November is the saddest month.
The second last month of the year carries a realization of growing old, reaching an end. Everything is dying or about to die and the crying starts, in the form of the November rains.
The month enters dark and spooky following Halloween, the haunting evening for ghosts and ghouls. Nov. 1 dawns as All Saints Day when some religions honour the dead who were saintly in their lives. And that’s followed by All Souls Day Nov. 2, a day of memorial for all dead.
The month seems to be all about gloom.
There is little life in the woods. Cold and approaching snow have sent birds winging south. The bears have taken to hibernation. Deer are hoofing off to wintering areas where they face less chance of starvation.
The landscape is bleak. Deciduous trees are embarrassed in their nudity, their leafy clothing tossed aside revealing not only their private parts but a wide open view of the terrain that supports them.
The forest floor, revealed totally only briefly in November and April, looks like a battlefield. It is littered with the decaying bodies of the fallen – branches and complete trees that have dropped unseen and silently, victims of age, disease or perhaps vicious winds.
Once vibrant participants in forest life, they are but dark lumps trying to blend into the ground, now turned a sepia tone by the rotting leaves that fell in October.
Everything is different in November. The shocking blue skies that amplified October’s brilliance now show sooty grey, the colour of ashes in woodstoves being fired up across the county.
Even the wind is different. It is more often northerly, pushing naked tree branches together, clicking and rasping like dried bones rattling in a bag.
Nature never keeps us in a bleak and sorrowful state for long, however. November is a short month and almost always before it ends the snows come to blanket our dull and weary landscapes.
Not everyone appreciates the whiteness, but it does cloak November’s decay. It also heralds more interesting times ahead – winter sports, the joy of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays that promise ebullient gatherings with friends and family. And, of course, the Dec. 21 winter solstice that brings increasing hours of daylight and the march toward spring.
November’s change from dark decay to snowy whiteness brings hope for days to come after January and February.
But there is something different about November this year. Something nasty and negative.
There’s a meanness present this year. A meanness present in all our discussions, whether they be about the country’s political divisions or the rightness or wrongness of the firing of television hockey commentator Don Cherry.
For example: Don Cherry is a loud-mouth racist unable to accept the changes in hockey, or in Canadian culture. Or, Don Cherry is an honest and generous person crucified by “left-wing liberal snowflakes.” Hard line opinions tainted by meanness and with little rational thought.
There is no middle ground in that discussion, or it seems any other discussion these days. Everything is argued in extremes with a meanness that is becoming a part of our daily lives.
This meanness is a significant social problem. We see it in political debates, schoolyard bullying, domestic abuse and even mistreatment of animals. It is like a virus has drifted in and infected a once stable and reasonable society.
Meanness develops when people feel small and powerless against the changes and pressures in the world around them.
The world today is one of massive change. People lacking the ability to think about change in a reasonable and wise manner feel overwhelmed and helpless. Trying to solve the problems brought by change seems impossible, so they turn to an easy defence – lashing out strongly and with little thought.
Nature understands change as inevitable and an important progression in a natural cycle.
The current cycle of our human civilization is not natural. It is out of whack and nature can do little to help us. We have to do that ourselves.
We won’t fix our problems with meanness. Loud swaggering threats never have done much to help define and solve problems.
That’s something for our political leaders – in fact all of us – to think about.