November, with its bittersweet days, has faded into December’s enticing arms. This time of year, replete with reminiscence and nostalgic yearnings, brings both challenges and delights. As the last of autumn’s crimson and golden-amber leaves dance to the ground, the chill of winter’s coming brings us to hearth and home. I forget, sometimes, that the wisdom is in finding the hearth of my own heart and the home that is within me. I cast a wistful eye upon this contradictory time of outward invitations and inward turnings, of joyous celebrations and reflective quietude. Such is the splendor and, yes, the poignant sting of the season that is upon us. Yet, still, the lingering days of autumn call me backward into reflection of November days just gone by.
Early November sashays in with the sweetest of smiles. She is changeable and wanton, this November. Her mercurial ways remind me of my aversion to change; stability—or the thought of it—seems lovely to me. Yet my life has been naught but change. I have come to expect it, and I strive to embrace it. I laugh at the different faces of change. Some changes call for somersaults and cartwheels of glee, dances of delight and shouts of gratitude. In the past, many changes found me stubbornly holding onto steady rocks, fearful and reluctant to walk on new paths. Now I notice when I am holding on to avoid change. I try to let go; I learn more and more how to trust. Still, at times I feel fortunate to hold my head up and smile as I meander through the more difficult changes. November has brought change–again. I smile—almost wincingly–at the veritable tornado of the last few months. Yet, as always, the wild winds have brought new discoveries and fresh perspectives. While it is only the first week of November, and I feel that more change is in the air. I am not the only one. I have noticed that my friends and family—even my clients—seem to be unusually affected by life-altering changes. I pull on my coat as I prepare to leave my office; I am always reluctant to leave. I love it so. I shut off the lights and, with a backward glance, I give thanks. Pure potential is in the wind. The whirling dervish of transformation is peeking through the windows. I smile and I laugh at the thought. It is the wisest thing I can do.
It is mid-November. The sky is often gray and the air is filled with pensiveness. The cool autumn rains come now and again. The fickle sun peeks through as it will, and I welcome the changes. I don my raingear, and Pup begrudgingly waits while I cover his copper fur with his raincoat. He does not like the rain; it interferes with his wild and wayward delights. He cocks his head and arches an eyebrow as I fasten the last tab on his raincoat. Brown eyes meet amber, and I can nearly hear him say, “I don’t like this wet weather, Momma. I belong on a sun-drenched porch with acres of land to roam whenever I like.” I smile and gently rub the top of his head. I refrain from pulling up the hood of his coat; I save him that anguish. He shakes his bare head in apparent thankfulness. I smile, myself bareheaded, as we move out into the steady downpour of morning rain.
On a Sunday afternoon we take a drive to Shell Beach. Although the skies are a sea of sparkling blue, the weather has turned cold. My companions laugh at my gear—a long black coat with a faux-fur trimmed hood for extra warmth. I do not mind their taunting laughter; I will be warm. Step by step, we take the precarious, water-logged path downward to the beach. The recent storms have made for muddy going, yet the ocean waves call us forward. Our feet meet the level sand, but the tide is coming in quickly. It is high, too high, to let Pup off his lead. Pup pulls and strains in the hope of stretching his legs on the ample beach ahead. The waves crash fiercely at our feet. Another wave descends, this time closer and a bit more ferociously. Pup, perplexed, stands firm even as we move to retreat. Reluctantly, he makes his way with us to higher ground. Within minutes we are off to Goat Rock’s more expansive beach. Pup seems to know that his patience will pay off, and he wags his tale expectantly. Pup knows how to take life’s shifts and changes in stride; I am always learning from Pup.
It is an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I walk with family and loved ones upon the warm sands of Carmel’s beaches. Pup races back and forth along the ocean’s edge. Sand whirls and flies as he cavorts wildly in his newfound freedom. Pup spins in circles; heads turn, smiles light up faces, and laughter floats in the balmy air. Pup charges toward a crashing wave; he screeches to a halt and steps gingerly toward the foamy water’s edge. Brow furrowed, he sniffs and meanders, never lingering long enough to be caught in the dance of the sea’s waves. Overhead, the sun streams through the crystal, cloudless sky. The gentle wind glides through my hair and the light cotton of my shirt. I stop and burrow my toes into the sand; it is warm and comforting. It is good to know that my loved ones are with me. Through squinted eyes, I catch their shapes as they walk on a bit ahead. I feel compelled to race to meet them, yet I stop and bend again to revel in the sand. My fingers trail through the warm, glittering grains. My thoughts turn to my loved ones who are not with me, those who have passed on and those who are spending their weekend elsewhere. I think of my mother; I miss her terribly. My heart aches and tears come to my eyes. I scoop up a dark, flat stone and polish it absently as I soak in the splendor that surrounds me. My eyes alight on a cluster of children building a castle in the sand. A curly-haired cherub, skin bare to the sun’s warm rays, works with chubby fingers to prod the sand into a precarious dome. I smile into the sky above. Hair flying and eyes alight, I race up the beach with Pup at my side.
The last week of November is flying by. Another birthday has come and gone. I could not be happier. This whirlwind of life has been good to me. Trials and challenges, joys and wonders, they come and they go. I do my best to observe them, learn from them, and smile through both the highs and the lows. Even my tears I have come to notice and admire. My tears are a link to my soul. The day is warm and clear. The top of the car is down, and the wind is whipping my hair back and forth. I put on a sun hat. I say to my companions, “A sun hat and a convertible in November. Aren’t we ever so lucky?” We are driving back from Carmel. I love the way the enchanting town’s charming name unfurls in my mind, “Carmel-by-the-Sea.” Carmel has been precious to me since my first visit as an awed and curious teen. Each visit brings new adventures and delights. I think of the recent days we have spent in Carmel and Monterey; each one has been a gift. Now, headed homeward, the sun kisses the nape of my neck as we drive north. Pup is cuddled safely in the back seat. He is happy and warm in his nest of blankets. Music flows from the stereo, and I sing along. It is good to be a passenger sometimes; it is good to be carefree. The gray road unwinds before us, and fields of green stretch out to both sides. I tilt my head upwards; there is not a cloud in the sky.
It is with deep gratitude that I share my November journey with you. May your own journeys be filled with tranquility, love, and inner wisdom.