Friday, November 27, 2009

November Witches

Tugboat Fred B. Dal Zell,

Antonio Jacobsen,

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.


strugglingwriter said...

Just saying hello here Bernita. Thanks for the comment you left on my blog. Good to hear from you again :)

Take care,


laughingwolf said...

unfamiliar with this, but can see how it illustrates what you see in your mind's eye...

reminds me of lightfoot's: edmund fitzgerald

laughingwolf said...

young gordy:

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I like that. Weirdlaw. It could be a new genre.

Dave F. said...

I like this. How about a few hundred words of the sailors as they face the November Witches as they sail from to the port of (guess what) Wierdlaw?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Paul.

Have seen a claim that the Novermber Witches were responsible for that sinking, Laughing Wolf.

Evocative, isn't it, Sexy?

Dave, there are devils in the wind aloft...

raine said...

Laughingwolf, I had the same thought about Lightfoot's wonderful song. Living right off one of the lakes, I more than understand.

Yet not the landscape to mine eye Bears those bright hues that once it bore...Are they still such as once they were, Or is it the dreary change in me?

How beautifully expressed, and poignantly true...

Bernita said...

It is, Raine.
Scott was a lovely writer and a good man.

Suzanne Perazzini said...

For me, a story is all about the atmosphere that sits behind to emphasize the moods of the characters or to influence their moods. So those words also immediately created a story in my mind. Urban fantasy would be perfect.

writtenwyrdd said...

I feel like that poem sometimes, too. I think it is a product of getting older and less flexible. Things happen and we miss thinking the world was our oyster.

Bernita said...

Yes, Suzanne.
For me that name is INSTANT atmosphere.

Our rose-coloured glasses shade to gray, Written, and life is no longer a vistan of endless potential.

Bernita said... "vista" or "vistaed."

Steve Malley said...

Wierdlaw really is an evocative name. We have a Cape Kidnappers around here. That one works for me as well!

Bernita said...

"Cape Kidnappers"


Whirlochre said...

The thought of being frozen cold far out to sea makes me feel ill.

Better to be on Weirdlaw Hill — however weird the law.

Maybe they have Weirdlaw Kops there? 20s B&W moviesque wisps that hover menacingly sans comedy truncheons.

Scott from Oregon said...

Weird law reminds me of a thought experiment where punishment for law breaking was meted out by figuring out who was the most significant person in a perp's life and then sentencing THEM.

Would empathy be a greater deterrent than self-preservation?

Elegantly composed as usual bernita...

Bernita said...

Whirl, does make one think of scenarios where normal laws - either legal or natural - are twisted out of true.
And thank you, Scott.
That was a humdinger of a bear adventure on your blog.

SzélsőFa said...

I've just learned form your comment on Jason's blog that you are rejoining blogosphere.
You are in my thoughts, Bernita - whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I'm wishing you all the bests.

Bernita said...

SzelssoFa, thank you.
~so nice~
In Canada, Thanksgiving Day is held in October, but is otherwise celebrated much the same as the US - turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, squash, corn, pumpkin pie, apple pie...

BernardL said...

The poem captures the eye of life's storm or is it the eye of the aged storm. :)

Gabriele C. said...

Hi Bernita, glad to see you back blogging. I missed your posts.

What a lovely poem. I should check out more Scott (I've read most of his novels, but not his poems).

Bernita said...

Scott was 47 when he wrote this poem, Bernard.
Though he may have considered himself aged, I suspect his mood had more to do with life trouble than age.

Bernita said...

And I missed your fabulous photos, Gabriele. They inspire.

Jon M said...

Great to have you back Bernita! Weirdlaw...indeed sets me thinking!

laughingwolf said...

probably were, bernita

thx raine... i used to live in the niagara area, and have seen all the lakes but michigan