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Poor Will's Almanack: April 23 - 29, 2019

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Stanley Zimny
/
Flickr Creative Commons

Walking through the woods, I sometimes deliberately forget the names of plants that I know. I choose the safety of presence. I cultivate ignorance.

What is here outside my door?

Fat stems, narrow, pale tipped, rusted from frost and with plump, bulging buds. Deep purple-red narrow stems as high as my thumb, the tops serrated but soft. Violet, purple, pale and deep gold, five-petaled once again.

Thick leaves in threes, sprawled, five pink petals. Speckled, mottled brown, oval leaves in the mulch. Then twin lobes that seem like a motionless green butterfly, antennae with eight white petals. Then cleft and clasping angel wings, veined, undulating,  wrinkly, succulent. And looking closer to find and stroke the inner sanctum of these creatures, places guarded, delicate, soft and vulnerable.

It would be easier and more efficient  to call these objects by name, to botanize using Latin in order to be precise. But the privacy of discovery, the delight of touching first beauty alone, can be spoiled so easily.

Hominids survived as community animals, their power over the environment dependent on their sharing. In this later time, words continue necessary, but they can also be misleading. Deep inside, one values most the personal ownership of discovery. Afterwards, nomenclature can evoke the experience and perhaps the time and space before the idea. But the primary path, I believe, is to cherish the surprise unnamed. The foundation of survival and ecology is love. First pleasure alone, then story.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the first full week of Late Spring  and the fourth week of the Cows Switching their Tails Moon. In the meantime, don’t try to name flowers. Just be with them.

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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.