November rolls around again, and though I am now a Texan — by choice, if not by birth — I cannot help but think of my childhood days in the Pennsylvania mountains.  We lived between a college campus and a wooded hollow, so I enjoyed the best of both worlds in the fall.  On one side was the distant sound of band practice, parades of excited freshmen heading fresh-faced to the first college classes of their young lives, and the “hut-hut” shouts of a football team hoping for a winning season.  School spirit flapped like a pennant in the crisp fall breeze.

On the other side were the woods.  In late October, as pumpkins appeared on doorsteps and bales of hay took their places at the entrances of homes where no farm animals lived, our wood was painted with almost unbelievable reds and yellows that grew deeper in the late afternoon sun, as if baked gently like so many candied apples. I could wander those woods for hours on an autumn Saturday, unconcerned with homework assignments that could wait until tomorrow. I can still hear the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot and smell the almost agonizingly sweet odor of autumn.  This is the stuff of nostalgia for me; they say the nose never forgets, and that fragrances have the ability to carry with them the unadulterated stuff of long-ago memories. To smell is to remember.

While it is admittedly the month of little deaths and the dying of the light, a month that sees the warmth of the sun replaced by longer, chilly evenings, there is something about November that makes you want to make your home a little cozier, bring loved ones a little closer, and to hold on to the simplest and the best the world has to offer.  In November, fires in the fireplace, warm suppers, good books, and ticking clocks bring with them new and special joys.  The rush of the holidays has yet to come, in spite of the best efforts of Madison Avenue.  And it is just here, as fall draws on, that we find ourselves breathing a quiet prayer of thanks:  thanks for the things we too often take for granted.  Thanks not so much for the material blessings of our lives, but in spite of our inevitable setbacks. Thanks that, no matter what kind of year it’s been, it’s still so good to be here.  Thanks for the familiar voices of friends, the taste of good food, and the simple joys of life.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.  Go out and smell some leaves.  Take a walk in the woods.  Read a good book.  Listen to the clock tick.  Hug somebody you love.  Keep it simple, and say a quite prayer of thanks.

Blair Monie is senior pastor of the Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church ( The Worship section is a regular feature underwritten by Advocate Publishing and the churches listed on these pages. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202.

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