In New Zealand, November means spring. Officially, September or October are spring, but they are unreliable months, when winter still has us in its grip, teasing and taunting us with the occasional fine day, with the bloom of flowers, with pink blossoms and buds turning into delicate, pale green leaves on the willow trees that edge the Hutt River. September and October still have the power to force us back into our winter coats, to wear scarves and gloves. This year was particularly cruel, as we watched a late snowstorm in the south of the country arrive in September, bringing the sheep farming industry to its knees, its icy ferocity killing thousands of newborn lambs.
But by November hope has returned. Even though there might still be a chilly bite in the wind, the sun warms, and we begin to believe that warm temperatures will return, that long holidays, barbecues, trips to the beach, swimming, and the end of a rough year are almost within reach.
November sees hope for the future for most New Zealanders. November celebrates new life. But for me, November signals a different time. It signals a season of memories. Memories of loss, of disappointment, of the loss of innocence, of fear for the future, and of coming to terms with my own mortality. And each year, although sharp pain has faded, although acceptance and enjoyment in life has returned, each year we remember the pain.
In my house in New Zealand, even seven years later, November is a double-edged sword.