November will pique your sense of artistry
If you have an artistic sense, then November may be the month for you. Each Block Island month has its aesthetic allure, but November’s landscape is stunning. The combination of light, shadow, texture and color – may be subtle, but – is beautiful and captivating, and worthy of museum and gallery display. Take a simple walk on any November date and you will surely sense the art of the day.
The Greek physician, Hippocrates, coined the term “Ars longa, vita brevis” – art is long, life is short. In the case of nature’s canvas this is not exactly true, in the short term. The sense of art observed one day may vanish by the next. The cloud-filtered light will shift; the wind may remove the halo of glowing shad leaves; the waves at the shore may erase a pattern of sand ripples, or remove the sand altogether leaving a beach of multi-hued cobbles. The daily orchestra may progress from a movement of warm-weather-inspired peepers to a cacophony of crows gathering to roost on a chilly evening. Like any good art, the image or soundscape will linger in your mind’s eye throughout your life. But, the natural phenomena and patterning that inspired your artistic impression is, and will be, recurring throughout your life - and beyond.
Here are a few of November’s reoccurring natural processes that may trigger your brain to appreciate the art of nature:
-The drying native grasses will render the Rodman’s Hollow fields tawny, punctuated by tuffets of switchgrass, and burnished by reddening leaves and the seed-heads of winged sumac.
-A dry northeaster will froth the ocean with azure, royal and turquoise blues: a pattern more brilliant than any oiled end pages of a treasured book.
-Shorter days and colder temperatures will turn Virginia creeper into garlands of deep red adorning the grays and gray-greens of the island’s stone walls.
-Leaves will fall and reveal clusters of red, blue-gray, navy, orange and yellow, and even spikey-brown fruits and nuts.
-European starlings will flock and whirl in mesmerizing murmurations of movement.
-And, of course, the patterning at the shoreline is ever shapeshifting under the sculpting power of wind and wave.
November is the time to embrace your artistic sense. A simple walk anywhere is the time to look and see more than the object. The light, the color, the texture, the pattern, the sound, the juxtaposition of objects will conjure November’s beauty – perhaps in ways that went unnoticed the previous day, or in previous years.
In this year-long series of monthly articles I have taken to heart the truth that each season is not a three-month period but rather a continuum of micro-seasons (each about five days long) that more specifically express the nuanced and varied nature of any season. Like the season of one’s life, it is the rich assortment and accumulation of discrete flourishing that make the whole being – or the whole season.
Fluttering Leaves: November 1 – 5.
All but the toughest leaves (think bayberry) will be flying off the island’s shrubs at this time. The New Starling Moon will occur on November 4. Watch for swirling starlings over the island’s fields and along Corn Neck Road throughout November. The Taurids Meteor showers will peak on November 4. Look toward Taurus during the dark skies around the new moon. The Lowest Clam Tide will occur on Nov. 5 at 2:44 p.m. Look for squid feeding in the old harbor and plan a Rhode Island feast of stuffies and calamari.
Kinglets Sway on Switchgrass: November 6 – 10.
Mid-fall migrants, especially golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets will be thriving on the seed-heads of switchgrass (a.k.a. panic grass) clumps. The ancient tradition of noting Cross-quarter Days (midway between equinoxes and solstices) will occur on November 7. Originally known as Samhain, but today celebrated early with Halloween and All Saints Day on November 1, it celebrates the transition
between the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. Daylight Saving Time ends, and Standard Time resumes on November 7.
Trailing Virginia Creeper and Drooping Bittersweet: November 11 – 15.
The island’s gray stone walls are radiant with a lacework of red Virginia creeper (a native plant) leaves and vines. Also brilliant at this time are dangling vines of Oriental bittersweet (an invasive plant) with their burst-open yellow and orange berries. Look for ring-necked pheasant foraging on patches of fallen bittersweet berries - a favorite food.
Winter Ducks Arrive: November 16 – 20.
As fall migrant songbirds dwindle, winter species such as hermit thrush, white-throated sparrow and winter wren will settle in for the winter. And, the winter ducks will arrive on the island’s freshwater ponds and offer their brilliant plumages. Watch for ruddy ducks, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, wood duck, and the dapper American coot. The Full Coot Moon will occur at 3:57 a.m. on November 19. The Leonids Meteor Showers will be present on November 17 into Nov. 18; but they will be largely obscured by the bright moon. On November 19, there will be a partial lunar eclipse. Viewing on the east coast will start at about 1 a.m. with maximum coverage at about 4:02 a.m. and ending as the moon sets - just after sunrise.
Crickets and Mice Come to the House: November 21 – 25.
As the days and nights get colder watch for scampering deer mice taking up residence in your cellars and pantries. And, listen for the sound of crickets also seeking shelter in a spare corner of your house. The sound of an indoor cricket is one that I love, but many find vexing. But beware, it is thought to be good luck to have a cricket in the house. In the U.S. Thanksgiving will be celebrated on November 25 – don’t
forget to share the bounty.
Winterberry Abounds November 26 – 30.
As the colors of the mid and late fall decline, find delight in the rosy silhouetted sunrises and sunsets; and, in the robust and plentiful winterberry shrubs around the island’s landscape and byways. Their brilliant red berries are symbolic torches lighting the way toward and through the longest nights.
To share with others your sense of nature’s art, sign up for one of The Nature Conservancy’s many November programs: Go to www.Natureblockisland.org for the schedule. The photos presented here are not the art, they are evocative of the art of the day: simple flashcard reminders of where to look.