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Poor Will's Almanack: June 9 - 15, 2020

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Tasha Metamorfosis
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Flickr Creative Commons

Lately, much has been made of the concept of a tipping point. Simply put, such an idea refers to an accumulation of matter, events or thoughts that builds until it causes an irreversible change.

While often used in reference to the gradual results of climate change that might suddenly lead to catastrophe, the experience of a tipping point in the change of seasons is often quite personal.

For example Henry David Thoreau once conjectured that the completion of the canopy of leaves could mark the exact start of summer. For others, depending on one’s location, that pivot time or tipping point could be marked by the blooming of peonies or yellow poplars or a day in the 80s.

In his Landscape and Memory, Simon Schama suggests that the true beginning of any seasonal event lies in the mind of the beholder: “Before it can ever be a repose for the senses,” he says, “landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock.”

Like academic physicists who seek to identify the key shifts of balance which are linked to momentous events in the universe, we find the first moment of summer in the strata of our experience.

Even as we sleep or go about our work or studies, even if we seem to be oblivious to the accumulation of events around us, suddenly we know that the forces of spring have reached critical proportions. Then a tree full of leaves, the smell of a particular flower, the blinking of a firefly fills our senses to overflowing. Suddenly it’s summer.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the final week of Early Summer.  In the meantime, think about critical proportions and the exact experiences that give you summer.

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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.