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Poor Will's Almanack: October 20 -26, 2015

Mark Kramer
Flickr Creative Commons

The vigil for spring begins with middle fall, and the Big Dipper at midnight is one of the easier markers for judging the progress of the year.

When its pointers, named Merak and Dubhe, point north-south, and the Dipper lies tight against the northern horizon, most of the country has entered autumn. Leaves are turning, birds migrating, wildflower time closing.

When, Merak and Dubhe, (over in the eastern half of the sky) point east-west (as well as to Polaris, the north star), the harvest is complete, all the leaves are down, and winter solstice approaches.

When Merak and Dubhe, deep in the center of the sky, point exactly north-south in the middle of the night, then pasture season is moving north from the Gulf of Mexico and early spring brings new crocus and snowdrops into bloom, and robins and cardinals are singing before dawn.

When the pointers point west-east at midnight (with the Dipper itself in the west) then all the lilies come into bloom, and middle summer crickets and katydids sing the season.

Not static or impassive like the linear squares and numbers on the calendar, the stars keep vigil with us, always turning and promising.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the final week of middle fall. In the meantime, look for the Big Dipper in in the middle of the night. Watch it and the seasons turn through the months ahead.

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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.