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Poor Will's Almanack: July 24 - 30, 2012

Flickr Creative Commons user wackybadger

Poor Will’s Almanack for the fifth week of middle summer.

Something must be lost or absent in any narrative for it to unfold," notes literary commentator Terry Eagleton. "If everything stayed in place there would be no story to tell."

Certainly the year is a story that each person reads. And even though annual rhythms are circular and repeating, the growth and death of the seasons progress through linear natural events, flowers or leaves or bird song or insect calls like words on a page, kanji, hyroglyphic messages that move the plot, a plot in which events and objects appear and grow, change color and fragrance and form and then die.

And this is always a progression, one thing replacing another, so that the seasonal narrative itself is compelling, relating to us a story that we think we know will end but do not know exactly how.

Mallow, Asiatic lilies and day lilies disappear in the garden as red, white and purple phlox time unfolds. 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.

But 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. And nothing stays in place for long.

We know the plot, having lived through more than one spring and summer. But we see something different each time, in the same way that we find different messages in books we read again or films we watch over and over.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the sixth week of middle summer. In the meantime, watch what is happening. Follow the plot.

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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.