I cannot recall the last time I experienced silence - the complete absence of sound.
Sure, there have been times that I would describe as “quiet,” even very quiet, but not silent. Even late at night when Harvard is asleep, I can hear the train engines idling a mile away.
The lack of silence in our lives is a health problem that also affects our mental capacity. This fact was first recognized over a century ago. Florence Nightingale, famous British nurse and activist, declared back in the 1800s that noise inflicted on patients was “cruel,” as it hindered their recoveries. Additionally, her American contemporary, writer Herman Melville wrote: “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”
November has always been a misfit month to me.
Fall colors are giving way to browns and greys. The bright white of the first snow usually waits until December. Sure, there’s Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday – but not until the end of the month.
Rather than just biding my time until Thanksgiving this November, I’m going to get out and appreciate the good things this season has to offer:
- Take a nature hike. One advantage of this pre-winter month is that the weather is cool, but not cold. On the next sunny day, I’ll take walk through the woods and enjoy the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet. I’ll also keep my eyes open for late season mushrooms, particularly if there has been some rain recently. If I’m lucky I’ll see some turkey tails, which do look like their namesake, albeit much smaller.
- Look at the stars. Nights are longer now, which means there is plenty of time to enjoy some star-gazing and still get to bed early. On a clear, moonless night, I like to find a dark area in the country, wrap myself in a blanket with a thermos of hot cider, and just look up. (The new moon was November 3rd, so this is probably a good time for stargazing. The end of the month should be good too.) The website www.stargate.org/weeklytips posts a nice list of celestial events to look for each week. Cassiopeia, Pisces and Pegasus are visible in November, as is the Andromeda galaxy, which is in Pegasus. To the naked eye, it will look like a faint smudge. Andromeda is located 2,500,000 light years from Earth, so the light from that smudge took 2.5 million years to reach us!
- Clean and fill the birdfeeders. It is a good idea to clean bird feeders monthly when in use, but annually at a minimum. The cleaning helps remove bacteria, mold and diseases that can build up on a feeder. If an infected bird uses the feeder, it will pass the illness on to other birds. A solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water is recommended. Be sure to clean all parts of the feeder.
Something else to look out for in November is deer. This is peak breeding season for deer, so they are a little distracted. Their coloring blends in well with the drab landscape right now, so many people don’t see them approaching on the side of the road until it is too late. Be especially alert when driving at dusk and dawn. With all of the wonderful natural areas in McHenry County, most parts of the county have deer populations, so stay alert even when driving in built-up areas.
On November 9th, from 2-5pm, TLC will hold its first acorn planting day. The inaugural event will take place at the Beeson Conservation Easement north of Chemung at 8216 White Oaks Road, Harvard. The planting will be used to test whether direct seeding of areas with acorns is an effective way to restore oak woodlands.
On November 21st, from 6-7pm, on Speaking of Nature radio program, I’ll be talking with local business owners about nature-themed gifts to consider this holiday season. Tune in through the website www.harvardcommunityradio.com or on the radio at 1610 AM.