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I have a theory and I’m about to prove it. But first, how many of you are deer hunters? Raise your hand.

Very good. Kindly exclude yourselves from the following poll.

As for the rest of you, how many are huge fans of November?

Hmmm…okay, let’s try that again: if you love the month of November, raise your hand.

Just as I thought. According to this scientific poll, out of the vast handful of my non-deer-hunting readers, not one of the four of you is all that crazy about November.

I’m not surprised. Here in Michigan, only a deer hunter could love this month.

As I write, the weather outside is blue and the temperature is in the lower sixties. It’s an absolutely glorious day, but it doesn’t fool me, and it doesn’t fool anyone who has lived in this state for any length of time. We know what lies around the corner.

I hate to sound negative, but of all the months of the year, November is the emptiest. Here it stands, forlorn as the ghost of some old, gray hobo, bereft of autumn’s vivid hues yet not quite committed to the black and white of winter.

This is not the most rewarding time to take a walk in the woods. Still, if you keep your eyes open, you’ll find hints of color here and there. A straggler beech tree, hanging onto the last bit of bright green and yellow in the forest. The mottled, tri-lobed leaves of hepatica, also known as liverwort for the plant’s supposed resemblance to the human liver, accenting the ground here and there. But in November, such things are just fading memories, like the echoes of a parade that has passed.

If I’ve found an image that captures November for me perfectly, it’s the Carlton Center Church at Charlton Park (and yes, “Carlton” and “Charlton” are spelled differently). Viewed in the late afternoon with the sun slanting in between streaks of alto-stratus, the beautiful old church takes on an eldritch feel, nestled among the stark silhouettes of large, leafless trees. For that matter, the historic village as a whole, bustling with activity in the summer, reminds me of a ghost town this time of year. The only thing missing is tumbleweeds blowing through the empty streets. I may write the Barry County Parks service and recommend that they provide some.

Surrounding the village is a 298-acre recreation area with a large swimming beach, boat ramp, and hiking trails. But the village is the park’s crown jewel. Located on Thornapple Lake between Hastings and Nashville, Michigan, this unique location first sprung up as a pioneer settlement called Indian Landing. In it, you’ll find a working lumber mill, a blacksmith shop, a bank, the one-room Lee schoolhouse, and many other buildings that harken back to a long-lost way of life.

During the warm months, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the park is alive with visitors. But in November, silence reigns.

The chatter and rustling of black squirrels and the occasional hammering of a woodpecker were the only sounds of activity as Lisa and I roamed the grounds of Charlton Park yesterday afternoon. Other than those, the place was quiet, as empty as November itself.

There are ghosts in the village. I saw one of them peering at me through the window of a darkened shop as I walked down the plank sidewalk.

Okay, it wasn’t a ghost, it was an old doll. A very old doll. In today’s world of high-tech toys, it probably wouldn’t be anything that would rate high on a child’s Christmas list, but back then, it was no doubt the dream of many a little girl. The girls have long since passed through their own Novembers. The doll remains, sad-eyed, remembering.

Sorry, didn’t mean to creep you out. But that’s November for you.

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Unless,

Written by Dave.