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Poor Will's Almanack: January 27 - February 2, 2015

John Kennedy
Flickr Creative Commons

Late winter is the anteroom to early spring, growing the birdsong, rousing small mammals to courtship, drawing the first bulbs from under the snow.

Now comes the close of winter berryfall: the red honeysuckle berries have long ago fallen or been taken by birds. The orange fruit of the evergreen euonymous vines and the bittersweet vines has completed its planting. Overwintering robins eat and seed the crab apples.

In order to recognize the dramatic effects of such subtle events, in order to turn the lean narrative of late January into spring, I look between the lines, drift off a little as I read.

In his book, What We See When We Read, author Peter Mendelsund emphasizes the role of imagination in reading and writing, the transformation of the text into a new private entity through synthesis, reduction.

This is how we apprehend our world,” he says. “This is what humans do. Picturing stories… we create meaning.”

According to Mendelsund, the reader or writer is never completely tied to words. “Much of our reading imagination comprises visual free association, “ he says, asserting that “we daydream while reading. “

And so from a birdcall or fallen berry, the observer fashions the landscape according to the daydream. Then the seasons become imaginary constructs, personal projections, reconfigurations of past time into time to come.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back next week with notes for the second week of late winter, the fourth week of the Skunk and Opossum Moon and the third week of the sun in Aquarius. In the meantime, check for berries and seed pods. Daydream a little.

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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.