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Poor Will's Almanack: August 20 - 26, 2013

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Flickr Creative Commons user Autan

I was sitting at a beach along Lake Michigan. The wind was gentle and the sun was hot, and I dozed and read and stared out at the clear blue, blue sky and water. In the distance, sailboats moved across the horizon, and seagulls bobbed in the waves.

Things were all in order. Lovers walked hand in hand along the shore in front of me. Children built sand castles. Fathers raced with their sons, and mothers huddled and chatted with their daughters.

In the middle of the afternoon, a ladybug landed on the novel I was reading. I looked around noticed that there were ladybugs everywhere.

Landing or falling on the wet sand, they hobbled awkwardly toward the lake. When small, gentle waves spun them around and set them up higher on the beach, the ladybugs would turn around and head right back at the water. They seemed stupid and brave, helpless and blind, determined and dogged, unready, clueless.

And then the absurd fate of the ladybeetles, and my lack of understanding began to color the way I saw the rest of us at the beach. Instead of the false sense of comprehension, the hollow peace of finding each thing meaningful and in its place, I began to see our overwhelming lack of connection. We were all arbitrary and random objects, brought here together by motives so deeply distinct – the heart of the sailor out a mile from shore so distant from my own heart, the gulls and the ladybeetles all solitary and separate.

As the sun cooled and the wind grew stronger, I moved from the morning’s sense to nonsense, taking things at face value, resigning myself to their influence, which was, after all, the very purpose of a day at the beach, letting go of control and logic.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fourth week of late summer. In the meantime, go to the beach. Let go of everything.

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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.