Viva November! 11 reasons to love the penultimate month

Well, October is over. Time to take down the Halloween decorations and start Christmas shopping, right?


This is November 1, the first day of a month filled with unique goodness. November is the quiet sister among months. The poetic soul, the one who doesn’t demand attention. The one with the long, flowing hair of a color you can’t quite name: the dark blue distant hills, the pale gold of dry grass, the burnt orange of an overripe leaf.

In the past few years I’ve started to love this 30-day stretch between costumes and tinsel. Here’s why.

Quiet beauty.

Beach weather has passed. Flowers have faded. Leaves have passed their peak and started to fall. We don’t have sparkling clean snow yet, at least not in the northeast US. But all this natural folding up and slowing down has a gorgeous soul. I start to see the many different shades of brown, grey and green. And a wink of blue sky is that much more precious set against the muted palette of late autumn.

Best running weather of the year.

Along with the quiet beauty of November comes the opportunity to play outdoors free of oppressive heat or nasty precipitation.

Saints and souls.

from a Dia de los Muertos exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Art, November 2017.

We forget in the rush to make costumes, throw parties and get candy that Halloween is an eve—the day before something else. That something else is a two-part Christian celebration: All Saints Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls Day on Nov. 2. In the Episcopal church, we remember loved ones who have died recently or long past, with a special focus on those who we’ve lost in the past year. It’s healing and ultimately joyful. A few years ago, I joined a Mexican friend for a Dia de los Muertos dinner, where photos, candles and artful skeleton decorations invited us to sit comfortably with the spirits of loved ones who had died.

Fall back day.

November is only 30 days long, but we do get a bonus hour of it: Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. the first Sunday of this month. This year, that’s November 7. If you’re like me, that means an extra hour of sleep I don’t expect.

Veterans Day.

The clock face of Cornell’s McGraw Tower glows green on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, to honor people who have served in the military. Working at Cornell, which has a growing population of military vet undergraduate and professional students, I’ve expanded my own concept of who is a military veteran and what members of this population contribute to the campus and the country.


Election Day, November 2020. I voted.

This year, it’s not the spectacle we had in the 2020 presidential election, but Election Day is once again the Tuesday following the first Monday in November — Nov. 2, 2021. Housing, public safety, and redistricting guidelines are priorities in city council and county legislator races in my town, a reminder to me that the bedrock of democracy is local, local, local.

Making stuff.

With its sweater weather and shortening days November is a good time to do things with your hands. My only real practical craft is cooking. Once every 20 years or so I make a quilt. And/nevertheless, November is the time of year I launch into involved cooking projects and knitting/stitching evenings. And if you must think about the holiday season this month, now is the time to start hand made gifties.


If we’d relied on my porch garden this year, we would, I’m sorry to say, starve this winter. Today, I gathered in mysteriously unripe tomatoes and one basil plant. Luckily, local farmers got our backs, and early November is when the meatiest veggies hit their stride.

“November Rain.”

What would we do without the month that brought us this epic karaoke hit?


Most of the reasons I love November (with the exception of Axel Rose; see above) circle back to small-scale beauty. Understatement, less-is-more, unexpected pleasure. In 2016, I did a seven-week spiritual retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, which concluded in early November. My advisor for the retreat, an Episcopal priest, gave me guidance that still resonates with me: “low expectations, high gratitude.” I resisted at first—aren’t we taught from a young age to shoot for the stars? But there is deep wisdom in modest expectations and great grace in gratitude. This is the real beauty of November. We don’t expect a lot so the actual experience leaves room for unexpected pleasures.

November raspberries. Who knew?

Turkey Trot.

You thought I was going to say Thanksgiving, yeah? Well, this is T-Day Part A: gotta love a holiday where running a 10K along a parade route in a goofy costume before 9 a.m. is a long-standing tradition. It is in my family. I’ll be remote from Detroit this year but trotting down Woodward Avenue in spirit.


  1. Martye Lowery on November 2, 2021 at 11:59 am

    These are wonderful, Kate. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of people – those who have passed out of this world, our veterans, those who depend on us exercising our personal responsibility in the democratic process.

  2. Raymond Shuster on November 2, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    I love this, Kate. Thank you. I’ll show it to you know who. It is beautiful out our back windows, green grass (still), gold leaves, purple/brown tree trunks, blue sky with white clouds. And, it’s warm in the house.