Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November's Gray

A group of writers meets in our town, and we share essays and other short writings that we read aloud to each other. It's not a critique group. People read poetry, short stories and essays, and occasionally a book chapter. We meet in a cozy home with a jolly wood stove. I brought this essay to our last meeting a couple of weeks ago. I tried to capture the last golden moments of autumn here.

In the city, November’s gray is cold. It surrounds you on the streets and sidewalks. Gray concrete buildings rise toward only a sliver of faintly aqua sky. And at ground level, tiny cherished city gardens here and there attempt to offset the dreariness of the urban tomb.

Lucky we are in Maine. On a country road, of a mild sunny afternoon in November, a delicate palette of gray lies all around. Set off by pale green fields rolling by, a wide blue sky above, lit by the slanting sun from the south, our grays have texture, shadow and shape. Next April we will be so weary of gray, but now it has a kind of glory, speaking of centuries, eons.

These grays are best in the late afternoon sunlight. The south sides of the tree trunks blaze and you can examine the barks of elfin corduroy maple, elephant leg beech and fizzured oak. Old gnarled apple trees pose in the orchards, their silver gray dancer arm branches still clutching handfuls of golden leaves.

Now that most leaves have fallen, hidden woodpiles and boulders appear once more along roads and paths. The character of each stone wall is laid bare now, every one as distinct as an old person’s face. Some are piles of small stones, others built with huge lichen-splotched boulders. Some wave with the passing years’ frost heaves. Others are steadfast and strong, but all are haven of chipmunks, snakes and mice. In the low sun they are sculpture and scripture of form and shadow.

Even the gray paved and gravel roads in the country delineate the fields and forests, neutral picture frames of each field’s color. And at some point in the season, the yellow stripes down their middles match the still golden maple leaves perfectly.

It is good to contemplate November’s gray, in the country on a sunny day.