Nature
8:15 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Poor Will's Almanack: December 17 - 23, 2013

Credit Flickr Creative Commons user Dieter Thau
Poor Will’s Almanack for the Second Week of Early Winter

The deepening of early winter draws down the last pigments of the year past. December spreads across the summer with accumulation of loss.

Instinctively and naturally, there is a taking stock of what appears to be no longer present, an inventory of emptiness, cued by a search for the truth, and by nostalgia and by the fragmentary reminders that bind the seasons into memory:

Shapes of absent plums and peaches, pears and cherries, broccoli and lettuce, raspberries and blackberries, strawberries and mulberries, and the cotton of cottonwoods. Bare landscapes of corn and soybeans and wheat. Empty shells of milkweed and hosta, empty canes and branches, seeds eaten, innumerable creatures gone, the harvest complete.

Faded colors of zinnias and snapdragons, sunflowers and coneflowers, goldenrod and purple ironweed, dahlias and tulips. Vanished fragrances of blossoms from roses and Japanese honeysuckles and azaleas and apple trees and mock orange and lilacs, from alyssum and moon flowers and jasmine. Missing calls of doves and red-winged blackbirds and robins, of toads and frogs, katydids and crickets and cicadas.

All of which is fulfilling, not negative, not sad: Because it is the very kernel of the known universe that absence and presence are complementary, that they are two aspects of the same thing, that each is the key to other, and that we cannot understand them if we view them as separate. From a litany of sensations lost, absences flesh out past events and missing objects. They fill up the present’s hollow and deceptive pod, create wholeness from the part that seems so transitory or so broken, but is only incomplete.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the Third Week of early winter. In the meantime, look for what is gone . It is the other side, the hidden but necessary side of what seems to be present.

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