It's November again. If months have colors, November is gray to me. It was in November that the police first contacted Cliff about our impending ordeal. It was in November that he was convicted and sentenced to prison. It was in November that my dad's cancer got its name. My facebook feed is full of people celebrating November - some are writing novels and some are growing beards and some are donating money to charity and some are recounting their thanksgiving each day. But I cannot celebrate this month. The cold winds start blowing and with them come the ghosts of the past three years, and the chill in the wind merely lets me know that it's time to gird up my loins and trudge towards December.
Thankfully, this month only has 30 days.
All the newness of my life here most assuredly helps mitigate the power of these November days. I have plenty to focus on at church. No one here remembers those days and their ignorance is actually a boon: there is no pity in the eyes of those around me. I do not have to drive past the dreaded courthouse, or take the turn to my house and wonder if the police will be there; I do not have to pass by the community theatre where Cliff took our wedding vows in hand and ripped them as if they were fragile muslin. Here, there is only the water and the rocks and the sand and the strangers and local businesses and the life yet undiscovered.
But it's still November.
The song of this month is a sad one, melancholy notes, minor chords sliding around in the air, plaintinve sighing strings and wordless choral moanings. I think perhaps that it will always be this way, though the years will blunt the jaggedness of the pain until all that is left is the song, the song and the memories and the wind like a sigh that the whole earth lets out on my behalf.
I am far enough from those knife-sharp days, though, to see the people around me and wonder. Who else is swimming through memories like I am? At the post-office, in my congregation, at my son's daycare, who else feels the cool weather change and finds themselves unhappily transported back into their own past? Or who is frenetically celebrating these current days because they have made it through their own painful anniversaries? Or who is looking ahead to the days to come and planning their survival strategies? We are all around you my friends - perhaps you are one of us. The invisible crowd who carry on with around you, shouldering our tragedies and unshed tears like modern day Atlases.
November is a time when I frequently find myself standing still, gazing at horizons. My mind wanders widely during these days, and I cannot help but stare out beyond the people and places around me, vision cast out and searching the vast expanse of sky. I have less words during this month, less coherent explanations, fewer stories to tell; I have less words and more need for silence while I listen to the song my soul is trying to sing.
I named my blog "Lonely Bird" after Psalm 102, a psalm of grief and loss that contained these haunting words: "I am like an owl of the wilderness, like a little owl of the waste places. I lie awake; I am like a lonely bird on the housetop." In the wake of all the tragedy that swallowed me up 2 years ago, this psalm seemed to speak most closely into my broken heart. And though since then I've found joy and peace and happiness again, November is the time when I return to the roof of my soul and perch like the little owl of the waste places, lonely and fluttering in my memories. I won't stay up here forever, my friends. I've life to come down to now. But still, this is a retreat I must make. These are days that must be counted. These are memories that must be aired out again. Even gray Novembers have their place.
26 more days.