Marking November Milestones

Barred Island Preserve, Deer Isle

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”  ~ May Sarton

November is a weighty month for me, heavy with memories and dates of significance. It’s also a dark month. As the days creep toward solstice, becoming ever colder and grayer, the inevitability of winter is evident. November can be tough.

That didn’t stop me from stocking up on good intentions during the brighter, more colorful days of September and October. Intentions that this November would be different.

I’ll greet winter with open arms, welcoming its chilly gifts. I’ll celebrate my birthday with simple gratitude for the years I’ve lived. The anniversary of my mother’s death will be rich with memories of all kinds, not just those of tears shed in November rain. I’ll celebrate Nourishing Words’ birthday this year, for sure.

November arrives, and it’s like curtains drawing closed against the harsh glare of those sunny intentions. Dark days grow even darker and I feel my resolve dissolve into defeated acceptance that November will again be as November has always been.

Astute readers are no doubt already questioning whether November ever stood a chance with me, what with the power of those expectations of gloom. You’re right; I create this scenario with unwavering confidence that the show will go on, as it always does. Before long, I’m resting comfortably in my smug satisfaction that I was right again. November was tough, as predicted.

But wait, November ain’t over yet. Eleven days is plenty of time to write a new ending for this old story. It’s time to have a closer look at those good intentions. Maybe there was really something to them.

Whatever of life’s tiny, magnificent moments that we come to understand as milestones deserve to be marked, remembered and honored, if not celebrated. A milestone is, in its oldest form, a stone set in the ground to mark distance from a certain point. That’s it. Distance from a certain point. Birthdays are neither evidence that death is imminent nor that years lived were without worth. Anniversaries are not anchors that hold us to one spot; they’re actually reminders of the movement of our living. The beginning of anything is not ours to return to, only ours to remember.

Taking baby steps toward those sunny October intentions, I’m pausing tonight by the milestone of Nourishing Words’ third birthday. Three years ago this month, I hit “publish” for the first time and watched with fear and fascination as the first internet wanderers found my words. Whether they found them to be nourishing or not, I don’t know. To my astonishment, they kept returning for more.

What began as an exploration of my personal experience with and values around food and conscious, sustainable living, has grown and changed over time. I learned long ago—many years before Nourishing Words—that nothing clarifies my thinking like writing. Nourishing Words has done and continues to do just that. It’s like seeing a wiggling, rippled reflection of myself in a still pool: Is this what I think, what I believe, who I am? Cautious at first, I’ve now learned that the world doesn’t fall apart when I share half-baked ideas or offer up more questions than answers.

Nourishing Words has more readers now than ever, with many long ago posts still attracting a level of attention that defies logic. Who knew that the world was so hungry for information on things like the merits of flax seed, building a wattle fence or milking sheep?

I celebrate this three-year milestone for what it is: three years’ distance from the moment I decided to give voice to my thoughts, inviting anyone who’d listen to bear witness. A half a million words later, I celebrate the community of thoughtful people who have found their way to this site and the generosity of those who have lingered long enough to comment or subscribe. The process has been validating in ways that I could not previously have understood.

I’ve struggled from time to time with the realization that straying from my intended topics might have disappointed some readers and somehow compromised the structural integrity of this thing called a blog. Instead, I’ve discovered that people far and wide understand the nature of change. Lives change. Thoughts arise from experience and stories stomp their feet to be told. And stories evolve, ripen and beg to be retold, differently. Even values shift and redefine themselves, over time.

I’ve come to understand this as a place for sharing my process, not the grandiose conclusions I once expected would tumble forth. If all that sharing gives something of value to someone, all the better.

As for the other milestones of November, I open my heart and mind to a similarly gentle understanding and embracing of all that happened between there and here: distance from a certain point. Time tiptoes on. Eleven days is a generous amount of time for moving toward that goal.

And sunshine is in the forecast. That can only help.

16 responses

  1. I am thankful for you this year, Eleanor. Happy Thanksgiving and happy winter. It is in dying that we find the greatest transformation of all. This season offers so many contrasts and choices….enjoy every single moment and movement. I look forward to reading about your insights again this year! xoxo

  2. I love this….milestone as “distance from a certain point”. It calls me to sit with myself…what path have I traveled, what have I learned, what are the gifts? Moments of reflection and validation and movement. Thanks for the thoughtfulness of this post.

  3. This was an amazing post. I loved reading your process – and appreciate your generous and thoughtful spirit! Couldn’t agree more about birthdays (and November ones in particular).

    I love that our markers mark what we choose – and it’s a work in progress – and that makes all the difference!

    And congratulations on your third anniversary. Nourishing Words is a wonderful place for sustenance of all sorts!

    • Work in progress, indeed. Already twice today I’ve had to remind myself of my resolve to raise some light, positive energy in the remaining days of the month. Thanks for being there, reading, commenting and sharing November feelings.

  4. I agree with Jordy. This is beautiful writing Eleanor. I love the contemplation of topics and know that you are not alone in the worry about straying from the original intention. I began blogging shortly after you and am also sneaking up on 3 years. You’ve been there since the beginning and I really appreciate it. The focus of just settling in on the last few days and making them different is a good strategy. Slow incremental change can be lasting. Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. There are so few (that I have come across) really well-written blogs out there but yours is definitely one of them. I have also learned a lot from you. I now grow parsley and make my own vegetable stock for my soup – just a couple of things I began doing thanks to you! My blog doesn’t have half the focus yours does, so don’t worry about straying off topic. Sometimes that gets very interesting.
    Congratulations on your 3 year anniversary. Yes, it’s getting darker now, but soon the days will be bright again. Always keep your eyes on the horizon and expect wonderful things. Thanks for writing!

  6. I hadn’t the chance to comment when this post came out, but your thoughts about November have been on my mind ever since. The shortening, darker days as we approach the winter solstice can be challenging, but I like to embrace this time as one in which to go inward, a necessary refueling for us introverts… Thank-you for sharing your heartfelt and considered thoughts with us this past year!

    • Thank you for honoring my thoughts by reading! Yes, turning inward can be richly rewarding…all things in balance. May your dark days be full of rest and replenishment. And seed catalogs, of course.

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