As I’m writing this column, October’s been over for two days. I must confess to feeling a little let down.
October gave us unseasonable warmth, an unexpected continuing glut of fresh tomatoes, and photos on social media of friends taking late-season dips in various bodies of water. It also went out with a sensational bang, a giant wind and rain storm that knocked out power to about half the state’s population. Our exceptional electric co-op got the island up and running in fewer than 12 hours, just in time for the Waterman’s Halloween party to get underway.
October brought the North Haven Community School fall play, the Calderwood Hall Halloween dance, and a terrifying haunted barn up at the Turner Farm. November, for non-hunters such as myself, and other than Thanksgiving, only serves to bring us closer to winter, one day at a time. I have a few tasks left to do—bring in the outdoor furniture, plant garlic, mulch the raised beds with seaweed—but most of what there is left to do is wait.
Once winter arrives, not necessarily on the winter solstice, but whenever the snow finally flies, there will be snowshoeing and sledding to replace walking and paddleboarding. There will be a wood stove to stoke and paths to shovel. We’ll eat cookies and drink hot chocolate at the town tree lighting party, and we’ll spend Chanukah at home and Christmas in California. I’ll get to see my tiny nephew for New Year’s.
Winter has its particular joys and challenges. Some islanders love snow and crave every flake, which seem rarer in recent years. Some loathe the white stuff. But November, like March after it, is a period of waiting. Waiting for winter, waiting for spring.
As I’m writing this column, the sky is monochromatic and flat. I’m home with Penrose, who has a low fever and a snotty cold, another side effect of the transition out of fall and into winter. We turned the Monitor heater on yesterday, and the wood stove isn’t far behind. It stays dark late and gets dark early.
But as much as I might complain about this month of waiting, I don’t really mind coming home from work and staying in. I love to cook elaborate dinners, and I’ll have a Turner Farm CSA and orders from the Fox Islands Food Co-op to support that. Late fall and winter are when I bake. They’re when I have the time and energy to host a brunch or plan a themed dinner party.
With few outdoor tasks and no play rehearsals, I can bide my time reading the New Yorker in front of the fire, painting and drawing with Penrose, and making silly videos of Bill and I playing ABBA songs on toy instruments, for a completely non-hypothetical example of how we entertain ourselves.
Bill will take gorgeous, moody film shots of bare trees and gray water and craggy rocks and develop them in the bathroom. We’ll put on blaze orange and go for walks, worrying less about ticks than usual. All three cats will make a truce in order to gain an equal share of real estate on the hearth. I’ll have time and mental energy to finish the course hours I need to renew my EMT license.
Like leafless trees and hibernating animals, islanders recharge as daylight eludes us. Buoys are painted, traps and other accoutrement purchased, shows binged upon. As pleasant as it is to be busy, November gives us an excuse not to be.
Courtney Naliboff lives on North Haven and teaches music and theater at the school.