The melancholy days are come,
the saddest of the year
With wailing winds and naked woods,
and meadows brown and sere.
Heaped in the hollows of the grove,
the autumn leaves lie dead,
They rustle to the eddying gust
and to the rabbit’s tread.
The robin and the wren are flown,
and from the shrubs the jay.
And from the wood top calls the crow,
through all the gloomy day.
From “Death of the Flowers” by William Cullen Bryant
It’s hard for me to agree with the poet, as I feel that November is not a sad month. It’s warm and brown, full of cheerful fireside visits and fragrant soups and stews. After the hurried pace of summer, there is time to make visitors welcome and hospitality fills the air. Then there is Thanksgiving, that blessed family holiday, when we can show our family and friends the love that is in our hearts the year long.
True, most of the bright leaves have fallen from the trees, but here and there a brilliant scarlet maple stands out in all her beauty. Sunny yellow maple leaves fall silently from the big tree and blow across the yard. The summer has ended.
November is a month of many moods. She can be warm, bright and inviting as she is today, or change quickly into a dark, lowering day. November is subject to fits of melancholia, with gloom and sadness marring her brow. She seems to sense that her reign is short, with cold winter hard on her heels, and his chilly breath on the back of her neck.
In spite of her moods, she still has good wild foods to offer. It is the season for pawpaws, and I love them, especially after they turn black. It’s hard to be indifferent about a pawpaw-either you like them, or you don’t. My late Aunt Lucille would walk a country mile just in the hopes of finding a ripe pawpaw, while my daughter-in-law Jennifer would walk the same distance to avoid one. She got sick on them when she was little and can’t stand them.
My sister Mary Ellen makes a lovely pawpaw cake, sort of like a hummingbird cake, using pawpaws instead of bananas. Of course pawpaws are called West Virginia bananas. Persimmons are ripe now, but I refuse to make a persimmon pie. The last one I made was a dismal failure-even the dog refused to eat it.
Butternuts and black walnuts are ready to hull now. Commercial nuts can’t begin to compare to these wild nuts for holiday baking. November is free and lavish with her rich gifts, reaching out with a generous hand to all those who will take advantage of her bounty.
Still, there is a sense of “hurry” to get the fall chores finished before the frosty breath of winter is blowing upon us. It’s time to stack up the firewood, and think of the cheery fire while the snow blows around us. It is comforting to walk into the cellar and see the glass jars of vegetables and fruit, and know that no matter how fierce the winter might be, we have a plentiful supply of food.
I found a poem written by me late Aunt Addie, and it is so good that I need to share it. She was a gifted poet and I loved her very much.
In the evening, in the twilight,
as the sun sheds its last glow,
With my memories, sweet and tender,
back down home once more I go.
Spring has come, earth now awakens,
wildwood flowers against the hills
Now is just the time for fishing,
listen to the whippoorwills.
All is peaceful in the valley;
there’s no trouble on our mind.
Ma and Dad are talking softly,
where to plant and just what kind.
Daisy must be drove tomorrow;
to Long Sams’ just o’er the way,
Curious subject doesn’t bother us;
we scamper off to play.
Sex and such were never talked of,
and our minds were pure and free,
Babies were found in high grasses,
or maybe under an apple tree.
Then comes summer in her splendor,
long hot days and much to do,
Corn to hoe and weeds to pull,
and how tired when day was through.
Then with all those garden goodies,
as ’round Ma’s table we all sat,
And all those flavors mixed together;
I can almost taste them yet.
Then comes fall, the harvest ended,
corn is cut, the taters dug,
Uncle Squire is making ’lasses,
Maw is puttin’ them in a jug
Hogs are fat down in the pig pen,
waitin’ for the first cold spell,
Then will come old Uncle Charlie
and we guess it pretty well.
The old swimmin’ hole looks lonesome
as the walnut leaves float by,
For we know, long time no swimmin’
and it almost makes ye cry.
Fall is gone and winter beckons,
with her icy fingers long,
Christmas time will soon be comin’
and we’ll sing the Christmas song,
Hang up our stockings, black and grimy,
pinned across a straight backed chair.
Get up early in the morning
to see if Santa has been there.
There’s an apple and a sweet cake
and some candy white and red,
But the thing we treasured most,
was the slate hid underneath our bed.
Christmas on “Big Laurel” was special,
only in memory we can trace,
As we sit and dream in silence,
of those who lived in the old home place.
Thus, we’ve lived again four seasons
on “Big Laurel” so long ago.
Twilight hours, a time for dreamin’
when the sun has sunken low.
When the night has pulled her curtain
of its darkness o’er our heads,
Let us fold the sheet of memory
as our bedtime prayers are said.
In the morning, at the dawning,
may the day be fair and bright,
May the guiding hand of Jesus
ever keep our steps aright.
Then in the evening of life’s journey,
when at the river’s brink we stand,
Let us not fear the crossing,
He’ll be holding to our hand.
by Adelyn F. Samples Dawson