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Poor Will's Almanack: November 23 - 29, 2021

John Winkelman
via Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for the fourth week of Late Fall, the fourth week of the Deer Rutting Moon, the first full week of the Sun in wintery Sagittarius.

In spite of the calls of geese that urge me to abandon the cold, I am spending winter in the North again. The tropical plants I have inside the greenhouse are budding, needing care and reminding me of choices I have made. It is too late to run, to merge into the flyway corridor away from January. I am committed to equinox.

But I am already counting days, attempting to demystify the time ahead. About 20 days to solstice, 60 to the center of winter, 100 to the first hours of early spring. A finite, divided season is almost mastered.

And if I lose heart at the snow, I take comfort in Henry David Thoreau's example of the skunk cabbage, the first wildflower of the year to bloom in winter's cold.

"If you are afflicted with melancholy at this season, go to the swamp and see the brave spears of skunk cabbage buds already advanced toward a new year,"Thoreau writes in his October Journal of 1857.

In the summer, "its withered leaves fall," he says, but then the center of the plant is almost immediately transfixed by a rising bud. With that sudden transformation, Thoreau declares, "Winter and death are ignored."

So now I walk the swamp and find the “brave spears of the skunk cabbage.“They see over the brown of winter’s hill,” Henry David promises me. “They see another summer ahead.”

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the transition week to Early Winter. In the meantime, find a picture of skunk cabbage. Then see if you can discover the real skunk cabbage in the wetlands this winter.

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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.