WYSO

Bill Felker

Host - Poor Will's Almanack

Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.

Exploring everything from animal husbandry to phenology, Felker has become well known to farmers as well as urban readers throughout the country.  He is an occasional speaker on the environment at nature centers, churches and universities, and he has presented papers related to almanacking at academic conferences, as well. Felker has received three awards for his almanac writing from the Ohio Newspaper Association. "Better writing cannot be found in America's biggest papers," stated the judge on the occasion of Felker’s award in 2000.

Currently, Bill Felker lives with his wife in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He has two daughters, Jeni, who is a psychologist in Portland, Oregon, and Neysa, a photographer in Spoleto, Italy.

Ways to Connect

late summer sunset
Till Westermayer / Flickr Creative Commons

Now in the sign of Leo, the Sun follows the ecliptic down more quickly toward autumn equinox, and time seems to accelerate as the days shorten.. Throughout its residence in Cancer, the Sun moved only a small fraction of the way toward September. Under Leo through late July and middle August, it descends three times more rapidly than it did in Early Summer, toward Virgo and Early Fall. And by the start of the second week of August, it will be one third of its way to autumn.

Jupiter and Venus against the summer sky.
Steve Elliot / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, walking west down my street late in the evening, I could see Venus straight ahead of me, a deep red-orange marker in the sky in the very last of sundown.

I looked up and around, trying to find the Big Dipper and the Summer Triangle, prominent stars of a July night. I could see Jupiter in the south to my left, but haze or high clouds kept the constellations hidden. The moon, new and dark, had set an hour or so earlier, and I was alone with the planets.

Shadowed trees on an orange summer sunset
Jim Mullhaupt / Flickr Creative Commons

The Sun completes its residence in Cancer this week and enters the Late Summer sign of Leo on July 23, having moved about an eighth of the way toward autumn equinox.

The decline of the Sun into Leo always brings a visible change to the landscape, and that change can influence attitudes and behavior.

ear of corn with tassle
caligula1995 / Flickr Creative Commons

The Sun’s powerful position in Cancer throughout the month is enhanced by the position of Sirius, the Dog Star, located almost due south at noon and contributing (according to tradition) to the Dog Days of Middle Summer. With  all their heat, Cancer and Sirius ripen the landscape.

Field corn is ready to tassel all along the 40th Parallel. Sweet corn and beans and tomatoes fill the farmers’ markets. Winter wheat is ready to be cut. Carrots and beets are ready to be pulled for supper. Broccoli has headed. Deep Summer’s tomatoes and beans are coming in.

Star trails on a summer night's sky
bobthemagicdragon / Flickr Creative Commons

At 10:36 in the morning of  July 6, the Earth reaches aphelion, the point at which it is about 153 million kilometers (its greatest distance) from the Sun. Aphelion occurs almost exactly six months from perihelion, Earth’s position closest to the Sun (about 148 million kilometers).

When one thing is happening, says the first law of phenology, something else is happening, too. Finches in the thistledown, cicadas calling through the day, katydids at night, all measure the Sun and pull the Dog Days in.

elderberry flowers
Allison Giguere / Flickr Creative Commons

Inside the four common seasonal categories – winter, spring, summer, fall -  lie clusters of small parallel seasons that measure time inside of time, creating by their colors and shapes and sounds and tastes and smells the broader temporal divisions.

As June comes to a close, taking with it the longest days of Early Summer, the subseasons that follow solstice create a patchwork of interlocking phases of the landscape’s transformation.

closeup of pink thistle
Joshua Mayer / Flickr Creative Commons

These are the longest days of the year, and Thursday the 21st is solstice, the peak of the solar tide, splitting Earth time in two, the Sun leaving Early Summer and Gemini, entering Deep Summer and Cancer.

Obscured by daylight, the consellations that accompany the sign of  Cancer during the day include Orion in the middle of the southern sky at noon, the potent Dog Star, Sirius, low behind him. Pisces lies in the west, Leo in the east, Draco in the north.

idintify media / Flickr Creative Commons

In Nature wrote the naturalist Donald Culross Peattie,nothing is insignificant, nothing ignoble, nothing sinful, nothing repetitious. All the music is great music, all the lines have meaning.

So far deep into Gemini, I seek out the music. Looking for Deep Summer, I collect and collect more  pieces of the season, watching them accumulate, none of them insignificant.

And so I lay them out in my mind, building a daybook on which to place leaves, birdsong, butterflies until all the lines and spaces are filled.

young grackle
DaPuglet Pugs / Flickr Creative Commons

By this moment in the year, when the Gemini Sun has almost completed its ascent to solstice...so many things are happening all around us...and we are, in a way, what we experience.  And so here is our horoscope:

maple seeds
Linda Owens / Flickr Creative Commons

The Daddy Longlegs Moon becomes totally full as it rises at dusk today, passing overhead throughout the night, cooling the evenings but still inviting walks and courting and memories in its light. As the Moon comes up shining in the east, Venus offers counterpoint as the giant evening star in the far west, and Jupiter, in Libra along the southern tree line, balances Polaris in the north.

Under this Gemini sky, after peonies come in and the flowers of the yellow poplar open, past the decline of poppies, then the last leaves of the canopy cover almost all of the United States. 

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