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Poor Will's Almanack: December 2 - 8, 2014

Mike Hiatt
Flickr Creative Commons

The old year of sprouting, growing and producing fruit has fallen away with the leaves and the end of harvest, and the first week of early winter marks the beginning of a new cycle in Earth’s spin around the sun.

Seasons are fluid constructs which take their own direction from multiple factors such as the presence or absence of foliage, of flowers, insects, birds, fish, amphibians, mammals. Winter no more actually starts at December solstice than summer starts at June solstice. The low sun takes away the cumulative markers of the past seasons as it gradually transforms and gives new life to the land and the creatures of the habitat, including humans. The “natural year” recognizes that process and gives it a shape closer to what actually occurs around us.

Even though pear trees sometimes hold out and a few honeysuckles and some privets keep their foliage, the deer are mating, and the buds of next spring are already showing, and the skunk cabbage of February and pussy willow catkins of March are poised to expand in each thaw to come.

And the coming week is a pivotal period during which the night lengthens by only three minutes along the 40th Parallel. This is the first time that the day has shortened so slowly since the middle of July, one of the first signs of the breakdown of winter – at its very beginning.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of early winter and the fourth week of the Sandhill Crane Migration Moon, the fourth week of the sun in Sagittarius AND THE Second WEEK OF THE NEW NATURAL YEAR. In the meantime, go out to a nearby shrub or tree. Feel the buds ready for spring.

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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.