Phthursday Musings: It Is November
or, Lock Me Up
We are approaching the 99th anniversary of the birth of Kurt Vonnegut. Oh, there’s so very much to say about Kurt right about now. We’ll save a lot of that for next week.
I saw Kurt speak when I was in college. As part of his lecture he spoke on a subject he often spoke about: the seasons. He explained how he saw there being six seasons, not four, with winter wrapped by what he called locking and unlocking. (Many years later I found much of what he spoke about in Palm Sunday. If you haven’t read his essays, you really must.)
With the flip of the calendar, we have entered November. Locking has commenced.
Autumn, which is my favorite time of the year, increasingly fleeting though it may be, terminates with the biggest party of the year for children: Halloween. Then the party is over. Not only is the party over, but baseball is over. The first quarter of school is over. Frost appears, probably daily.
I think that Kurt was dwelling mostly upon unlocking. But it is locking that gets to me. It is the transition to winter, not winter itself, that deflates. Once deflated, well, oh well, you just hunker down, you hibernate, you are locked.
I am not ready to lock this year.
The end of the baseball season was lousy. We’re getting into cold weather but most of the leaves around here are still in the trees. GOOD GOD THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE STREET HAVE PUT CHRISTMAS PARAPHERNALIA OUTSIDE, I SEE A SNOWMAN FROM MY WINDOW
I mean, I lost my damn autumn, I did, and I don’t like it one little bit.
And now we’re locking. I think for quite a long time I have struggled with locking. Football used to help me get by but ahhhh, phooey to that.
2020 was long and slow and painful but also a certain kind of visceral. 2020 was a year where it was kind of like we never really did unlock and that was terrible but there was something else too, that wasn’t terrible exactly. But 2021 has moved too fast. We did unlock, but not entirely. And now we’re locking and it feels cruel. And maybe it won’t be this way when I get enough distance but right now it just feels like it all came upon us too soon.
For a few years now I’ve taken a week off work the second week of November. It’s been a convenient time, we haven’t gone on vacations, I need to use days before the end of the year, whatever. Next week I took most of the week and maybe it will be an opportunity to recharge as we get deeper into the locking. Right now though I feel totally drained, I feel like a bear too hungry to hibernate.
I had thought about writing some politics stuff this week. I’d started in on a mini rant about property taxes. But my heart just isn’t in making arguments like that right now.
Part of it is everything above, the general fatigue, the feeling like we never really got unlocked. I think a lot of people feel a lot of this. Part of it too is that so very little is going on to get excited about. The developments that I think are the best are things like appointments made to federal agencies. I may as well go to the coffee shop and order a water if that’s how jazzed I want to feel.
I’m giving some actual thought to going all Marie Kondo on a lot of the weird stuff around this place.
Couple weeks ago we were in a toy store and my goofball child declared that he really, really wanted a Rubik’s Cube. Then it came back up again a few days ago. Well, I went out to the garage, got one of my big blue bins. These bins have been around for 25 years or so. One bin is full of things like old school yearbooks and old birthday cards. One bin is entirely full of t-shirts. But this bin is a little more esoteric. It’s got a couple stuffed animals, it’s got some random sports stuff, it’s got a Rubik’s Cube and a Rubik’s Cube Perpetual Calendar:
And then there’s a bunch of other stuff. And yeah, some of it does bring me joy, like the Shoe Tote, a tote bag shaped like a gigantic shoe, which has been around for at least 40 years. But some of it… I don’t know.
When I was of a certain age I fancied myself a “collector of collections”. This all seems a little hard to divine in retrospect but I had a collection of keychains, a collection of flags, a collection of magnets, a collection of Slinkys… only the comic books (maybe) and the baseball cards (yes / no / yes / no) were collections of any particular value.
Some of those collections have lingered, even grown over time. I have a whole lot of political buttons, for example. I have a bunch of concert set lists.
What I wonder is this:
Are all of these remnants acting to crowd out embracing other things? Or are the new things very much welcome, but my materialist sense just isn’t what it used to be?
There are a lot of things I’m interested in today, to some extent or another, that are simply not in evidence. And I really do want my space to be my space, especially my office, and while I guess it would be hard to confuse what’s going on in there with anyone else’s office, a lot of it just feels really tired to me.
I wonder how much of it is because I’ve been working from home for six years.
I wonder how much of it is because I fill so much more of time with just being Dad.
I wonder how much of it is because I’ve evolved into someone super frugal.
I imagine it’s a whole lot of things. But part of me does kind of want to throw a lot out… and replace all that with something new and different. And I think maybe the reason I don’t take the first step - throwing things out - is because I kind of know I won’t fill the spaces back in.
I think maybe I want to be more like the insane people across the street WITH A SNOWMAN IN THEIR YARD ON NOVEMBER FOURTH but the thing is that I do not want to spend any money or put in any effort to having a yard full of reindeer and the like.
I want to do this for every holiday! I mean fuck yeah I’ll put out 17 versions of American flags when the appropriate day rolls around, so long as it takes no actual effort or expense. I’ll fill the yard with top hats on February 12 if you bring them to me and then go pick them up for me. You just watch what we do on Dolphin Day.
The thing is that when I go to Menards everything looks like junk crap and I just don’t want to hang any more lights than what I already do and besides that I don’t need plastic everywhere and I’m not especially handy though I guess I’m handy enough but really what difference does that make it’s not like I’m going to carve out the time to do a cross stitch, am I?
I did get a nice strand of solar powered pumpkin lights for Halloween this year and hung them in a way that required little effort. And I am willing to do a lot more of that sort of thing if… well, if you spend all of the money, I guess, or if you source all of the giveaways, man I’m not even motivated to find my own freebies here.
Anyway, I think the lesson here is that I could use those three days off next week, and the extra rest that should come with them, because, it is November.
Six seasons... Check out the 72 microseasons of Japan. https://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00124/
I've been meaning to put all 72 into a Google calendar.
I've enjoyed finding your blog, Phil. I still need to personally unpack some of the, "wait, what, that's a thing?" with the locking/unlocking and the past 24 months (if you go back to the Locking before COVID) of ... all of whatever you call this.
This comment, though, was to share a poem I learned in high school and recall and re-read about every 4-5 years. Your description and utter horror of your neighbors too-early Christmas display was the trigger this year to seek out and re-read "Christ Climbed Down" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. And for that, I thank you.