"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

05 November 2013

Days of Bitter Strength

Okay, it's their most poppy song, and I lack ganja to fully appreciate this band, but the lyrics speak profound truth.Besides, I'm sucker for a touch of Grey...

I was at the local watering hole early in the evening on Día de Muertos drinking lemonade and reading the bible. Some might argue, in context, me saying I was drinking lemonade and reading the bible means I was having a pint of stout beer and tumbler of whiskey. Even if such a baseless assertion was true, both libations would've been locally made, and if I'm going to be a locavore, I'm going to keep the shit real. Bordering upon surreal.

"You ready for winter?" The man sitting next to me inquired. Outside, flurries of soft flakes wafted down in the manner of soft down feathers and willo'-the-wisp.

"'Ready' has very little to do with it," I replied. "It's November; winter's inevitable." 

We talked about trails; ones he Backcountry skis and I snowshoe. My eyes would drift outside to fading light, watching the snowflakes dancing upon the wind. I caught myself smiling bittersweetly. Simultaneously I look forward to the coming season and dreading it.

Superstition dictates that the recent holidays of Samhain and  Día de Muertos are the times when the veils between the lands of the living and realms of the dead are at their very thinest. On those days, they touch and maybe even kiss. Maybe with a little tongue.

November in our Sahel is when the veils between seasons, between light and shadow, are at their thinest. Hours, both in terms of sunlight and professional obligations, reduce. Things slow down. It's colder.

A contemporary of mine despises the month of April. I wrestle with November, when my reptile zen and crippling depression crush up against one another like glacial ice across bare rock. The direct sun is gone by mid-month and I always remember Thanksgiving as the last holiday with my mother before those last seventeen days in the sickhouse. The bruja and her unborn babe died this month, and one of my neighbors has just been introduced to the macabre of having to bury one her babies. It was strangely flattering that she asked me for Buddhist prayer for her recently departed daughter. 

Both my daughter and father have birthdays in November. Thanksgiving, for all its personal melancholy and socially expected gluttony, is the time I am most likely to see my brother, sister, their spouses, nephew, and niece. Trails, even the whore ones, become less crowded, blessing me with deeper solitude, even when only a little ways from home.

Some of the first real snows fall in November. Sometimes quite viciously. As I've watched the first flakes fall, coating the high peaks, I've caught tings of excitement, visions of snowshoeing dancing in my head.

Sabina's birthday is on Boxing Day, and, in the years we've lived here, have gone snowshoeing to celebrate it, much like we grill for mine. This birthday is a big one, and we mean to snowshoe to one of the Tenth Mountain Division Huts and spend the night to mark it. The snow means a new adventures on several levels. I find myself barely able to wait.

November is this time when we cross the veil. Into the darkness. Into the cold. Into the snow. This is the way of things here in our Sahel. I fight to maintain my equilibrium, knowing, despite my psychic scars from this time of year, this is the way of things. One must have the dark to appreciate the light, and light without shadow is blindness.

A touch of Grey, if you will...

It has been a chilly mountain autumn day. A thin dusting greeted me upon waking. The high peaks have been muted by phantasmal curtains of blowing snow refracting the pale sunlight. There is a bite to the breeze, which made my fleece and beanie a good idea when I wandered the Bull's Head.

I looked west, toward the Roof of the World, seeing the snow clouds churn. Despite myself, I thought of Yuki-Onna. The seasons were changing before my eyes.

"Are you ready for winter?" I was asked.

Fucking bring it...


  1. Sounds like November is the source is a lot of mixed emotions for you and I can understand why after reading this. Here's hoping this is a good one though.

    1. That's a good description. I'm hoping it's a decent one this year as well.

  2. Surrounded by fog, immersed in my own world of grey this morning, I can't help wondering if everyone has a month that holds too much pain, too many memories. I'm always so relieved to come out alive on the other side of April...

    The snowshoeing adventure sounds like a perfect thing to look forward to in the deep of Winter...

    1. It used to just be winter in general for me; bad break-ups, depressions, the deaths of my mother, grandmother, and a few friends...I think November somehow became the effigy because of the losing of direct sunlight, but I try not to be in the thrall of the negative. Reptile zen, baby!

      I am so excited to go snowshoeing...

  3. "Trails, even the whore ones, become less crowded, blessing me with deeper solitude, even when only a little ways from home."

    Well put.