The national flag of Norway, adopted July, 1821

The national flag of Norway, adopted July, 1821




Red November leaves clinging to tree.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Red leaves clinging to tree. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Have you ever noticed the grim way some writers describe the month of November?  

Joseph Addison wrote this: “The gloomy months of November, when people of England hang and drown themselves.” (I double checked, and the word “months” is indeed plural, as if November seems to go on and on, which might explain the hanging and drowning, or maybe it refers to Addison’s interpretation over many years. Whichever it is, I apologize to the people of England; remember, I am only the messenger.)

Emily Dickinson describes November this way: “November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”  (I used to teach Dickinson in my English classes, and I don’t recall her writing that July is the Sahara of the year, or making any other month/place comparisons…only November.)

My mother’s writing is not well known–and at this point in her dementia, even she doesn’t recognize her own words when I read them aloud to her–but I’d like to share with you a few of her descriptions of November.  I found these typed and handwritten examples stored in her writing box. 

The windblown sleet darts ~ Like tiny ice bullets ~ Against my window pane. 

Wee button noses ~ Beneath eyes of wide wonder   ~ Smudge frosty windows.

And these last two, titled 1 and 2, were followed by a question: which one is better?  If you have a preference or comment, I’ll read them to Mom during my next trip to Kansas…and remind her again that these are her words and Haikus.

#1: Spruce draped in snow-fall ~ Stand silent cold sentinels ~ Against threat’ning skies.

#2: Trees clothed in snow-fall ~ Are strong sentinels guarding ~ Against steel grey skies.

Both of my parents thought that each day had its own beauty, and each month had its own importance and possibility. For my mother, summer months were for planting and gardening; fall and winter months were for knitting and baking; spring months were for hoping and watching new growth. She believed every season was a gift, and all the seasons deserved heartfelt anticipation…and at least a few words of notice and appreciation penned in her notebooks.


Fall clouds on the Kansas horizon

Fall clouds on the Kansas horizon

Maggie on fall hike in Brown's Park, Abilene, KS

Maggie on fall hike in Brown’s Park, Abilene, KS

November picture of Colorado's Pikes Peak

November picture of Colorado’s Pikes Peak



Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, writing

79 responses to “THE NORWAY OF THE YEAR

  1. Dear …..( your mom’s name)
    My name is Gerlinde, my first language was German and then I learned English . Your daughter Marlylin shared your poems with us. I like both of them but my husband Will liked the first one better. I hope you have a lovely day with your daughter,

  2. Her name is Mary–Mary Elizabeth, but her siblings called her Mary Ibbeth–and Gerlinde, thank you so much for writing this. I’ll read it to her, and while she probably won’t realize that it’s her #1 Haiku that you’re responding to, we both will appreciate that you and your husband Will responded!

    • I I ever had a daughter her name would have been Courtney Elizabeth and don’t ask me why. I also have always been interested in the life of Queen Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry the eights . Give your mom a hug from me.

  3. I prefer “The windblown sleet darts ~ Like tiny ice bullets ~ Against my window pane.” Although in Britain I would think that might be January or February and the second more apt for us. I love the idea of sleet darts. I also like very much the idea of adapting to the seasons rather than expecting the seasons to suit us. Very good philosophy.

    • The tiny ice bullets vividly remind me of some of Kansas’ quick ice storms, Andrew. Walking outside sometimes felt like the clouds were shooting at me.
      You’re so right; my mother always adapted to the seasons–and almost everything in life–and she always found something to appreciate, too. My dad’s father and step-mother tried for a long time to convince our family to join them in California. Although the San Diego area was very nice, both of my parents wanted to live where there were four distinct seasons.

  4. I like the idea of the Spruce draped in snow-fall. And the phrase wind blown sleet darts just about sums up some of our weather here. Beautifully descriptive – I can see where your creativity comes from, Marylin.

    • Thank you, Jenny, but only my mother was the poet. I was always into short story writing–especially fiction, and often dark fiction (as many teens are for awhile)–but yes, I’d like to think my general creative spirit was cultivated by my mother.

