November – ending the day well

November – ending the day well

November sees autumn gracefully fade. The garden is slowing down too. We watch a spectacular video of rooks flocking to their communal roosts and with the old Chinese poets we learn to end the day well.

.’…When Winter comes in earnest to fulfil
His yearly task, at bleak November’s close,
And stops the plough, and hides the field in snows;
When frost locks up the stream in chill delay,
And mellows on the hedge the jetty sloes,
For little birds — then Toil hath time for play,
And nought but threshers’ flails awake the dreary day

John Clare’s Shepherds Calender —November

In Clare’s day the countryside was essentially a working landscape. He may speak of melancholy and sadness as autumn closes, but the gardener never does. No ‘threshers’ flails‘ are required today, thankfully, but in the garden there is plenty to do.

November’s Garden

November - planting tubs of Tulip bulbs.

November is the month for planting tulips. With hands in touch with the earth, where they were meant be, and something of value invested in the soil there will be hope of a future display.

Pots of plants waiting for spring
‘Spring waiting in tubs’. Scilla peruviana shooting, sweet williams, wallflowers and foxgloves waiting.
winter flowering bush of yellow mahonia
Pink flowers on small winter flowering tree

Out in the garden the early winter show of the Mahonia ‘Charity’ is getting underway joined by winter flowering cherry (above). Viburnum bodnantense, Winter honeysuckle and Wintersweet (Chimonanthus fragrans) will soon be adding their scent and colour. There is always promise in a garden.

Flower seed catalogue open page

The catalogues have started to arrive full of ideas for next year’s displays waiting in these packets. 

November sunset

Rooks – Ending the Day Well

As the light fades lines of rooks, with some jackdaws, are seen making their way towards the woods at Buckenham Carrs in Norfolk.  They’ve come from all over Norfolk and parts of Suffolk as they have been doing since before humans came on the scene. This is one of the largest roosts in the country with up to 80,000 birds. The rook is a bird embedded within our rural British landscape. It was mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Richard Jefferies  tells us that, in the past, country folk set their time by the sight of these streams of rooks making for their roosting sites at sundown,

Watch this spectacular display that takes place before the rooks settle into the trees like black rain, darkening the branches before quietness eventually settles over the wood again.

Watch this Norfolk Rook Roost

  How we would love to know what is going on here. Instead, having ‘forgotten the words‘, we let it remain one of the secrets of nature and watch and wonder with the wisdom of this old Chinese poet:

I built my cottage among the habitations of men,
And yet there is no clamor of carriages and horses.
You ask: “Sir, how can this be done?”
“A heart that is distant creates its own solitude.”
I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,
Then gaze afar towards the southern hills.
The mountain air is fresh at the dusk of day;
The flying birds in flocks return.
In these things there lies a deep meaning;
I want to tell it, but have forgotten the words.

Tao Yuanming (4th century Chinese poet)

A Simple Lifestyle

Traditional Chinese landscape scene
Chinese landscape painting based on Tao Yuanming’s beautiful story ‘The Peach Blossom Spring”

In the spirit of Tao Yuanming’s poem I can live gently in this world, at peace and in harmony with earth’s seasons, with the daily movement of the sun and the passage of the flying birds. I can end the day well, in gratitude to my Creator who has my life and my best interests in his fatherly care. Jesus said:

Look at the birds of the air…your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than them?’

Matthew’s Gospel 6:26

Thank you for visiting.

Top photo – November in Epping Forest by Roger Jones – Geograph

11 thoughts on “November – ending the day well

  1. Thank you for your post
    Yet again putting unspeakable feelings into words. We so need the solitude at times like these! We pray you all are well….
    Jim and Jennie


  2. A beautiful and tranquil musing on the move into the season of rest Richard. I once stayed at a hotel in Durham where the rooks flew over on their way to the rookery, it was an amazing sight. And there is a shopping centre, not too far from here, where rooks gather – in the most ordinary of settings! I enjoyed your words woven with the words of the poets you shared, thank you.


    1. Thank you Andrea. Your shopping centre rooks remind me of hearing of the noisy rookery next to Lewes railway station here in Sussex. One regular commuter from the station commented on the contrast between the noisy, sociable rooks and the silent commuters, each standing alone waiting for their train. The rooks are delightful fellow companions – a challenge to our English individuality and reserve. We have done them an injustice in the past merely seeing them as crop pests. After all, they were here long before us!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another beautifully peaceful post, Richard. Have you read Mark Cocker’s “Crow Country”? He not only talks about his love for all corvids, especially those that live around him in the Yare valley but he travels round Britain discovering interesting facts about these birds and the places that they call home. I bought and read it when rooks were driving me crazy in our garden, eating all the birdfood I put out in one sitting and even dismantling some of the feeders to get the food more easily! I learnt to tolerate and then to love and admire them after reading that book.
    I hope you and your family are keeping well.


    1. No I haven’t, Clare. It sounds great. I must have a read. Thanks for the recommendation. Sorry to hear about the rook raids on your feeders, to add to the squirrels you mentioned in a previous comment – one of the perils of living in the country! We are well. Good wishes to all your household. Look after yourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Richard – I hope this gets through. Having trouble with WordPress. I always love your photos and poetry – so well chosen to illustrate the journey of the month. Sue


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