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Poor Will's Almanack: June 11 - 17, 2013

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Flickr Creative Commons user Matt Elsberry

I got up at 4:30 in the morning, haunted by a troubling dream. I listened for birds at my window as I got dressed. Not a sound, not even a car passing on the street. And then I went outside with Bella, my border collie, to walk in the dark.

I started south at 4:50. I heard birds by the time I reached a streetlight: At first just sporadic chirping of robins, then their rhythmic singsong.

At 5:32, I heard the sharp vocalization of the first cardinal, then no other cardinals until they consistently joined the robins at 5:50. Song sparrows came in at 5:53, crows in the distance at 5:57, doves at 6:00, sunrise less than half an hour away.

And the sky grew lighter, and the sound increased around me. Robins, bold with lust, chased each other in the twilight down the sidewalks and the empty streets, seeming to me like startled crabs racing across the hard sand of the receding ocean tide.

By 6:10 I realized that the cardinals and sparrows and doves were so loud I could no longer hear the robins. And I was aware then that the worst of the night’s fears had been sung away. The sinking feeling in my chest had lightened, and my breathing was deeper, my concerns washed in rhythms of the chorus.

I came back to my house at 7:15 and I waited as the sun came up between Lil’s house and Jerry and Lee’s house until the red-bellied woodpecker called out at 8:00.

I watched all the color enter the trees and the flowers and then even the phantoms that had resisted the birds receded with daylight, the sun reaching the tops of the white mulberry and the locust and the box elder.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the Fourth Week of Early Summer. In the meantime, get up early. Listen to the birds. A few more weeks, and the summer chorus will be over.

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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.