My daughter’s birthday month got off to an early start when she received her birthday card from the Green Bay Packers on October 31. Finally, an organization that appreciates November with the same enthusiasm as my daughter!
Typically we don’t get excited about November. It’s that brown month between the captivating color change and crisp fall air of October and the lights, tinsel and snow of December. The harvest is in. The fields are barren; the birds have migrated, and the snow has not yet covered the earth in its white winter blanket.
November is the month of naked trees, early nightfall, and frosty mornings. It’s monochromatic. In the United States, the even the major holiday in November, Thanksgiving, is primarily black, white and brown—harkening to pilgrims, turkeys, and a harvest brought in.
At first glance it is a plain month, a quiet month, a slow month.
Fall is in the air. Darkness greets me when the alarm goes off in the mornings now, and the desire to snuggle in a warm blanket, sip on an aromatic cup of coffee and watch the sunrise in quiet comfort is almost irresistible.
The landscape is decorated with gold and crimson—soybeans turning golden brown, golden rod in full bloom, sumac plants with their crimson leaves, and red and orange rose hips and hawthorn berries color my days.
Migrating geese and cranes and cackling turkeys provide the sound track for the day. Crickets and cicadas perform a twilight symphony each evening to bring summer to a close. Stars sparkle in the clear night sky, and Orion becomes prominent in the sky—the hunter returning as autumn approaches.
I love this time of year. There are apple orchards to visit, hikes to take, fall color change to anticipate and watch. The days are clear and crisp. The air is clean and fresh. I can inhale deeply, sigh and be at peace with the changing world around me.
And, there’s one more important thing about this time of year.
You really need to boil the carrots a long, long time when you make wild carrot stew. No camper song goes on quite long enough to accomplish this feat.
Queen Anne ’s lace roots are edible (if you boil them for a really long time, see number 1)—they are wild carrots, but you better know your plants because there are others in the parsnip family that are quite dangerous to ingest, or even pick.
A red-tailed hawk gets its meal about 2 out of every 10 tries; an owl 9 out of 10.
You can make friends for life in one week. Some of them might even be from the opposite side of the world.
Nothing compares to climbing your favorite willow tree.
We had just passed a road construction site on the small two-lane state highway on the way from our hotel to my Dad’s house. The new road cuts and construction revealed bright red dirt— really red dirt, even by the standards of the Piedmont Plateau in Georgia.
From the back seat my daughter asked, “Mom, what kinds of worms do they have here in Georgia?”
“The same species that we have in Wisconsin, why?” I answered.
There was a thoughtful silence, then “But they poop out red dirt?”
It is truly a miracle that my husband managed to keep the rental car on the road.
Spring has sprung and with it so have the bubble wands. My daughter even put a jar of bubble juice and some bubble wands in her bike basket and toured around the neighborhood sharing her love of bubbles with her friends. Bubbles are indeed magical, and since the earliest age she has enjoyed chasing bubbles around the yard, catching them in the bathtub, and making giant bubbles using a homemade wand and homebrew bubble juice. And I have enjoyed having an excuse to play with bubbles myself.
At the Discovery Center in Rockford, our favorite exhibits are the giant bubble and the bubble window.
When you stop and think about it, bubbles are fascinating. Why do they form perfect spheres and not cubes or some other shape? How do they form the fascinating multicolored films that you see? Why can you only “catch” bubbles when your hands are wet and soapy?
When I was a little girl, my big brother gave me a beautiful book about rocks, minerals and gemstones. He inscribed the inside of the book: “For the girl with rocks in her head.”
At that time I had a large rock collection. When I was growing up, we lived along a dirt road. The road cut on each side was deep, and almost anywhere you looked along the road you could find outcroppings of quartz or rose quartz. I was constantly bringing home new rocks—beautiful ones, shiny ones, rocks that had neat shapes. I even had my own rock tumbler, which leaked out all over the living room carpet and generated an interesting response from my mom to my “scientific” pursuits.
Apparently the apple has not fallen far from the tree.
Our daughter has been captivated by a particular issue of National Geographic Kids magazine that featured gemstones. This has led to her adding a rock collection to her collection of precious pinecones. We have read the gemstone article in that magazine repeatedly.
For one of our day trips during Spring Break, we decided to explore Cave of the Mounds National Landmark. We took the tour through the cave and received many cave kisses along the way (water drips on our head from above)—we saw fossils, interesting cave formations, and underground rivers and ponds. Then we bought a bag of sand and stones and rinsed it in the sluice to see what gems we could recover. We found amethyst, pyrite, quartz, rose quartz and many other delights. After that we learned how to use a ratchet and cracked open a geode to reveal the crystals inside. We hiked the trails and saw some of the first flowers of spring, talked to one of the gardeners, and in general had an amazing time exploring and discovering all about the world around us.
I was reminded of a trip with my parents to a cave in Tennessee that had an underground lake—I have a vague recollection of lights on the lake and a boat trip on the underground lake.
The staff at Cave of the Mounds was terrific, spending time with the guests, doing a great job answering questions and helping people explore and learn. We have an amazing treasure in our backyard, and I highly recommend visiting.
Even on Easter my daughter was collecting pinecones and looking at rocks while on her Easter egg hunt—I think it’s wonderful that the natural world holds this kind of pull over candy for her.