WYSO

Bill Felker

Host - Poor Will's Almanack

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.

Exploring everything from animal husbandry to phenology, Felker has become well known to farmers as well as urban readers throughout the country.  He is an occasional speaker on the environment at nature centers, churches and universities, and he has presented papers related to almanacking at academic conferences, as well. Felker has received three awards for his almanac writing from the Ohio Newspaper Association. "Better writing cannot be found in America's biggest papers," stated the judge on the occasion of Felker’s award in 2000.

Currently, Bill Felker lives with his wife in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He has two daughters, Jeni, who is a psychologist in Portland, Oregon, and Neysa, a photographer in Spoleto, Italy.

Ways to Connect

Marty Gabel / Flickr Creative Commons

I am tired and the sky is dark and the wind cold against my windows. The powerful perigee moon is turning full, and sundowning closes around me. I mix myself a drink, take a small bowl of Spanish peanuts and settle in by the wood stove.

Nancy Girard Bégin / Flickr Creative Commons

Although winter may seem long and gray, its progress slowly unravels spring. A natural calendar offers reassurance that the coldest days of the year will really and truly lead to warmth.

A Guy Taking Pictures / Flickr Creative Commons

This winter I have been reading poems attributed to the fourth-century writer, Ambrose of Milan. His verses, sometimes sung as hymns, combine traditional cosmology with petition.     

Amborse addresses  the power that has created and orders the universe, the one who shapes the seasons of all things. He asks this giver of order to help us have the proper stability and natural balance in our spiritual life.

Ross Griff / Flickr Creative Commons

A recent visit to Serpent Mound in southern Ohio reminded me about the astronomical skills of ancient peoples. At intervals throughout the serpent-shaped structure, the mound builders had constructed sites from which they apparently observed the spring and autumn equinoxes, the winter and summer solstices, the farthest distance of sunrise and moonrise north in the summer, south in the winter.

Vanil-Noir / Flickr Creative Commons

In The Emerald Tablet, an ancient text by Hermes Trismegistus, the author attempts to explain the astrological mysteries of the cosmos. The work contains the phrase: “As above, so below.”

Indeed the land does reflect the sky above it, and the Earth watcher can crete constellations and story no less than the astrologer. Both observers are “horoscopers,” or time trackers, who make shapes, signs and sense from scattered, arbitrary elements.

penerik / Flickr Creative Commons

When winter approaches, I sometimes feel afraid. Often, the feeling is related to dreams I cannot remember, but it is also an old issue with me, something that often appears as a kind of autumnal uneasiness.

The fears, like a kind of stomachache or cramp, dissolve the more awake I become. Exercise and coffee and list-making pretty much make them go away. Still, they lurk at the back of my mind like the effects an insidious seasonal neurotic disorder.

Jereme Rauckman / Flickr Creative Commons

As the last leaves of the year come down, seed catalogs start arriving in my mailbox, and I plan for spring under the Bedding Plant Seeding Moon.  Usually, I order a few packages of geraniums, coleus and petunias, and I start them under grow lights close to the furnace, which happens to be in the attic. 

If I keep the soil warm, well watered and close to the fluorescent bulbs, the seeds germinate within a week or so and then develop steadily throughout the winter.

Carlo Scherer / Flickr Creative Commons

The foliage was still thick and lush when I entered the familiar woods one late September afternoon. I used to know those trails well, but now they had become overgrown, wilder than they were decades ago.

The path was not marked, but I felt I knew where I was going. How could anyone get lost here? It never crossed my mind. I wandered and daydreamed, not paying attention to where I was going.

Peter Stevens / Flickr Creative Commons

A little rain then flurries about noon, then this afternoon, hazy sky, white sun low in the southwest, I walked along the brooks, water higher than it had been in weeks, and all around me the chickweed was rising through the mulch of the last honeysuckle leaves, through the crumbling strata of summer and fall, along the banks of the river, and up the wooded talus slopes, and there was garlic mustard, too, and sweet rockets and fresh wild onions and slippery ragwort leaves and floppy leafcup in between the trunks of fallen trees covered with moss and mushrooms.

John Flannery / Flickr Creative Commons

The first butterflies of the spring are easy to notice. They emerge out of April and May to seek the flowers of middle and late spring, and they are full of prophetic meaning.

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