The mountains are back. I was out with the dogs this morning when I saw them again. The beautiful colors of autumn are gone now, but they have left behind these glorious mountains that are hidden for much of the year under a vast canopy of green. Oh, we always have lovely views of course. We sit in a high sweet valley and are surrounded on all sides by the soft round mountains of Vermont. But their shapes are mysterious underneath all those trees until November.
They call it stick season up here. Wrapped as we are by forests the leafless trees are everywhere, giving rise to the nickname. November is also our darkest month and so depression rates start running up pretty soon right about now. The lovely glittering snow has yet to make much of an appearance lightening the landscape as it will, and the sun and the fall color have disappeared and taken away all the light. We are left with millions of dark skeletons and gray skies punctuated by wind and rain. It can be a dreary month.
But then this morning, I realized that November gives us our mountains back. There they are, no longer hidden beneath the weight of all that green. Their shapes now are unmistakable, filling in all the blanks. Owl’s Head is no longer just a little bump, but a great round circle hinting at hidden bear caves and bats, and all the life being lived in those deep forests. Mother Myrick too is wide open and unbuttoned. You can see the rivers running along her sides if you get close enough, and the shaggy outline she lends to miles of landscape are clear and distinct at this time of year. With thousands of leafless trees just in front of our front porch, the views are long and open again. The mountains that we always know are there are now right in front of us, practically shouting their presence, and reminding me that they have been here all along.
When I first moved to Vermont I never tired of coming out of the grocery store and looking at a mountain just a few hundred yards away. But somewhere along the way I forgot that November brings these particular charms, shifting our perceptions, outlining the world again and getting it all back down to the bare essentials.
We are here together in this bleakly beautiful place that is November. The bears are filling up and snuggling in and so are we. Our oil tanks are getting filled, and our boilers are rattling on again. The firewood is stacked and the cupboards are full of tomatoes canned from this summer’s bounty. Our cell phones and blackberries don’t work too well up here, and so that other real world of traffic and financial meltdowns, lunches and late appointments seems far away. Here real life is the sound of the boiler chugging once more back to life and the smells of a steamy cassoulet cooking on the stove. We work hard in the north country for the right to see these mountains every day, breathe this good air, and live this gentle slower life beside the waterfalls with the coyotes and the bears. We give up restaurants and multiplexes, shiny shoes and good hair salons. But what we get instead are these magnificent views, the smell of woodsmoke and the quiet satisfaction of a life lived on its own terms.
My mountains are back and I have found some gratitude amidst this dark November…..