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Poor Will's Almanack: September 24 - 30, 2019

Theo Crazzolara
Flickr Creative Commons

This past weekend, I drove south through the full range of early fall, its different subseasons depending on the progress of the soybeans or corn or goldenrod or tobacco, depending on whether harvest complete or pending, depending on which trees were turning and how far.

Sometimes, the specific time of year hinged on the number of fragile cottonwoods  along the roadsides, or the advance of the violet Virginia creeper, or the number of fading box elders, catalpas, tulip trees, sycamores, crab apples, sweet gums, locusts, hackberries, redbuds or early maples and pears and oaks in any given location, each species following its own calendar.

I uncovered microseasons of place from mile to mile that showed me topographies of past rainfall in the brown or the green of the roadside grass or the sharp rust of vegetation killed by drought, the variety of habitat within a range of 100 miles suggesting the wild complexity in just a few hours in one autumn day.

My moods rose and fell while each yard, field and woodlot opened temporal and spatial cross section after cross section, created a process of definition and redefinition in which the borders of that particular day continually shifted and were transformed, as though the inevitability of winter were irrelevant, as though I were captured by a game in which natural history, like all history, became simply an arbitrary matter of where I  looked.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fifth week of Early Fall. In the meantime, since seasons are only a matter of perspective, look for just the one you need. 

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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.