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Poor Will's Almanack: December 1 - 7, 2021

Sunrise on Caspersen Beach, Gulf of Mexico near South Venice, Florida
Diana Robinson
Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for the transition week to Early Winter, the first week of the Sandhill Crane Migration Moon, the second week of the Sun in  Sagittarius. 

"A man dwells in his native valley ...like an acorn in its cup. Here, of course, is all that you love, all that you expect, all that you are."

Henry David Thoreau wrote that sentence in his journal of November 1, 1858, at a time when America was surging westward, abandoning its native valley, the exhausted farmlands of the East, following the promise of new, fertile land and gold.

His statement is a homage to his own parochialism, his own attachment to Concord and to the natural environment he loved.

But it can also seem almost un-american to praise the values of home in a society that seeks mobility and change. Home is a place you escape to go somewhere else. Or it is a childhood memory never recaptured in real life. Or it is somewhere yet to come, some impossible dream of belonging and comfort.

That dream may appear more often in the winter. It is the dream of escaping to the warm beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, of abandoning the exhausted fields of your life, to find your real native valley.

This is one of my many meditations in winter. It has always been there. In the cold of December, I always ask, "What am I doing here?"

And it always seems the answer is a good, pragmatic and sensible one. And it is Thoreau's answer, his attachment to his valley. If a person is rich and strong anywhere, he suggests, "it must be in his native soil."

That reminds me that I still have work to do. I'll stay the winter.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the first full week to Early Winter. In the meantime, think about it: What are you doing here?

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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.