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Poor Will's Almanack: December 11 - 17, 2012

Flickr Creative Commons user Dieter Thau

Poor Will's Almanack for the second week of Early Winter.

Two thousand years ago, the Roman naturalist, Pliny praised the cold northern winds as the "healthiest of all."

During the eighteenth century, physicians said the same thing. For example, William Currie wrote that "the winds which prevail during the greatest part of winter… though they are severe and piercing cold...give vigor to the constitution and a freshness and bloom to the complexion."

More recently, Cincinnati physician, Dr. Clarence Mills, accepted the time- honored theory about the winds in his book, Climate Makes the Man (1942).

"Bodily vigor goes through a yearly cycle," Mills asserted, "rising to a peak in the spring, declining sharply through the summer heat, and then recovering again during autumn and winter."

The seasons have more than just a short-range effect on life, said Dr. Mills. "The volumes of Who's Who," he alleged, "are largely filled with the names of those conceived during the winter or spring months." He claimed that those people tend to live longer, and that they choose to attend college twice as often as those conceived "in midsummer heat."

He went so far as to say that one would be wiser to plan one's children according to the time of year than to worry about saving for their education. Brought to life in the proper wind, he contended, the babe would have the energy and the will to earn his or her way alone.

In the final step of his theory, he asserted that not only are the lives of individuals enhanced or diminished by the season of birth; nations themselves rise and fall with the thermometer and barometer. Examining the past, Mills concluded that "practically every prosperity or boom period has been a time of normal or low temperatures."

And so what will happen with all the heat of climate change?

That would have to be another almanac!

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third week of early winter. In the meantime, enjoy the cold, its prosperity may not last.

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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.