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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Almost- November Month

There's an old English ballad called "The World Turned Upside Down" that legend says was played on fife and drum at the surrender of Cornwallis to Washington at Yorktown. The song originated in 1651 ,when Cromwell banned the traditional celebrations of Christmas in England because of their pagan connections.

It probably wasn't played at Yorktown, though. There is no historical mention of the song in connection with the event until 1881, a hundred years later. Of course we know Lord Cornwallis declined to attend his own surrender, and his representative refused to surrender to Washington anyway, handing over the sword to the French commander Rochambeau instead. Washington didn't seem to mind, apparently viewing that last piece of denial in the overall perspective of victory.

Yorktown did change the world. And whether one little song was played on that day, or whether it merely came to be symbolic of the spirit of the day, we can't tell now. Maybe some soldier in the back of the ranks slyly whistled a few bars and was told to shut up before he messed up the whole deal- we'll never know.

I often think about this little song this time of year, because it seems to me the world is turning upside down. It's not that I dislike autumn- I don't. It's just that everything about my focus changes. It's that the year is winding down, just as winter is winding up. And it always seems to come on much faster than I had intended. It's almost Halloween already, and I'm not quite used to the fact that the sun comes up too late and the rains are making the days dark and chilly. Seems like it ought to still be September.

The Almost-November phase for me also means I re-evaluate my life, priorities, and particularly my writing. Inevitably I've slipped over the summer. I'm behind schedule once again. True, I'm one of those people whose mood sags in the winter months, sometimes badly, and I don't look forward to that, but when I'm in gayer spirits in the warmer months, I have this sometimes unfortunate tendency to do lots of fun things instead of what I "should" be doing.

So October starts the catch-up time. I used to be in a rush to complete my manuscripts in time for the Golden Heart. Now there are deadlines, promised submissions, and the need to complete stories has become a compulsion all by itself. It's like getting the house ready for winter. Got to get things done before the snow falls (which in this part of the country can be any time between November and next year). I'm like that really fat squirrel that has been testing my bedroom window screen lately.

I suppose it's just a natural part of the yearly cycle. you'd think I'd be used to it by now. At least the squirrel has been storing pine nuts all summer. You can tell by the size of his belly he's pretty well prepared for the coming cold. So maybe I'm a little late, but I guess you'd say I'm storing up nuts for the winter.

Does autumn put you in a different frame of mind? Does it have these same plus-minus feelings for you?


At 11:35 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I never thought about autumn and the coming winter months in this way. I am learning to love the rain thanks to my daughter's love for it. And I do love fires and hot chocolate and my big fuzzy robe. I like wearing sweatshirts and big fluffy socks.

but funny that you talk about storing nuts, etc., because lately I have been cleaning out drawers and the refrigerator and deep dark places in my house that I do not wander often to clean! I think maybe I am instinctively preparing for the winter! who knew! :)

Thanks for the fun history and the thought provoking blog, Delle!

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I can definitely relate to the oh-no moment where I realize I haven't quite met my goals for the year. But I love this time of year--the cool weather, Halloween, Thanksgiving, then Christmas. I have to say, since this is the wettest fall we Georgians have had since the 1880's according to the news this morning, that the rain has put a damper on my usual happy fall mood. Our falls tend to be sun-filled, which I like!

By the way, I love your interesting historical tidbits.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

I like this time of year on warmer, sunnier days because the sky is clear of the humidity we have in the summer. But it's days like we've had a lot recently -- chilly, rainy, gray -- that I don't like. I just want to curl under the covers and read instead of doing the work I need to be doing. So I have to resort to the ol' reward for good behavior strategy -- I do 1 hour of work, I get to burrow and read for a 15 minutes. That sort of thing.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I'm not fond of cold weather, so fall makes me know winter is on the way. Our winters are short and mild here in northern Florida, but I still don't look forward to cold weather.

At 5:15 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

I love the idea of the upside-down season, Delle :-). Even though I'm provided with plenty of visual cues that this is harvest time--the end of the growing season--and the approach of winter, I still feel that this time of year is a beginning. I can't help it--it's the former student and school teacher in me ;-).

I'm invigorated by fall's first cool, crisp days. And when the rain arrives, it's a good excuse to stay indoors and get down to work on things like...writing projects! I never feel like spring cleaning; like Theresa, I'm tempted to dig into closets as the holidays draw near.

However, I live in an area with fairly mild winters. If I knew I was about to be snowed in, I'd probably be feeling grumpy ;-).

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Judy said...

My housemates are making noises about wanting the heat on, but I'm holding out for as long as possible. I'm enjoying being able to open my window.

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

Maybe someday. Right now, autumn is nonexistent. No color on the leaves, and temperatures are still in the upper 80's.

I have to look at the calendar to know what time of year it is. Outside, it's same-old, same-old.

(Can you tell I want OUT OF HERE!)

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Christine said...

I usually pick up speed in the autumn months because that's when my DD heads back to school. But when we moved south, we moved the start up a month. I am still not used to August being the first month of school.

In VA I loved September--I'd "ease" back into the writing, head to the wineries with girlfriends and hit the ground hard for GH prep in October. Now I am in a new place, got no one to play with, and NO WINERIES to hide in that are within spitting distance.

And it's SO DARK here --being on the edge of the Central Time zone close to the Eastern time zone is killing me. I need LIGHT. I am in the set the timer stage and reward stage.

And I am in revision nightmarish phase as well. Blah.

I too don't do well in cold, dreary weather with rain and drizzle and muck. Blah...

Now must go set the timer.


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