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November, the calm before the Christmas tornado.

Quiet November seems, in American life, to get skipped over, folded between the candy-eating, pumpkin-carving, costume-making, party life of Halloween and the holiday hurricane, introduced to us earlier and earlier each year by marketing and media and the public. Christmas candy and some decorations appear in local drugstores and supermarkets in late September, months before the actual holiday. By mid-November Americans are already exposed to weeks-long red and green reminders that Christmas is coming.

A quick internet search led me to multiples of online sources proving Americans are putting up Christmas trees before Thanksgiving, which, according to those practitioners, allows your T-day dinner guests to dive into the Yule spirit ever earlier, enjoying Christmas love on Thanksgiving Day — a kind of Thanksgivsmas run-on sentence that demands an ever-faster leap into holiday cheer.

It’s this lack of attention to November that I write about, this push to silence a lovely, quiet, graceful month. Why do we disregard November? November has its own carol, and should be acknowledged: songbirds have flown temporarily south for the winter, yet high country air is still interspersed by the raven’s hollow yawps and the Steller’s jay's harsh punctuating cries; fallen aspen leaves crunch underfoot on quiet woodland trails where you can hear the Mountain breathe herself into snow and cold and sleep.

There should be a paint color called November: a blend of faded gold, light grey and dun. November’s main holiday is reasonable Thanksgiving: one day long, non-denominational, no-presents required, grateful celebration. When the sun shines in November, it warms, but slants further south than September’s stronger sun, and we can find winter’s chill in forest shadows, if we seek it out.

November is the breathing space between dynamic summer and stationary winter, the in-breath and out-breath of santosha, that yoga niyama of standing still combined with contemplative contentment. Breathe in brown November, and appreciate its muted colors, its cambered sunlight, and its calm space.

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November is a sun going down but not quite gone space; trails and forest roads are emptier, lacking visitors who want to be awed by the wash of brilliant fall yellow and orange or summer wildflowers and monsoons. Woodland landscape draws into itself in November, but slowly, and spending time in the forest conveys a deliberate, introspective energy to us, if we allow November to be November.

November is our collective, meditative pause. November is a contented agreeable place in its own right; we can spend some time here before blasting off frantically into the December holiday universe. In November, Christmas and other religious holidays are weeks away, and the sugar-filled Halloween high is past.

Yet each year we hurry into Christmas and marginalize the 11th month, not seeing it, not embracing it for what it is: that part of fall but not quite winter catch-your-breath month, with muted color and stillness.

November is our less-is more-month, free from the excesses of December and the post-holiday-hangover flatness that follows in January. Consider appreciating quiet November for its unique placement in our yearly calendar, and what it brings us, if we let it.

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Robyn Martin is a Senior Lecturer at Northern Arizona University’s Honors College, an author (High Country News, Mountain Living, e.g.), and a certified yoga instructor. She lives in Flagstaff.

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