Peak colour on the ground

November for Beginners

Rita Dove

Snow would be the easy
way out—that softening
sky like a sigh of relief
at finally being allowed
to yield. No dice.
We stack twigs for burning
in glistening patches
but the rain won’t give.


So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline. We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
We ache in secret,


a gloomy line
or two of German.
When spring comes
we promise to act
the fool. Pour,
rain! Sail, wind,
with your cargo of zithers!





I promised myself a return to this space some time ago, but the summer was one of long, full days, or what felt like the same long, full day lived over and over: damp laundry drying in the backyard, walks to the market under the searing sun, late afternoons spent catching my son as he jumped into the neighbourhood pool again and again and eventually, late in August, jumped into the pool and swam, immersed, to my outstretched hands.

Now we’ve begun a new routine. My eldest is at school all day, every day. It seems like a more sudden change than it must actually be. It feels like cheating. Indeed, in other parts of the country, four-year-olds (or their parents) are spared the indignities of bursting into tears over hairbrushing, of marching to catch the school bus. Meanwhile, my youngest is attending preschool two days each week, and I have two expanses of time in which to do what I like. Luxurious, yes, and yet I struggle at the end of those days to feel satisfied with how I’m spending my time. I’ve always been a dasher, a last-minute finisher, and I’m trying to unlearn that, to teach myself to work slowly and patiently on a story, to let the drops collect in a bucket. It feels possible, if not easy.

On other fronts, September was a productive month. Renovations begun in the spring are finally finished. A cheerful and noise-tolerant Italian has taken up residence in our bright new basement, which has offset the cost of said renovations, and has made me feel better about failing to net interviews for jobs applied for in September (to say nothing of afternoons spent bingeing on Elena Ferrante and ignoring the housework). I did pick up some editing work that mitigated my disappointment somewhat. I’m left wondering if this is something I should pursue more seriously.

I’m trying, in my restlessness, to sink into moments of beauty. Early in October, I drove my son to preschool under a saturated blue sky rippled with high cirrus clouds and sundogs. The leaves were turning, not yet littering the sidewalks and prompting the return of the city’s bizarre leaf-vacuum truck, and on the radio was Cuff the Duke’s cover of the Rheostatics’ “Claire,” a moody song that reminded me of heading off to high school in my mother’s white Buick, occupied with the drama of adolescence. I dropped him off and the morning was wide open to me. Now the days are shortening; we won’t have this much light again till February, and I’m tumbling into my winter life, dark in the morning, artificially lit at night, the lives of our friends and neighbours becoming secret and interior. How grateful I am that these hours to myself won’t shrink correspondingly.


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