  5. I’m sitting on the fence Marylin since both are equally descriptive to me. She certainly had a way of putting a lot into a few words.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • Excellent answer, David. When I read her the comments, I’ll emphasize that her British buddy liked BOTH versions of her poetry. Fingers crossed that she’ll understand any of this, even for just a few minutes.
      Massive Hugs back to you!

  6. Don

    Wow! Marylin. Your Mom certainly had, has a wonderful gift of being able to express so poetically what she saw or sees. They are all so very beautiful. My favourite is, “Spruce draped in snow-fall ~ Stand silent cold sentinels ~ Against threat’ning skies.” It reminds me of a scene I often see in Greenwich Park when I’m in England sometimes during the Winter. Beautiful post.

    • Thank you, Don. Reading the two versions reminds me of what poet friends call the “every word must be right” approach to editing poetry. I’m drawn to “threat’ning skies” as an excellent image of the skies needing sentinels.

  7. My favourite is #1. Poor old November; we probably have a happier view of November down this way. 😉

  8. Poor Norway got a raw deal from Emily, too. 😉

  9. Gwen Stephens

    I’m going to swim upstream here (based on the comment stream so far) and vote for Haiku #2. I love the imagery of strong sentinels guarding and the description of the sky, so accurately depicted in the poem and in your photo. I also love your mom’s view of each season. Winter, knitting and baking – just wonderful. Maybe this month is looked upon so negatively because it signals the onset of the long winter. I used to feel this way. It was one of my least favorite months of the year until my oldest daughter was born in November, three weeks before her mid-December due date. Now I think of it as Natalie’s month, and it warms my heart.

    • Natalie’s Month has a much better ring to it than Norway’s Month, I think, Gwen. I was never that crazy about March, either, as Colorado often got some harsh weather then. But after my daughter was born in March, it definitely became Molly’s Month…and my favorite.
      I think November’s bad rap comes from the shorter lengths of sunshine and overall darker weather adjustments. But now that it’s Natalie’s Month, it sounds so much more appealing!

  10. It is good to plan different things according to the season. 🙂

  11. I love the Norway thought! My Mom’s father was from Sweden. I just look at this antique book, with fjords and lovely mountains with snow topped icings and ‘buck up!’ to winter! It would have been much harder to be a settler, no inside heat or bathrooms…
    Another special part of winter is how children don’t mind it! Their fingers can be like icicles and their cheeks so adorably chapped and rosy, but they say they want to stay outside just a little bit more…Your mother’s words are very beautiful, Marylin!

    • While we don’t have roots in Norway or Sweden, Robin, my daughter graduated from Bethany College in Lindsborg, KS, the “little Sweden of America.” It’s a wonderful college and community with deep Swedish traditions. That’s why, to my grandchildren, I’m Mor-Mor. It’s Swedish for Mother’s Mother, and I love it.

      • Oh, I am so glad you reminded me of this, I may have read this awhile back but enjoy the thought of Kansas grandchildren calling you “Mor-Mor” which is a nice nickname. I am grateful for my ex-husband’s wife picking Mimi for her and Poppy for him, my other ex-husband being Pappa while I became Nana. I like more character in our names, Marylin! When I have a friend who says she is Granny, for some reason, (well, let’s say Pop Culture and T.V.) I think of Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies! I am so grateful not to a Granny and my Mom chose Grammie O. so I couldn’t be Grammie (Thank goodness, again!)

  12. For me, the month of November has always signified the start of the holiday season; time spent with family and loved ones.
    “Spruce draped in snow-fall ~ Stand silent cold sentinels ~ Against threat’ning skies.” This is so beautiful, Marylin. Naming the type of tree creates the perfect picture of the tall and mighty tree.

    • I can “see” the silent cold sentinel spruce trees standing guard, too, Jill. When I came across both versions with the question about which was better, I could see my mother sitting in her chair in front of the big picture window, holding her notebook and staring outside, then crossing out one word and adding another in her poem. It was a vivid memory for me.

  13. juliabarrett

    Once again I can’t believe how much your mother and I have in common. I love every single month – each has it’s own attributes and each day is precious. A gray sky is still a beautiful sky.

