This is the third installment of Nina MacLaughlin’s Novemberance column, which will run every Wednesday this month.
Anselm Kiefer, Nigredo, 1984, oil, acrylic, emulsion, shellac, and straw on photograph and woodcut, mounted on canvas.
Three uncarved pumpkins the size of candlepin bowling balls stud the mulch in the front garden of a neighbor’s house on the short street where I live. City creatures—squirrels, raccoons, rats—have chewed coin-size circles through the tough outer rind and into the stringy pale flesh below. These sections of gnaw are now ringed with black. The black of rot, a black that looks at once dusty, as though charred by the flame of time, and slick, like the vegetal squelch of something long forgotten in a drawer of the fridge. It is a definitive black, the black of something making slow return to a different state.
Along the river, the milkweed pods have split and pour forth their seeded snow-white silk. I walk south along the river when the sun is in the final stages of its work, and scramble down the banks to look. Off tall stalks, desiccated pods spill a thrilling and climactic white. White like rabbit fur, like pearl, white that holds rainbows when the light hits right.
The leaves of the young gingko trees that grow out of the sidewalk fell all at once. A few days ago, the fan-shaped leaves with their crenulated margins glowed gold from the branches and fluttered with nonchalance. The following morning, I gasped to see it: branches all but bare and the trees seemed to grow out of puddles of gold.
At the cemetery nearby, a twisting Japanese maple is aflame, its feathery leaves a deep red, a bodily red, a red that blazes between wine and blood. Those leaves will grip the branches much deeper into the month than most of the trees around it, almost tauntingly, in a flare of lingering crimson.