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Poor Will's Almanack: July 19 - 25, 2011

Flickr Creative Commons user me'nthedogs

Poor Will's Almanack for the fifth week of Middle Summer.

The observation of natural history, says Eliades Quintana, is a simple and powerful form of meditation. In it we find that the chanting of the katydids and crickets and watching the approach of August are no less magical than the songs of monks or the mantras of gurus.

Here in the fifth week of middle summer, the insect chorus of the night leads the mediation.

I listen to the crickets and katydids, and I watch the history of July unravel: yellowing locust and buckeye leaves and the browning garlic mustard, reddening Judas maples and Virginia creeper leaves, shiny spicebush, boxwood, greenbrier, and poison ivy berries forming, wild cherries darkening, Osage, buckeye and black walnut fruits heavy enough to drop in a storm.

Mallow, Asiatic lilies and day lilies disappear in the garden as white, red, and purple phlox unfold. Lizard's tail and wood nettle go to seed along the riverbanks. Blueweed, white vervain, motherwort and white sweet clover end their seasons. Petals of the hobblebush darken. Parsnip heads, honewort pods and sweet cicely pods are dry enough to split and spill their seeds.

Late summer's burdock and Jerusalem artichokes bloom now. Wild lettuce opens at nine o'clock in the morning facing the sun, closes by noon. Tall blue bellflowers, pale violet bouncing bets, gray coneflowers and pink germander color the waysides. Water hemlock, Joe Pye weed and arrowhead blossom in the swamps. Round galls swell on the goldenrod.

Next week on Poor Will's Almanack: notes for the first week of late summer. In the meantime, meditate to the mantras of the plants and the crickets and the katydids.

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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.