The night before November strong winds and heavy rain blew remnants of summer away. Cherries and maple were late turning colour but now their leaves have been whisked away, pirouetting across the garden. Oaks and elms stoically remain green-leaved but almost all our ash trees dropped their leaves in one day. November is a month of winds and rain, or fogs and frosts, ushered in by the festival of Samhain. But we can no longer be sure of our seasons as the warming globe creates more unstable weather patterns.
November usually marks a turning in, preparing for hard times ahead, a time of harvesting, storing. Everything seems to be busy – the squirrel running down the path towards me, sugar beet clamped in its jaws; the screech of the jays as they raid the oak tree; blackbirds stripping fruits from rowan and rose; the rat invading the compost bin; the last butterfly, a Red Admiral, sipping sugar from a patch of blackberries and hedgehogs pulling leaves and grass into a safe winter house.
Other wildlife is on the move. Young foxes turned from their earths to find their own territories; tawny owl young dispersing, and the barn owl hunting along farm ditches at dusk. Once the winds turn north-easterly the winter migrants begin to arrive. Scandinavian thrushes, late this year; geese flying in to coastal marshes; starlings gathering with resident birds in nightly murmurations.
November’s full moon, the woodcock moon, brings these strange long nosed, woodland waders across the North Sea from Siberia. According to fable the goldcrests arrive too, the woodcock’s pilot. It is a time for gathering and for contemplation. But this year, it is hard not to think more globally as the COP 26 conference starts in Glasgow. We think about the changing world and our part in it. Do arts and culture have a role. Can we do more with our creativity?
As November inches into winter, the conference brings a call for action to reduce global warming. The website for the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 supports the need for cultural and community action.
Culture — from arts to heritage — can help catalyse a step-change in the global ambition for climate resilience. Rooting resilience measures in existing community action, culture, heritage and knowledge …. helps assure more effective and durable outcomes.
Several organisations are promoting the involvement of artists: see climateheritage.org and cultureatcop.com. You can raise your voice above the wind and sing with a global song – Enough is enough – see
As wind whipped the trees here into a frenzy, I thought back to the 2007 storm – our national outpouring of grief at the loss of so many trees. Several friends had young children at the time. They remember listening to the wind as they gave a night feed, or slept blissfully through it as a child spent its first night sleeping. Those children are getting married this year. A reminder of how cycles and seasons turn. We look back and remember the noise, the fear, the sadness and the rush to clear up. 15 million trees lost in one night of destruction.
Since then, we have let trees disappear, slowly, one by one, making way for railways, roads, houses. Perhaps as leaves fall we should celebrate the trees, draw their profiles, photograph them, weave words round them. The night before November strong winds and heavy rain blew remnants of summer away.