  14. “Spruce draped in snow-fall ~ Stand silent cold sentinels ~ Against threat’ning skies.” – this is my favorite Marylin! Your mother has lived with such purpose and joy. Thank you for sharing her beautiful thoughts on November – a month that is indeed dark and drab, but yet full of hope and joy for the upcoming holiday season. Your pictures are beautiful too! Enjoy your day and have a wonderful week! XO

    • The silent cold sentinels guarding the threat’ning skies seems to strike a chord with many of us. I only wish that now my mother could understand and appreciate the interest in these two poems.
      A wonderful week ahead for you, too!

  15. Jim

    The trouble with November is that it is the transitional month. It leaves behind the color and mild weather of fall that allows us to gather and enjoy the harvest. At the same time November anticipates the storm and brutal chill of winter which seems to have no purpose but to kill and cause hardship.

    If one accepts this impression of November and winter, then I choose #2 because the spruce tree is the perfect symbol for a guardian to watch over us during the onslaught of winter. The spruce refuses to quit, stays green, thrives in winter, and even enjoys showing off its pristine white coat, even as we should find ways to thrive and flourish in winter. Sorry, Emily Dickinson, but our friends in Norway and other cold northern climes are perfect examples of how to flourish in winter, just like their vast evergreen forests. Heck, they not only knit and bake but they also sweep the medals in the Winter Olympics! 🙂

    • Only you, honey, grasp the total picture of both the November chilly season…and Emily’s lack of appreciation for the strength and talents of our friends in Norway…who sweep the medals in the Winter Olympics. Take that, Emily Dickinson–even though when you were alive there was no such thing as the Winter Olympics!

  16. Mother Mary’s work is Magnificent.

    I love all four haikus, but of the two your highlighted, # 1 and # 2, I also choose the first one for two reasons: #1: “Spruce draped in snow-fall ~ Stand silent cold sentinels ~ Against threat’ning skies” feels more cohesive because it has the alliteration of spruce/snow-fall, stand/silent/sentinels. Besides, I think the rhythm is slightly better in # 1 too.

    What treasures, Mother Mary and Daughter Marylin!

  17. Thank you, dear Marian. For the vote, and the clear explanation, and the compliment. Oh, how I wish my mom could still understand and appreciate all these wonderful, thoughtful comments about her poems.

  18. I liked #2 better. Until I reread #1. Then I just couldn’t pick one over the other!

    November to me is a month of thanksgiving and gratitude, good books and warm fires. The way your mom purposed the months reminds me I need to get out my scarf-knitting gear and get cozy! (thanks, Mary!)

    • I’ll deliver your sweet message, Shel. Mom used to keep a big wooden bowl on the floor next to her chair. It was filled with yarn and unfinished knitting projects, and socks to mend. She would sit and watch the autumn leaves falling outside, and she’d knit and mend. Very contented. And then she’d have a cup of tea and take out her notebook and write lines of poetry or ideas for stories.

  19. I share your mother’s attitude to the seasons Marylin and I love her words. Both haikus are lovely, but I like number one a little more. And I love the ‘windblown sleet darts’.

    • The windblown sleet darts seem to be a favorite, Andrea. It was a long time ago that she wrote these and put them in her writing box, and I doubt when I read them aloud to her now and explain that they’re her words that she recognize them…but you never know.

  20. I like Haiku #1 a little more, but also like the “Against steel grey skies.” of #2. Are we allowed to mix and match? I hope your Mother enjoys hearing the words you read back to her.
    I understand the Novembers plural. Growing up near London England the three months from mid September to mid December seemed like half a year to me – they were so gloomy. Only Guy Forks Night (November 5) and the coming of Father Christmas made them tolerable – and when a few snowflakes would fall – that was like heaven and usually came out of a steel grey sky 🙂

    • The mix’n match approach works for me, too, Rod! There are elements of both that appeal to me.
      Guy Forks Night? I’ve never heard of that. I’ll have to Google it; anything that brightens the November gloom is worth knowing about. 😉

      • Its slso lnown as fireworks night. Remembering when Guy Fawkes (sorry about poor spelling before) and others tried to blow up british parliament 1605.
        He is burned in effigy each Nov 5 and everyone has fireworks. Also known as Gunpowder Night.
        Kids used to make ‘Guys’ with fallen leaves stuffed into old clothes. Then ask for a penny for the guy. When they collected enough pennies they bought fireworks. On the night of the fifth they them set fire to thrir guy on top of a bonfire.
        Very civilized 🙂

      • Excellent, Rod! Between you and Sherri, I’m getting the story. And in America we can’t even burn autumn leaves anymore… and our Halloween is just funny, strange and cutesy costumes and LOTS of candy.

