Practically November

The cat who walks aloneI pretty much always go on vacation in October. Which makes sense really, since Fall is my favorite season, and I tend to travel to places that do Fall extraordinarily well.

Vermont. Upstate New York. Western Massachusetts.

But the thing is, I also deeply, deeply enjoy Fall on Cape Cod.

So it’s always a little wrenching to leave on a Sunday in October for parts unknown, peering out my rearview mirror at the woods around my house, knowing I’ll probably miss watching them turn during what will likely be the most dramatic week of Fall.

And it always is.

And then off I go to Vermont, or Upstate New York, or Western Mass, and it’s totally okay, it’s more than okay, because I am too busy reconnecting my jaw to its hinges from gaping at all the gorgeousness to be too terribly homesick, or to think too much about what my cats might be doing at the moment without me.

In the Land Of Fall, there is plenty to distract one from such troubling thoughts.

And one thing’s for damn sure, Cape Cod’s got no kind of hills. Nothing like what those folks across the canal have got, what with their vast expanses of bronzing leaves and massive, ancient, gnarling trees, all thickly assembled on hillsides and mountaintops for your gasping pleasure.

So it’s really good, once in a while, to head over the bridge in the Fall and go ogle somebody else’s backyard for a change. Go eat in their restaurants, go overtip their waitresses, wander around their streets, peeking through the windows of their historic houses and making up stories about the people who once lived inside.

And then I come home, and it’s November, or practically November.

Look, Practically November is a perfectly good time of year, too. It’s when the sky is still usually blue most days — and even when it’s overcast, it’s generally so blowsy around here that the wind comes in and muscles those clouds over the horizon before you can wrap your cowl around your neck and pull on your fingerless gloves.

Practically November is when you’ve only just begun to load up on your winter carbs, and those sweet potato fries and braised purple top turnips and roasted fingerling potatoes are just harmless side dishes of comfort food, not the reason you need to make an emergency trip to the mall for some pants that actually fit.

Not yet.

In Practically November, those fake orange leaves you’ve got wired around your mailbox are still merely signs of a house where there was Halloween candy for the asking, not ominous harbingers of neglected housekeeping, a failure to rake, and the relentless approach of Thanksgiving.

And let’s talk about Thanksgiving for just a second. Because for such a happy-go-lucky sort of holiday, Thanksgiving has honestly got way too much baggage.

Seriously, for a day that promises so much unfettered binge eating and remorseless napping, Thanksgiving — and the long weeks foretelling its arrival — is so fraught with guilt and nonsense that I’d almost rather do away with it entirely. It’s all pokings and proddings and phone calls and emails from various members of your well-meaning family, each of whom very earnestly wants you to be included and feel loved and to not be alone on the holiday, but none of whom seem to fully grasp your deep-seated aversion to long car trips, obligatory sociability, and large family gatherings.

In short, how very much one would actually enjoy being alone for the holiday. With one’s cats. And one’s purple top turnips.

Because after a long spell of running around, and sleeping in hotel beds, and rummaging for clothes in dark corners of guest rooms, and gazing appreciatively at other people’s historic houses and sprawling autumnal vistas, it is high time for the average introverted hermit to want to spend some serious time alone.

Time to sit and stare unseeingly out of your own window, gulping down thick, delicious bowlfuls of silence, and watching the distant surface of the river flicker and dance through the gaps in the trees.

Trees that had no gaps between them when you left just a few short weeks ago, but that have now taken off their dresses and opened up the spaces around them to let in the cold, clear sun of November.

To listen for the wind that, having just heard that you were home, has come bucketing breathlessly down the shoreline, unencumbered by any showoffy old hillsides with their look-at-me vistas of somebody else’s backyards.

To wait for the wind to come plaster wet leaves that fell while you were gone up against your window and rattle your panes  and say welcome back.

Welcome back.

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