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Poor Will's Almanack: December 22 - 28, 2015

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Stephen Little
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Flickr Creative Commons

Today is the winter solstice. Well, it actually occurred at 11:48 last night where I live, and so I know the from astronomers the exact minute that the sun stood still and then began to move again toward summer.

Only the astronomers can actually see and measure that shift, of course, and I trust them to tell the truth. I take it on faith that the sun really will rise higher a little each day until daffodils flower and green leaves spread across the trees. Besides that, I have plenty of experience in such matters. I’m old. I know what always happens to winter.

Still, the tradition that I grew up with retains echoes of very ancient human fears, that perhaps things won’t always be the way they have always been. That tradition reflects seasonal fears that often mix with more serious fears about mortality and immortality.

And, for whatever reason, I can’t really shake that upbringing of mine and my usually well managed terror of eternal dark. I can’t resist the hope of salvation that parallels the return of the sun, a hope probably a million years old, heritage of the earliest hominids.

And so each year at winter solstice, I join in the prehistoric tradition that visions rebirth and spring. I pretend that everything will be all right because I want it to be, because underneath my knowledge and my faith in science, I am afraid, and because I want some great power to turn the tide and bring me to the light.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack, I’ll be back again next week with notes for the first week of deep winter. In the meantime, be of good cheer the light really will come back.

Bill Felker’s 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.