Closing in on the last quarter of the Hunter's Moon.
The middle of November is a time for hunting stories, dog stories, nature stories. The hunting or tracking yarns often are simply quest or self-discovery stories told with universal symbols and featuring a meditation or reassessment of our true divided nature. First we hunt for sustenance, then we hunt for enlightenment.
We sense the fall naturally. The days get short. There is an invigorating zip in the air. The middle of November can be a time for Indian summer, it can be either unseasonably warm or unseasonably cold, and often it brings the first tracking snow, at least here in these Kentucky woods.
Much of my annual November reading returns to my consciousness unbidden much like yearly holiday carols, earworms for the season. Jack London passages committed to memory long ago. Robert Frost: Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; he will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow.
Last year at this time, in the weeks before starting this blog, I went on a tour of nature-related reading, with a few of the many books that use the cat as a symbol of our animal nature. Such works as:
Walter Van Tilburg Clark's The Track of the Cat and Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard:
Caught in Fading Light: Mountain Lions, Zen Masters, and Wild Nature by Gary Thorp. The author goes on a quest to see a cougar in the wild. He seems to be more of a formal Buddhist than either Jim Harrison or Gary Snyder. A smaller book and a lighter read than the others here.
The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild by Craig Childs. The strikingly beautiful picture of a cougar in the snow graces the dustjacket. Childs is a great story-teller.
The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator's Deadly Return to Suburban America by David Baron. On the first edition, it carries the same dustjacket picture as The Animal Dialogues but stylized and darker.
Shadow Cat: Encountering the American Mountain Lion, edited by Susan Ewing and Elizabeth Grossman. A treasure-chest of essays on the elusive cat (lion/panther/puma) quest, including Pam Houston's "Looking For Abbey's Lion."
Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian. A fine ghostly catamount quest novel (among other things) that I read in first edition long ago. The epigraph is from Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." About the frozen leopard found high in the mythical house of God. "No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude."
I greatly prefer hunting stories with a sense of reverence for nature, a sense of gratitude. As I've said before, I think that fall is the ideal time for Halloween with its recognition of death, the nightmare before the winter solstice and, for many of us, the rebirth of Christmas. In between, in this country, we celebrate Thanksgiving, our national day of gratitude.
This is as it should be.