  21. dianabletter

    I wonder if Norway would call itself the November of the world? I liked your mother’s beautiful image of the rain. One way to beat the blahs of November is to sign up for NaNoWriMo that started November 1 – to try to write a novel in November. It’s a fantastic way to unhook our inner editor telling us, “This is awful!” and just try to write a 50,000 word novel by November 30. I did it last year and loved it! Your mother would be cheering on all budding novelists! Thanks, Marylin, for sharing the photos as well. Diana

    • You’re right, Diana. She would be cheering on all the budding novelists if she understood what was happening. I remember one month in the late 80s when she and two of the writers from her local group agreed that each write two pages or type one page every day, and then they met at the end of the month and shared their best pages.
      Mom would be exhausted just thinking about the 50,000 word goal, but yes, she’d be cheering on others to do it.

  22. Hi Marylin, November is my birthday month (the 21st to be exact) and so I have always loved it. I think I like the haiku with the first word Spruce, as I love a tall pine tree and have many of them in the woods next to my house.
    Best thoughts go out to your and your mother for a November month of thankful gratitude.
    xo Joanne

    • Thank you, Joanne. And best thoughts and birthday wishes go out to you on the 21st. The day you were born was perfect preparation for a day of celebration and Thanksgiving! Your life makes the entire month brighter!

  23. Mary Zalmanek

    Your mom was such a talented writer, just like you. I have a slight preference for haiku number 1. Number 2 in lovely also.


  24. calvin

    To be honest, I couldn’t nor wouldn’t decisively choose between the two. Both are grounded to or in the month of November and it’s philosophy. An one of salt and earth knows this is the time one prepares and hunkers in. It’s coming and one might as well embraces it for it is.

    I enjoyed the images. There is a special light, no question, in Autumn and especially in November that does not exist in any other month that I know. That light flooded us yesterday, and as added treat there was a lite bedazzlement of shhhhhnow in the mix.

    Pikes Peak reminds me Mt Robinson in B.C. with its flat striking face. But you and I know that fresh Alpine snow can start in late August but November light must make it a statue of glowing wonder.

  25. #1 for me. Sharper image of the trees, the temperature & the mood of the skies. Enjoyed both though & your post although November here is the end of Spring! 🙂

    • It’s one of the things I love about this blog, Helen…that we’re in different countries and times zone and seasons…and all communicating at once.
      It looks like #1 is winning the vote, but it’s the interest in her poems in general that I’ll share with Mom next time I see her.

  26. jakesprinter

    Stunning images Marilyn How I wish to see the tiny bullets but we don

  27. jakesprinter

    we don’t have snow here in Philippines 🙂

  28. Thank you for sharing your mother’s poems and your photos and thoughts. Beautiful. Blessings, Ellen

  29. Simple and perfect – wonderful writings by your Mother. I can clearly imagine what she wanted to convey by the changing weather this time of year.

  30. Thank you, Mary. I’ll tell her what you said. She always used to be so pleased when someone said that through her words they could clearly see what she was describing.

  31. Definitely number 1 – ‘Spruce draped in snow fall…’ as it jumped right out at me. But in all your mother’s lovely words is a heart filled with the love of the seasons and creation no matter the time of year. I’ve never heard the Addison quote before, goodness, makes November here sound awful doesn’t it! We are still having an exceptionally mild autumn but starting to cool down with first frost on its way. Always very cold around this time for the fireworks! But November changed for me when I moved to the States – firstly, with my introduction to your traditional Thanksgiving and then, at the same time, the birth of my middle boy. So for me November is a time of celebration, family gatherings and looking forward to Christmas. As for Norway, my mother visited a couple of years ago and said it was the most beautiful country she had ever been too, but it was freezing…and that was in March! Beautiful post as always Marilyn, written with such love and tenderness for your dear mom. I shall think of you reading these responses to her when you next see her 🙂

