Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma


Many people love the spring: its verdant leafiness and buds heavy with the promise of glorious blossoms, creeks overflowing with the liquid of life. The vernal season offers hope for the future, an optimistic symphony of possibility. Tiny sprouts and eternal songs, from robin to chickadee, the mating drive strong as the days lengthen and we quest toward a perfection we sense in our deepest selves.

Many love the summer, Nature’s promise fulfilled, when mere possibility overflows into joyous reality and life explodes around us, showering us with vibrancy and youth, the epitome of transformation from potential to kinetic. Flowers strut their brilliance while butterflies remind them that for all their color, they have limits, able to move only as far as their roots can propel them.

Many love the autumn, when trees shake off the greens of summer and display their vast magnificence in reds and golds and umbers, proudly asserting their dominant physicality over the flora that surrounds them, the lions of the vegetative world, towering over the puny life forms that surround them, yet never bullying, never destroying.

Some love the winter, with its heavy white blankets, its quietude and darkness, which encourages evenings by the fire and hot cocoa, snuggling by the window and looking out at the harsh elements or playing in the snow, making angels or skiing/skating/sliding in defiance of the bitter cold.

Myself, I prefer November, after the colors of autumn have vanished, before the feathery flakes drift downward to cover the land. I like the bleakness of unclothed trees and the deepening darkness that precedes true winter – not because I’m a pessimist or masochist or fixated on the ugly, but because it calls me to a period of introspection and contemplation.

The starkness of November offers fewer external distractions, superficialities that insinuate and plague our lives. It strips away the colors and sounds and scents, leaving behind only the essence of things, only their unfiltered skeletons. It offers clarity and a minimalism of spirit, forcing us to provide whatever brightness we desire.

It reminds us that beneath the noise and the chaos resides the true nature of things, the elemental truths, the foundations upon which we build. The highest tower requires footings that sink deep into the earth, and the joys of the other seasons demand that we build upon the structures of November.


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