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Poor Will's Almanack: January 15 - 21, 2019

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Sometimes the last days of Deep Winter carry a great thaw. One day I went out to the river in the warmth of such a thaw, when cumulus clouds sped across the sky in gusts of the southwest wind, and the water of the river was shining with low, brisk waves of silvers, blues and grays.

The oaks of the far bank were black against the bright sky. Up the hill, patches of yellow Osage glowed like the flush of expanding spring buds. Below the trees, hardy green chickweed, wild onion, garlic mustard, henbit and hemlock lay akimbo across the melting snow. Crows called from beyond the road.

The river had flooded earlier in the week. Mounds and drifts of silt and sand followed the course of the flood along the paths. In the bottomland the high water had uncovered foliage of buttercups and ragwort and sweet  rockets.

In the swamp, fat skunk cabbage curled above the mud, many plants open and blooming. Broken white stalks of last May's angelica crunched under my feet as I picked my way across the wetland. The rivulets that passed through the grassy bogs were full and fast. I saw small fingerlings swimming in one stream. I surprised a water strider in an eddy of a brook, beside watercress and duckweed.

Climbing to the top of the hill above me, I saw the river and its tributaries become paths of light. Then in a cloud of fog,  the brilliant curves disappeared, hidden from winter in misty promises of the thaw.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the transition week to Late Winter  and the third week of the Squashy Osage Fruit Moon. In the meantime, walk in the thaw when it arrives. It’s coming soon.

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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.