November is for Noticing

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A bit of blue sky poking through the gray

This past Sunday was one of those blah November days that made me just want to snuggle on the couch with a quilt, a cup of tea, and a good book. Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it? But certain little boys–three of them, to be exact–were not gonna let that happen. If I wanted some time to myself, it was going to have to take the form of a walk.

Stepping outside didn’t sound the least bit appealing: the temperature hovered in the low 30s and there was a chilly, cheek-chafing kind of wind blowing. The sky was an empty whitish-gray. I know I feel better when I move my body and get a little break from the chaos of my household, though, so I forced myself out the door. Because I forgot headphones and couldn’t easily Marco Polo a friend or listen to a podcast, I just walked.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that November is a hard month to embrace in Minnesota, and Sunday’s weather typified that. But as I took that afternoon walk without any distractions, I noticed beauty all over the place.

Three seasons were on display in one tiny patch of ground–the green grass of summer cradling the yellow and orange leaves of fall encased in the first snowflakes of winter. The empty tree branches allowed a clear view of Lake Harriet from the top of the staircase leading to the walking path. The absence of foliage also made my favorite enormous, double-trunked tree that much more the star of the creek-side trail. And the remaining warm-hued leaves that still cling to the bushes and trees offered a welcome burst of color.

When tiny patches of blue sky appeared, or a few rays of sunlight darted through an opening in the clouds, I noticed.

In spring, there are tulips and green sprouting things. In summer, leafy canopies and window boxes brimming with blossoms. At the height of fall, layers upon layers of colorful leaves. In all those times, nature’s bountiful beauty is in-your-face, conk-you-over-the-head obvious. But in November you’ve gotta work to see the beauty. Which makes finding it that much more rewarding.

The act of noticing November’s subtle loveliness released the dam of crankiness I’d built up, and the gratitude started to flow freely. I smiled and gave thanks for the Little Free Libraries I passed along the way. For the kids scrambling over the school playground like it was a gorgeous July day. For the good people who’ve already created the hay-bale barrier at the bottom of the neighborhood sledding hill in anticipation of our first big snowfall.

So here’s my challenge to you and to myself during these short, gray November days: look for the beauty and let it give way to gratitude. When the gray skies and cold wind and barren landscape threaten to lure you into crankiness, tell yourself, “No No.” Not because you’re a naughty dog or small child in need of scolding, but because you want to Notice November. Cheesy, I know, but I can never say “no no” to wordplay. Now get outside and pay attention. November awaits.

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