"BURNING LEAVES" by Charles L. Peterson
I'm not sure how many people know the meaning of the title of this post. I Googled the phrase and found a lot of confusion and not many answers. Apparently one or more dictionaries defined it as warm, and occurs when seaports are free from ice.
On one word usage forum I looked at there were many Americans who were stumped by the phrase. It may be of Midwestern or far northern states' origin. It is a well-known term here in North Dakota.
Open Winter occurs when the temps are unseasonably mild and the snows of winter are held in abatement. The big waters remain free of ice and wildlife are easily able to get out and about to feed in fields and along rivers. But it does apply to humans as well!
"WAITING ON THE VERANDAH" by Marie Firmin Girard
In dramatic contrast to November 2008, our spate of mild weather continues into the last week of November. It's generally been in the 50s and even some 60s. I've been able to go outside on a comfortably warm afternoon to observe dozens of cedar waxwings enjoying a feast from red-fruited trees (crabapples?) Since the berries are fermented, I do hope the birds didn't have far to fly.
On late afternoons, the light slanted very low, turning the bare tree branches into an orange-y rust. It is pure pleasure just to drive along the Bismarck streets and observe the patterns of the branches against a blue sky.
Blue skies. It may not seem much to you, but it means a lot to us. The sky has seldom been blue in Bismarck for almost an entire year. Winter - which came early - was pure hell, spring was a wet hell, summer was not quite hell but cloudy and wet. After an unbelievably beautiful September, October reverted to deja vu - cold, wet, cloudy, and gray.
"AUTUMN LEAVES" by John Everett Millais
And then came November, an open November - with mild and dry weather. One of the clerks at the post office told me it's because the 2008-2009 winter is an El Nino season. That may be the cause, as other El Nino years have meant mild winters for us. I hope so. But whatever the reason, I'll take it. I wear just a light jacket, not a winter coat. No warming up the car - just a quick defrosting of the windows. No slippery or snow-clogged streets to maneuver.
I know, I know, I blog about the weather a lot. We North Dakotans get kidded about talking so much about the weather. But at least it means that we are more connected with nature than our city cousins. Bismarck is classified as a small city, but because of our northern location, we are often cast into the role of rural pioneers as we shovel out from blizzard after blizzard.
"A SUSSEX AUTUMN" by Henry LaThangue
This year, we got to experience a Thanksgiving that most of America enjoys: seeing the subtle colors of late fall - the browns, the grays, the golds - instead of a blanket of white. We were able to put pumpkins out on the stoop without having them freeze to the steps, not to be pried loose until spring thaw.
We could travel "over the river and through the woods" to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving without having to break out our winter survival kits (which should always "be kept replenished and stored in the trunk of your car"). When Thanksgiving dinner was over, we could send the kids outside to play without jamming them into snowsuits, mittens, scarves and boots.
Artist Unknown to me
The turkeys were the only things that were frozen. The person carrying the pies from the car to the house didn't slip on the ice and fall. The smokers could be shooed outdoors without guilt. The weather at the Macy's Day parade actually matched ours for once. We could take an outdoor stroll to walk off our turkey dinner without forging through deep snow.
The freshly-cleaned house did not have an entryway full of smelly wet wool coats and dripping overshoes. People going to the Black Friday sales didn't fall over dead in line like so many frozen toothpicks.
"POTATO HARVESTING" by Carl Larsson
For now, the snowblowers are parked, the shovels sit unused, the cars start happily without protest, the pheasants and other wild birds forage at will. The sidewalks and streets are bone dry, the dog doesn't mind going outside, the Christmas lights could be put up without sliding off the slippery roof. If it were allowed, we could still burn leaves (most ND cities have burn bans). We could even do last-minute gardening chores.
As my husband said, every day without snow is a day off winter. We've already shaved a month off winter this season.
God's in his heaven and all's right with the world.
And for all of this, I am so truly, truly thankful. Hallelujah for an Open November and let's hope it continues into an Open Winter.