Now comes early November and what is popularly dubbed the  “Holiday Season,” encompassing Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve in a marathon of opportunities for shopping, gifting, partying, gluttony and a plethora of other excesses we won’t take stock of until the credit card bills arrive in January.

I used to end every year running that race. I had to grow older to discover all that running got me nowhere at all. 

I’m not sure when it happened, but I think it was about the time I could no longer afford the Christmas gifts my kids really wanted, and I ceased wanting anything more than a warm afternoon in the winter woods or an aromatic cup of coffee by a crackling fire.

I’m content in this season of life to let my bride worry about Christmas gifts — she’s the only one who knows if we have any money, anyway — while I slip away to the porch to reflect on the treasured folks I’ve loved and lost — not so much to mourn them as to bask in the warm memories of seasons past.

Come mid-November, I think of Dad loading his hounds in our ’48 Ford pickup after supper for a few hours of coon hunting up in the Handley woods. It was usually just me and him, what we’d call “quality time” today, traipsing though the timber, shuffling through pungent layers of leaves, ever keen to the bawl of the hounds.

I reflect on Russell and me fishing the Pomme de Terre, red and gold leaves on the slowly moving river piling up in long arcs against our lines. 

I remember campfires and wiener roasts in our woods, aromatic wood smoke wafting skyward and disappearing in the inky heavens, while Angela and her friends cackle and giggle over burnt hot dogs and flaming marshmallows.

I remember solitary evenings in the woods, sitting on a stump after an afternoon of cutting wood, listening to squirrels scolding one another, while hoping to see deer coming in for the evening.

Then, my thoughts wander to my late brothers, Stephen and Russell — they would have loved these oak woods in November — and as the evening air cools I remember the warmth of my folks’ panting wood stove in the corner of our old living room.

Somewhere in some shopping mall this November evening, frenzied shoppers are clamoring for holiday bargains, carting bulging bags and parcels across acres of parking lots and worrying if the debit they just swiped will clear the bank.

But, not here — not on the rim of Buffalo Head Prairie, where coyotes still serenade at night and the indigo sky glimmers with thousands of stars, and I sit on my porch and bask in the warm embrace of all the folks and places I’ve ever loved.

Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer and former editor of the Buffalo Reflex. Contact him at ©️ James E. Hamilton 2019.

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