Looking out the window as I record this, I’m going to guess that November is not your favorite month. If that’s the case, you’re probably in the majority. Around the Outer Cape it’s the time of year when it gets dark at four PM on a cloudy day, which means most days; when it takes you twice as long to get dressed than it did only a few weeks ago; when the streets are empty by six o’clock and the wait staff in the open restaurants, if you can find one, stand mournfully at the windows watching the headlights speed past. Emily Dickinson called November the Norway of the year. Dickinson had never visited Norway, of course; but I have, and unless she was fond of a diet without vegetables, a 25% sales tax, and a near pathological fear of anything alcoholic, I can tell you this was not a comment ion favor of our eleventh month. I disagree, though, because I love November.
I’m aware how strange this may sound in an area of the world where the population soars in summer and flees in winter, but I feel the same way about November that most people feel about July. Summer is not my favorite season. You can take the crowds and the hot nights and the scorching sun. I’m all too aware that around here you can also take home a salary during the summer, which is what makes me feel apologetic, and contrarian, and a little like a traitor when I hope for rainy days and cold snaps and curse the network weather forecasters who gush with barely restrained ecstasy at the prediction of a pending heat wave.
When I was a kid I was overweight, which may account for my antipathy to bathing suit weather but for others it’s actually a health issue. While most people have seasonal affective disorder in the winter, about five percent of the population, it turns out, there’s an outlying one percent that get it in the summer. With the onset of long hot days and short humid nights, they tend to sleep less, eat less, and lose weight. They also get irritable and agitated. And the tendency is to feel a little deranged in addition to being crabby because, well, the sun is out, the sky is blue, the temperature is up, and practically every song ever written equates warm sunny weather with happiness.
Those of us who aren’t particularly happy have mostly learned to keep our real feelings to ourselves. You don’t tell TSA screeners at the airport that what they’re doing is fairly useless. You don’t tell friends that you really don’t care to see pictures of their grandchildren. And on a ninety-five degree day with ninety percent humidity you generally don’t disagree with someone who raves about the fabulous weather.
But I like the air conditioning on the outside rather than the inside of the car and that’s one of the reasons I love November. I enjoy listening to wind outside my windows at night. I like football on TV three days a week. I like steering my car through deep puddles and driving over blankets of wet brown leaves in the road. and watching the last surviving leaves cling to the half bare branches of the trees.
I like the smell of mothballs in the closet as I search for the woolen hats and scarves and corduroy jeans I packed away in May. In fact I think of my winter clothes as old friends I haven’t seen for months; friends who forgive and cover for my excesses, like the old fishermen’s sweater that hides the extra weight I’m about to put on during the winter.
I like going to the movies on a weekday night and finding myself all but alone in the theater. I like working at my desk all afternoon and not feeling like it’s too nice out to be inside. I like my neighborhood when it’s finally quiet, free from the persistent churn of lawn mowers, chain saws, leaf blowers, drills, hammering, radios, and the general clatter of home repair. And who can resist the Outer Cape sunsets in November, the shocking reds and purples that bleed from the sky to the water?
It’s almost shameful to admit but true. I enjoy the coming of winter. Where friends see a time for vacations I see a time to get a lot of work done. Where they see cold boring afternoons inside I see books and coffee and a fireplace. Not to mention the long winter nights. Where they see short afternoons that end at four PM I see the chance to have my first drink an hour earlier.
I’m Ira Wood…and that’s my opinion.