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Poor Will's Almanack: August 16 - 22, 2022

Pilea pumila (Canadian clearweed) with Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stiltgrass)
Tom Potterfield
Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for the second week of Late Summer, the fourth week of the Soaring Swallow Moon, the last week of the Sun in Leo.

Although late summer occurs at different times and at different increments in different places, the beginning of that season is almost always ragweed season.

In the Deep South ragweed time may occur in July, and in along the Canadian border later in August.

But whenever it blooms ragweed goes with ripe blackberries in the brambles and grapes on arbors.

The leaves of the black walnut trees weather and often start to drop in the wake of ragweed. In the woods, white flowers open on white snakeroot. Clearweed, a wildflower that looks like stinging nettle but doesn’t sting, comes into bloom. The jumpseed flowers –and when its seeds jump away at the stroke of your fingers, early autumn has arrived. Burdock, Purple Ironweed. Jerusalem Artichoke Seasons color the waysides. Water Hemloc and Boneset Seasons unfold throughout the wetlands.

Ragweed sometimes goes with the first flocking of hummingbirds. In ragweed time, the season of morning robin and cardinal song gives way to the Season of Late Summer Cricket Song. Murmu rations of starlings swoop across the sky.

And all of these seasons coincide and overlap, brought into existence as much by place as by the date. These seasons, fluid and floating throughout North America, tell the local time of year independent of calendars and stars, surrounding, enfolding with their signs the creatures that live among them.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of Late Summer. In the meantime, think about practicing something called synecdoche, a fancy word for referring to a part of something to indicate the whole thing.

So...if you sneeze from ragweed, you can know all the other parts of Late summer are around you, too.

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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.