ESCANABA — November is perfectly gray with wisps of white.
A thick quilt of earth tone colors fills the short hours of daylight.
The blur of chickadee wings amongst the white birch and maples makes a smear of gray.
With eyes and noses black like soot and coats of charcoal gray, the whitetail deer blend into the bleak scenery. Bare tree branches join hands on the horizon.
A barred owl perches high on an oak limb. His mottled feathers of beige, white, and gray camouflage him well until he silently swoops down upon a tiny gray mouse.
Whiskers twitch and the cottontail rabbit’s pepper-colored pelt zig-zags across the barren garden. His flashy white tail gives away his presence. He is more gray than white.
On the other hand, a snowshoe hare hides in the cedar swamp. The hare’s winter fur is coming in. His gray and rusty brown hairs of summer are half replaced by the snowy white winter ones. This large bunny of the Northwoods is eager to have the ground all covered with snow so that he can blend into the scenery. Predators will overlook white on white.
The gray jay visits the backyard now more often than the blue jay. The gray jay is looking for a crust of bread or a scrap of suet. Also called the Canada jay, Upper Michigan’s gray jay was long ago nicknamed a “lumberjack” because back in the early days of logging camps these friendly birds hung around the lumber camp ready to feast on burnt pancakes or stale cookies.
A blob of black, tan and gray quills rests up near the top of an aspen tree. The porcupine is the color of November. It matches the tree bark and it matches the mud.
The weasels and ermines wear mostly white in November as they swiftly sift around stumps, branches, roots rocks piles in search of rodents.
But the greatest gray of November is definitely the sky.
Sometimes it is silver gray with a blustery cold wind. Sometimes it is a pewter gray, heavy and angry and lasing out with rain and sleet. Then there are soft gray days where time almost stands still and you can’t tell if its ten o’clock or two o’clock.
The November skies can also quickly turn ash gray and snowflakes can fall as big and thick as in a snow globe.
To survive and thrive as a Yooper, you’ve got to love gray. You must find it peaceful and relaxing like a good nap. A certain tranquility soothes the mind as the gray skies broken only by firs, pines and hardwoods line the horizon.
A small curl of gray wood smoke drifts off into the night. Wisps of white, snow white are soon to follow.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.