November is the in-between time. It’s not fall, not winter. It’s not the time of the dead, yet not the time of renewal. It’s a spot of limbo in my calendar year.
The main days of Samhain season — the season of the dead, of the ancestor — have passed by by the time mid-November rolls around. There are two more, but the wheel is turning towards joy.
I will light a candle on November 20th and think on my dead siblings; I will remember them; I will pray for the living. But by then, my thoughts have turned to Yule.
It’s perhaps because of the constant push of Christmas, starting before Halloween is even over. It’s hard to resist. I manage to keep it at bay, angrily, savagely, until after Remembrance Day. I believe unequivocally it is inappropriate to be doing any outwardly Christmas things before November 11th. It is disrespectful, and in bad taste, and it takes away from the purpose of the day: remembering the horrific costs of war. Remembering those who fight. Remembering those we’ve lost because of war — all kinds of war.
But after the eleventh my resolve has waned. I am tired of fighting it back. I am tired of thinking about death. I want some joy in my life. And I must think about Christmas gifts, make our lists, check them twice, so we don’t have to go shopping more than a couple of days in December. Or so I can get a start on making the gifts, if that’s what I’m doing.
Yet…it’s not that time yet. I’m still in limbo. I’m still in the cold days when the skies are gray and there is orange left yet in the leaves, but most of them are on the ground. I’m in the cold days when rain is common, but snow or frost are definite, looming possibilities. I’m in the days of preparation. It’s not yet time, hisses the wind, as I bake and clean and knit, wishing for sparkle and lights and joy to come my way.
It’s not yet time, sigh the trees. Let the dead have their time still.
I do. But I cannot help my clamoring for something that reminds me of life. I am alive. That is what I crave — a reason to believe it.
As much as I long for the Yule season, for pine trees and lights and the smell of cinnamon permeating the house; for red and green and cranberries and popcorn and a crackling hearthfire even if it’s only on the TV screen; for family and sweaters and egg nog and feasting and cheer — as much as I long for these things, they are not proper until the last day of the dead. The last remembrance day in my personal calendar.
And then, they are proper on that day, for that day is Sinterklaas Day, known as “Dutch Christmas” to people in North America. From my childhood, it is the day of wooden shoes at the fireplace; chocolate letters given to each other; gifts left in the wrong shoes; Dutch cookies and treats that I salivate over still. From childhood, it is the day I celebrated with my mom, and my Oma, absorbing whatever of our Dutch heritage I could from them.
From adolescence, it is a day we remembered in passing, and did not do much for celebration. From adulthood, it is a day that warranted a phone call between me and my mother, a “Happy Sinterklaas Day!”
And now, now I desperately try to rebuild tradition, make it my own. I hold my Heilig Avondmaal on these days — Holy Supper. A supper I create with my ancestors in mind, and share with them that night.
In theory, for I haven’t done it all out since the first year I did it, which was on solstice instead. But I did some small measure of it on Sinterklaas day when I lived in my Oma’s old apartment, with goodies sent to me by a friend in het Nederlands.
This year I will do it again, and I will finish off the season of the dead by sharing a meal with my ancestors. I will open up the season of joy with them, let their love carry me forward, towards the magic of Yule, of Christmas, of Reunion, of Epiphany.
November is limbo for me, yet it’s also the time of creation. I have done Nanowrimo almost devotionally every year, with only one year off, since 2007. Whether I follow the rules doesn’t matter to me as much as that November becomes a month when I truly focus on writing as much as I can.
We’re leaning into the reflective time of the year, the time to be quiet, rest, reflect, think. To ready oneself for the rebirth in spring.
Yet readying oneself for rebirth also means work, and creation. There is always work to be done, year round. Now it’s time to prepare for the season of joy and light, and time to prepare for the cold, bleak stretch between the end of the season and the beginning of spring. The dead weeks, I consider them; the time when Christmas is too far away and there is very little bright on the horizon; when we must kindle whatever flames we can, however small they are, held in hands cupped in prayer or supplication.
Rebirth is not something that happens to the passive. Whether that work is the quiet work of reflection and self-examination, or if it is something more outward, physical, meditation through the work of the hands — it is what we must do to become new yet again. To work towards the people we want to be. To shed our skin, and have our scars fade a little more.
November is the in-between time for me, and it is the time of overwhelm. It is the second to last month and end of calendar year is always busy for me, being self-employed. I have thousands of things to do on my to-do list, and yet all I want to do is sit in silence, is knit a swatch, is meditate with my hands, is light a candle and pray for the dead, is bake cookies, is clean my house, is gather gifts, is prepare for joy, is ready myself for the new year, is read, is write, is sing at the top of my lungs.
This November especially; it pulls at me in seven different directions at once. I am working on a freelance job; I am putting my books and my mom’s into libraries, or at least starting that long process; I am switching ebook distributors; I am trying to write three books for Nanowrimo; I am knitting stockings for my niblings; I am knitting gifts for people; I am trying to keep my Patreons updated; I am thinking of restructuring one of my Patreons; I am trying to set up a Redbubble store and tarot readings for sale so I can make some extra cash, because tuition is due in December and I don’t know where I’m getting the money; I am trying a dozen other things to hustle up the money.
I am cleaning my house and trying to work on decorating for the season. I am baking and reading. I am writing this post and other posts like it; I am trying to be the person I want to be, but I’m tired, and it’s November.
I’m tired and it’s November and I just want to sit in stillness. I want to find the deep pool inside myself and dive into it.
I want to prepare for the coming spring. I want to be ready for Imbolc, ready for a rebirth. Ready for something new and better than what I’ve had for the past several years. A better me, a better life. I want Imbolc to reignite the fire within me that’s died; I want Brighid to heal me.
It’s November. I want to prepare. I want to be ready for when the fire comes.
But I am in a limbo that is stagnant with its busyness.
An in-between time, where I don’t know if I’m coming or going.