Long before Lightfoot wrote of “the gales of November,” sailors used the term to refer to a month of great caution as they worked tirelessly before the shipping lanes of the Great Lakes froze up. Outside today we are having a gales of November kind of day. An inch of rain has fallen and the winds have been strong. What color is left on the trees is being pulled to the ground and soon the city will be bare. The calendar says autumn, but for all practical purposes it is winter.
I should not mind this so much. Autumn is quite long around here to make up for our short springs, but autumn is gone now. The blessings of September and October have become November, the month Chicago averages its largest monthly drop in temperature and receives its first measurable snow. I think of it as the month the white witch returns to take her throne in the city by the lake.
Very soon there will be much in the way of shoveling and commuter delays as well as the joy of Christmas. Very soon the music will play and the decorations will go up. It is nice, but it is still winter. Meanwhile I look at maps and trace my fingers down roads that lead south and west into the desert and pretend to be somewhere else. I open the calendar and realize Easter is 165 days away, wondering if it is too early to start counting down.
If I am allowed a little melodrama, I will say that like the white witch, winter is a cruel mistress and she is at the door. All I can think is please dear autumn, do not go quietly into the good night. You still have my sister’s birthday and your harvest to celebrate. You still have at least a few days above 50 degrees too. (For a few of you that is 10.)
As I look out the window and notice a bare tree, I want to say the battle is over even if the war is not. It will be five months before Aslan comes back to town walking every inch from the Valpo to the Wisconsin line and all those other places I hear exist beyond my small world. In the meantime, we will have to be like him, being brave and having the heart of a lion. We will have to beat back the killing time with hearth and home, holidays, heating oil, and holding onto one another as we stay together and stay warm. For the loved there will also be presents and presence. These things do not seem bad. Even in winter life may be lived well.
It is winter and if the lion in us has been asleep, it must now awake. The world is ending and the white witch wants to sit on the throne of the king. To deny her this, we must be the heart of the lion on behalf of the king that the witch has no claim to the city or any geography on the King’s earth.
Permit me a bit more melodrama and say this: let the winter rage. I will be the first to complain, but let it not have the day, for there is no better time than winter to be a lion.
Image: Ali Haines, Creative Commons. Aslan, lion and king, and Lucy who has the heart of a lion.