Tugboat Fred B. Dal Zell,
oil on canvas, 1892.
The November Witches is the name given to a series of violent, unpredictable gales that shriek across the Lakes in gray November to describe a seasonal shipping hazard.
Of course, the title is merely a metaphor, an anthropomorphism of sorts; but I find it an eldritch name, one suggesting an intersection with the numinous.
I don't shiver and get goose bumps - except when I'm cold.
Instead, when I encounter something such as this, I experience an instant's stillness on an indrawn breath, a listening for otherness.
Such as the time I found a frog sitting like a little green prince on the stone walk beside my fountain.
And did you know, by Etttrick water, near Selkirk in the Borderland, there exists a place called Weirdlaw Hill?
Sir Walter Scott mentions it in a poem circa 1818:
The Dreary Change
The sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill,
In Ettrick's vale, is sinking sweet;
The westland wind is hush and still,
The lake lies sleeping at my feet.
Yet not the landscape to mine eye
Bears those bright hues that once it bore;
Though evening, with her richest dye,
Flames o'er the hills of Ettrick's shore.
With listless look along the plain
I see Tweed's silver current glide,
And coldly mark the holy fane
Of Melrose rise in ruin'd pride.
The quiet lake, the balmy air,
The hill, the stream, the tower, the tree,
- Are they still such as once they were,
Or is it the dreary change in me?
(Ah well, I know how he felt, but that's beside the point.)
Weirdlaw. The name sends my mind down curious channels.
And the word represents, perhaps, the essence of urban fantasy.