pants, mittens, hats, skiis, snowshoes, boots and skates, we tried to explain to her all the layers she and her boys would need.
Her questions made us laugh at our selves and our funny, funny winter world. How did any of us walk with these big heavy sorel boots on our feet and why would anyone possibly need them? Would she and her boys require snowpants or would activities like sliding down a hill on a plastic disc pass them by. And why would any of us put on those long cross country skiis and push ourselves around a field with sticks? Did even tiny Andile need these big klunky hockey skates and whatever for? Snowshoes? Why on earth would anyone possible need to have such wide feet? For a moment we were all strangers in a strange land, seeing winter, this over the top season, in all its ridiculous splendor.