Ode to Late November

Close-up of a seed head

Just like that, we slid into the season of waiting. Trees that had put on a vibrant burlesque show two weeks ago now stand stark and still against a heavy sky. Stripped of its color, the earth stands in its underwear. Can beauty still be found in late November?

Sumac seed pod, burgundy

I strike out on a Sunday morning ramble, camera in hand, to find out. Overcast skies make for flat light, so my expectations are low. The church across the street is quiet now, as the service is well underway. I’ve taken to worshipping with other believers on Thursday nights, leaving me free for solitary worship on Sunday mornings. A reverent whisper breeze stirs the grasses and woods on my path.

Wispy wild grasses on a pale green prairie

Normally, I listen to an audio book or podcast when I walk, but today I tuck the earbuds into my pocket and determine to give the world my full attention. The silence has heft to it. Deep. Occasionally, a crow’s sharp “ca-caw!” “ca-caw!” pierces the hush like a hungry baby two pews back. The whisper breeze stirs the few remaining leaves, which rustle like old ladies in hats murmuring an “Amen.” The soft crunch of my footsteps on a blanket of leaves holds a rhythmic sway.

A carpet of red and rust autumn leaves

At my feet lie the encore of autumn’s show. With a deep bow, the dancers swish their red, russet, and golden skirts one last time before melting into the earth. I applaud.

Even now, the scent of their departure hangs in the misty air. Earthy. Musky. The perfume of decay, perfectly on schedule.

The trees, so stark and bare at first glance, hold a few surprises yet. Who knew to expect such an array of berries and seed pods?

Bittersweet berries, red with orange husks

The vibrant red berries of the Bittersweet positively explode out of their orange restraints. Just look at all the color I might have missed — glossy blue/black, copper, cinnamon, fuchsia. This must be where the Crayola people find the names for the 64-pack carton with the built-in sharpener.

I linger a good while before the Japanese Spindle, admiring its delicate red and white teardrops.

Japanese spindle, red berries with white husks

The trees themselves add their own texture and grace. How easy to walk right by the hickory and not fully appreciate the gray and white pattern of the bark. And look at the drape of the cedar, and the dusky blue berries clustered along the juniper bough.

Hickory bark, gray with white striations

A landscape that initially seems washed of color holds a multitude of hues on closer inspection. Leaves the shade of vintage parchment, stalks of grass the hue of a palomino horse.

Close up of elm leaves, the color of parchment paper
Close-up of a grass frond

And there, on the ground, a vivid green hedge apple. Some people call them “osage oranges,” although I can’t figure out why. Others call them “cat brains,” which makes more sense. What funny fruits.

Green hedge apple, also known as an Osage Orange

My ears are toasty under my beanie, but I can feel the roses coming into my chilled cheeks. Brisk air makes my lungs tingle, and tiny raindrops begin to land on my cheeks and fingers.

I turn to head back to my car and spot a lone, flaming leaf holding on for dear life. Ah, the resistance. I feel it, too, little leaf. The urge to not go gently into that good night. But it will be okay. Dawn will rise on the other side of this good night.

A lone red leaf clings to a twig

The passing of one season marks the beginning of another. Late November brings loved ones home for a celebration of gratitude. I cannot wait for the hugs, the laughter, the pie. And late November ushers in Advent, a time of waiting and expectation. The wonder of this season always awakens my inner child.

Is there beauty in late November? Oh, yes. A thousand times, yes. I end my ramble with hands uplifted, open to loss, and hope, and anticipation, and renewal. Church was exceptional today.


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  1. Aileen, thank you for your sharing your Sunday worship experience. The photography and word pictures were both things of beauty. Bless you for helping me see God’s handiwork in new ways. You are gifted beyond measure.

    1. Thank you, Amy! You are always so kind and encouraging — I’m blessed by your friendship.

      Sure miss seeing you every few months. I hope all is well in your world, and that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.

      Hugs to you!

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