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Poor Will's Almanack: August 5 - 11, 2014

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In my capacity as Poor Will, I was once called to the house of a woman who had probably grown the fattest tomato of the season in all of my village. Unfortunately, my visit was delayed several days, and when I arrived, the prize had decayed to a wad of mush.

But the lady had preserved it for me anyway in a plastic bag. She pulled it from the refrigerator, and held it up for me to see.

"It's not what it was," she admitted, but she showed me a piece of paper on which were written its once impressive weight and measurements. Clearly, the idea of the greatest tomato transcended its demise.

Of course, the tomato grower was not alone. These days, electronic devices and pre-digested statistics about the world and the sky have practically replaced the once firm flesh of reality, reducing events and objects to images and information.

And the antidotes for such spiritual passivity and such fawning worship of search engine authority? I suggest personal observation and existential fortitude. I suggest having have enough courage to say what your senses have told you since you were born: that the world is flat.

Explorers may sail west in order to go east; rockets may go to the moon; satellites may send us electrical impulses that many interpret to be pictures of a "round" earth. You believe their messages at the risk of losing your soul. A healthy skepticism toward vicarious science will keep you from living in a place in which the sun and moon rise only on charts and great vegetables live only in record books.

A flat world is accessible to everyone, and it offers challenge enough. When you have come to its edge, having found your way by the stars you can name from the closed dome above, there will be time enough for other notions.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the first week of late summer. In the meantime, go look outside. What do you see? A flat earth, of course.

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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.