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Poor Will's Almanack: December 6 - 12, 2016

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When winter approaches, I sometimes feel afraid. Often, the feeling is related to dreams I cannot remember, but it is also an old issue with me, something that often appears as a kind of autumnal uneasiness.

The fears, like a kind of stomachache or cramp, dissolve the more awake I become. Exercise and coffee and list-making pretty much make them go away. Still, they lurk at the back of my mind like the effects an insidious seasonal neurotic disorder.

When I ponder all of this, I tend to generalize about atavic anxiety and existential angst, about hunter-gatherer forces in the collective unconscious and the amount of Neanderthal in my genetic code. Sometimes I think it is the immensity of seasonal change that overwhelms me and gives me nightmares, the cruel death of summer, weather that kills the garden flowers, the hostility of the cold winds, the potential loneliness of snowbound solitude.

In fact, however, I am not threatened in any physical way by winter. I speculate that my life is so easy I have to manufacture problems to worry about. If there actually were something immanent to fear, I would gratefully and effectively respond.

Still, while I am good at fabricating problems, I will not go the distance and actually create a necessary clear and present danger. Winter and the dreams of winter are on the way. I will do what I always do: make a list, then exercise, then have some coffee. Pretty soon, it will be spring.

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. In the meantime, make a list, exercise, have some coffee.

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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.