    • Thank you, Sherri. Fingers crossed that at least some of them will nudge a moment of recognition with her. These comments have been wonderful.
      I loved your recent post on the bonfire, Sherri, and your picture is a delight. It’s perfect for post-Halloween–you look like an adorable grave digger! 😉

      • Oh Marylin, you just made me laugh out loud with the adorable grave digger 🙂 It’s funny too because when I was that age I hated ‘gardening’ seeing it as nothing but a chore so I don’t know why I look so happy in that shot! Obviously I was just posing lol. Oh I do hope that your mom will recognise some of her delightful poems. I look forward to reading about it 🙂

      • Sherri, I love all the family pictures you share on your post, but that one really tickled me. You look so cute, and intent…though it’s not quite clear WHAT it is you’re intent on doing!

  32. I came by way of Marian Beaman and I’m so glad I did.

  33. Wow! I loved this introduction to you and your work, Marylin. I was sent here by Marian Beaman’s post identifying bloggers with Works in Progress. My mother is still living at age 87 and has no serious dementia. She has both inspired my writing (something I discovered in a new way as I wrote my memoir) and has enjoyed this year of launch, book touring, and harvesting of the previous years of drafting and revising and publishing.

    Your mother’s skill in writing as well as your desire to care for her and honor her in her last days stirs me. November’s chill cannot deaden that love. It just drives it deeper to the root. Or to the bone, as Dickinson might have said in another poem.

    • Thank you so much, Shirley. I’m eager to read Marian’s list and learn more about what you’re doing. This blog about my mother stirs my respect and appreciation for all her writing, and I hope it sets up a vision for her great-grandchildren to appreciate her and the woman she was before the dementia.

  34. The two both give strong images for the season, but I have to admit I get a sharper image in my mind from #1. We might not have the sleet darts, but our November is off to a cool, dreary start here in Maryland!

    • And Colorado is sharing much of your same weather. Our sleet darts are rare, too, but we’re already off to an early cold start.
      It looks like #1 has won the overall votes. I’ll be reading the comments to my mom during my next visit to Kansas, and maybe she’ll understand for even just a moment that the response was to her poem.

  35. Anna Marie Wray

    Dear Mary,
    I am a Grandma now, too. I love your “wee button noses” and “eyes of wide wonder”. I am learning all about smudgy windows… and mirrors… and anything else little hands can reach. You and I both know how precious the little ones are.
    Hugs to you.
    Love, Anna Marie

    • And hugs to you, too, Anna Marie. Thank you for the wonderful Grandma comment. My mother understood all the “wee button noses” and “eyes of wide wonder” and smudgy windows and mirrors when she wrote these poems. I REALLY understand them now that I’m a grandmother, a Mor- Mor (Swedish for mother’s mother)!!!

  36. While I’ve made several trips to Kansas, I been able to avoid the snow for the most part. That photo of the highway reminds me of driving from KC airport to the little town (Clay Center) where much of my father’s family settled when they left Sweden.
    November has such beautiful color and I am about to embark on a piece filled with those red and gold leaves. My paint brushes have been ignored for too long as the computer seems to win out.
    You are so fortunate to have such a family. They have bestowed riches on you which cannot be bought. Kiss your mom for me. In France, we kiss the each cheek! While I enjoy your stories, my experience was so different, I really can’t relate. 🙂

    • I know where Clay Center is! If you’ve made several trips there without snow, then you probably weren’t traveling in the winter.
      My daughter graduated from Bethany College in Lingdsborg, KS, the “Little Sweden of American.” That’s why I’m not Grandma but Mor-Mor, which is Swedish for Mother’s Mother.

      • There is still some family in Clay. Two of my dad’s cousins. I managed to go late September and once late March were I saw a bit of snow. It is a bit far now seeing as I live on another continent… 🙂 I’ve got a journal from an ancestor that after coming there, she want on and crossed the plains to Washington in a covered wagon. It may end up in a story.

  37. Jane Thorne

    I love the first one and I think it’s the word ‘draped’ that does it. After years living in Africa, I relish the seasons and like your Mum I see gifts in all of them. Hug her for me Marylin. Loving hugs for you too. ❤ xXx

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