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Poor Will's Almanack: December 7 – 13, 2010

Flickr Creative Commons user Archimandrill
Pale moth

Poor Will’s Almanack for the first week of early winter, the second week of the natural year. Early Winter arrives in the northern half of the United States as the sun moves deep into Sagittarius, and the new season brings clarity and simplicity to the landscape. The final leaves of the year past are coming down; they leave the world completely bare and revealed for the first time since April.

Time seems more finite and visible now, its secrets open. In the hundred days that lie ahead, there is enough time to look at everything, to touch the complex remnants of the summer at leisure, rebuild the past and document its progress, examining seed pods, collecting the dead grasses, hunting for cocoons.

At the beginning of the natural year, almost everything is countable on one or two hands. Instead of the thousands of species of insects, the spinning craneflies and a few pale moths are usually the only insects about. The absence of migratory birds magnifies the rattle of the remaining downy woodpeckers, isolates the calling of the crows, the chatter of sparrows, black-capped chickadees, titmice, and kingfishers.

As distant and unimaginable as the movements of the high firmament seem, so close and tangible are the events of the immediate landscape. Starlike, those events gleam in their earthy setting, the constellations of lanky, empty branches following and reflecting in mirror the high astrology of the sun.

Next week on Poor Will's Almanack: notes for the second week of Early Winter. In the meantime, find the constellations of the leafless trees.

Poor Will's Almanack for 2011 ---- a full year of Bill Felker's ruminations, along with astronomical information, notes on gardening, farming and the progress of the year --- is now available. More information can be found at poorwillsalmanack.com

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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.