November is a month of gathering darkness. Even on sunny days dusk arrives quickly, prematurely, it always seems to me, like a shroud drawn over a youthful corpse. I cannot help thinking: Too soon! The day dies too early. I am not yet prepared for the dark.
I know I have no reason for despair. I have seen too many winters turn into springs not to be assured of another. And yet.
I walk a dim forest trail. Even in bright light the somber colors lend the landscape the nostalgic aura of an old sepia toned photograph. Everything seems an intimation of death. The leaves are down, already trampled and brown. The bare branches left overhead are raised as if in supplication.
Decay is everywhere apparent. The soft and crumbling heartwood of a once mighty tree is exposed. Worm trails are etched on trunks stripped of bark. Fungi and other agents of decomposition are lords of the forest.
The stripped landscape reveals nearly as many trees broken, bent, or lying in tangled piles as remain standing. The riparian land along the Menomonee River Parkway seems truly wild. A walk in the forest in November inspires introspection.
All living things return eventually to the earth of their origins. Nothing is wasted. There is no real death, only the ceaseless cycle of regeneration. Nothing that occurs naturally in the environment, that is.
In defiance of the natural order of things, I find indestructible plastics, bottles of every shape and size, snack food packages, cast-away toys, a gigantic tire. What is the death of foliage compared to the undying detritus of our consumer culture where things are designed to be wasted?
Black Friday approaches. In this gathering darkness I search for reassurances that spring will come.