Nina Daniels



Wednesday, November 23, 1949

Snowed what? Well, it's November, isn't it? What did you expect? Robins at sunrise, whip-poor-wills at twilight? Of course not, if you are a native North Country son or daughter. No, Redbreast is far, far away by now. I can see his tiny, precious wings, his small self, apparently so defenseless winging along towards sunshine, and fat worms in ground not solid from frost, ice and snow. But he will not forget us up North, our grassy dooryards, our tall maples, his loving friend and maybe his empty little home in the crotch of some tree within sight and sound of human habitation. Nor shall we cease to miss him for too long for his flashing breast some fine Spring day six months from now. That is something to look forward to.

As for a whip-poor-will, I never saw one, nor did you unless you frequent the woods somewhat removed from humans. For he is no lover of human companionship, and for his plaintive demands for Will's chastisement, he remains hidden among the ferns and low bushes down in the glen. And how faint and lonely his note sounds as twilight descends, itself and enveloping mantle of melancholy. Is Will perchance a delinquent son who is straying from parental protection, longing to see the world by himself? Maybe the little mate seeks redress from unfaithfulness demanding, summer night after summer night, that Will be whipped. We shall never know. We may only listen for the faint, plaintive demand which comes from that little hidden home, that redress be obtained for a wrongful act that never shall be forgotten.

Speaking of snow, you were looking for it, weren't you? What can you look for new except mere shadows, leafless trees, hard resounding sod, fierce and freezing winds, and days when the sun never shines and night shuts down with alarming suddenness? One could use the moon these days at three o'clock in the afternoon, but where is she? Way down under, waiting to make a dramatic entrance so someone will write a beautiful poem all about the "Hunter's Moon." She has been a lovely thing in October, and so near, but her glory is only reflected and she need not put on airs. The moon is closer to us than any other heavenly body, not 300,000 miles away. If we needed any help from a heavenly body, the moon is the only one we could expect any from, as yet, and even from her it would be a complicated task to get word to her. But it is because she seems to sail so near up there and is so heavenly beautiful and her light so softly radiant, that we love so devoutly.

Yes, I know it would snow, for the radio announced it, and anyway, it felt like snow. Heavy, cold clouds had covered the sky, and once in a while a few flakes fell during the afternoon and the rain had been heavy and terribly wet. When I was a little girl, my father had an almanac always hanging in the kitchen, and he pretty nearly regulated his entire life by it. Before going away, he found the weather prospects within its covers. When he planted the garden, its wisdom again directed him. It made no difference whether its prognostications were reliable or not, his faith remained unshattered. Sometimes when the almanac said "extremely cold," a warm wave encircled us and vice versa, but Dad proceeded accordingly to his almanac. Even when a June frost was an unexpected calamity to the neighbors, his new cucumber vines could not be harmed because the almanac said "hot and humid."

It was most intriguing to study the almanac, as there were other matters beside the weather in which a little girl or boy would become interested. For instance, the signs of the zodiac in the front of the book were a never ending object of wonder and somewhat frightening. No one ever succeeded in making plain to me the reason for the startling condition of the man whose stomach had been gouged so badly. Now-a-days I could assume that he had met with an automobile. For older folks there were important dates, jokes, and many arguments in favor of certain patent medicines. I was glad, as a little girl, to know that there was such a wonderful remedy at hand. For I worried a great deal over the always threatening terror of death, and according to the advertisements sprinkled thru the almanac, there was no danger if one always kept a certain mixture on hand.

My parents had lived in Michigan and contracted malaria before the peninsulas had been drained. They called it fever and ague, and I was always terrified when my mother came down with the dreadful chills. The horror vanished when I learned that fever and ague were instantly relieved in the almanac. My aunt was helpless with rheumatism, but that, too, was unnecessary. Also there was liver complaint, consumption, chilblains (an affliction of my own), Dyspepsia, (my brother had that), ear-ache, head-ache, quinsy (most everybody suffered from that), typhoid fever, neuralgia, heart-burn and deafness. O, how foolish to try to live without that certain medicine.

I was not alone in a childish trust in patent medicines. It was the "Age of Innocence" regarding the construction of the human body. Bacteria, and prevention of infection and contagion was still a sealed book. Almost all diseases could be cured by rubbing some nostrum on the outside of the body. Sure cures for some things were soaking the feet, gargling the throat, and blistering. And the prevalence of contagion, the fearful price paid by ignorance, may be seen to-day by a walk thru an old churchyard where whole families were swept away in a few days by diseases seldom heard of now.

But we were speaking of November. What is the matter with November? To be sure it is dark early, but you do not use candles, do you, and with an instant's slight movement you can flood your house from garret to cellar. Pardon me. I forgot that neither one is included in a modern house. No doubt the month seems drab after the vivid splendor of October. But isn't the quiet drabness restful and releasing? On a cloudless day, note the tracery of limb and twig against the sky. Listen to autumn sounds re-echoing thru the still air. The householder making fast his roof against the onslaughts of Old Man Winter. A flock of crows regretful of the vanished cornfields. Little children shouting in play. And beautiful to behold, wild geese starting towards their secret habitations. And little brooks may still be singing, the river racing over the dam, an infrequent wagon rumbling out of the hills. Maybe it will snow, but some like that. The skiers watch for snow, the farmer likes it on his meadow. Best of all, November ushers in the holidays. Thanksgiving! Just dwell on that tho't a moment. Family reunions, luscious feasts of all the good things the year has furnished, and Christmas just around the corner.

I watch the sun set each day nearer and nearer its goal. In just forty days, as tho' receiving orders from One higher up, he halts a moment, drops out of sight, and next day begins his journey back to sunshine and Spring. I am aware that Winter will reign in between, but it was planned like that and I must adjust myself, enjoy my home, my family, my books, my friends and the anticipation of that most wonderful of miracles—Spring.



North Country