Poor Will's Almanack: December 6 - 12, 2011

Dec 6, 2011

Poor Will’s Almanack for the First Week of Early Winter.

My diaries have become timetables, lists of annual events in nature. The obsession with detail is sufficient in itself; it is a peaceful neurosis of record taking. But I often think the notebooks ought to be useful for something other than tracking the seasons.

I have had plenty of practice at taking notes. My former work in academe promoted the illusion that individual, unconnected pieces of information all have their places in a grand context of history.

So it's not unusual for me to feel that the length of comfrey leaves on April 16th of a given year should somehow hold significance. In fact the size of my comfrey on that day in 1983 was eight inches. The following year, after a very cold spring, it was only two inches. In 1985, it was six inches. In 1986, nine inches. This past year, seven inches.

It is true that the length of a comfrey leaf, like the state of any leaf, can measure the quality of a season as precisely as a scientific instrument. And that ought to provide rationale enough for anyone who feels the need to measure leaves.

But for me, there is more. I think it comes from growing up with the old Catholic notion of indulgences. I miss indulgences. I miss being able to say a few power-laden words and, in seconds, create ultimate meaning with ultimate practical application in heaven.

These days, indulgences are out of favor and I just keep on writing things down. My notes, I realize seem to carry few matters of ultimate concern. Who knows if the angels read them. On the other hand, even they may not get me a higher place in heaven, little by little, they are helping me figure out where I am on earth.

Next week on Poor Will’s Almanack: notes for the second week of Early Winter. In the meantime, make a few notes. Check out your place on earth.