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Poor Will's Almanack: December 15 - 21, 2015

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Tom Kelly
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Flickr Creative Commons

Not so long ago, I took Bella, my ancient border collie, for a short outing to a pond close by my village. The wind was quiet and the water smooth at the approach of a storm. Bella wandered a little then stopped suddenly and looked over toward a nearby cornfield.

And then I saw the geese. Out of the field they emerged, two or three abreast, solemnly waddling at about the speed of walking meditators, their plumage like monkish habits, gray and white, all the same, forming a long, formal procession.

The file plodded toward me where the pond’s bank was not so high. When the leader reached the edge, he or she remained there for a moment as though taking stock of the slope of the land. The others stopped a little ways behind, not breaking ranks. When their guru slid gracefully into the water, each meditator in turn pondered, decided, followed, at least five dozen of them I counted, and they swam out single file onto the still pond, smoothly creating a “V” formation.

These were, I assumed, the same seemingly secular geese that fed and mated and raised their young in the field across from the pond. And I know that these birds sometimes have loud conversations and quarrels. But I didn’t know their fellowship was also monastic, and that their occasional practices included moving contemplation, their liturgy as disciplined as that of men and women seeking the divine.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack, I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third week of early winter. In the meantime, practice walking slowly, in contemplation, like….a goose.

Poor Will’s Almanack for 2016 is now available. For a sample of this new annual, and for information on how to order your copies, visit www.poorwillsalmanack.com

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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.