On November 23, the Sun entered the sign of Sagittarius, and Sunset reached to within just a few minutes of its earliest time throughout the nation.
In the dark, Orion becomes unmistakable now as early winter approaches, and Sirius and Procyon follow him out of the southeast after midnight. Cygnus, the swan of the Northern Cross, the gauge of autumn's progress, is disappearing south. October's Pegasus and Andromeda fall away behind it.
It is time to look for markers that track the trajectory of winter and early spring. It is time to find and measure the first tips of snowdrops and crocus that push up through the mulch. It is time to check the pussy willow buds and see if any have cracked.
Check the honeysuckle bushes, note whether any of their berries are left. Finger the seed heads of the New England asters to see if all the seeds are gone. Kick the plump Osage fruits to understand how they are doing: they are chartreuse green when they tumble down in October and November, turn yellower and yellower through the fall, start to get mushy in the middle of winter, fall apart in spring.
Find the plants that keep their green through the coldest times: the hellebores, the creeping charley, the chickweed and pachysandra, garlic mustard, mullein, sweet rocket, and sweet William, and be reassured by their deep color and hardiness that all will be well.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I'll be back again next week with notes for the first week of early winter. In the meantime, if you take a close inventory now, you’ll be able to follow time not only on your calendar but on the calendar of the world itself.