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

Piotr / Flickr Creative Commons

Recently, I took a walk of almost two- hundred miles across the landscape of spring on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

The vegetation and the emerging leaves on the canopy above me offered a dense background with many markers for the progress of the season as well as for my own progress along the path – on which I averaged about seven to nine miles in a day.

Ewen Roberts / Flickr Creative Commons

When lilies and thistles bloom, mulberries and strawberries ripen, box turtles lay eggs, and winter wheat turns pale gold green, then it is the first week of early summer, and the whole season spreads into June. Catalpas and privets and pink spirea bloom as the first cutting of hay gets underway. Nodding thistles, Canadian thistles, the first great mullein, the first Asiatic lily and the first orange trumpet creepers open.

Caobhin / Flickr Creative Commons

Late Spring comes to an end throughout the East this week as the high canopy of leaves closes all the way. Even though the sycamores may hold back for a week or so, now there is a convergence of events that pushes the land over the edge into early summer. 

Ib Aamaro / Flickr Creative Commons

Everything happens so quickly between the end of March and the middle of May. Bare trees fill out, and the brown, silent earth comes completely alive.

The feelings that move over me in the wake of all those changes range from exhilaration and joy to disappointment to a sense of being overwhelmed, to a sense of sadness.

Brian Wolfe / Flickr Creative Commons

I got up a little after 5:00 in the morning. My window was open, and the air was cool and damp. I felt the anxiety and fear that sometimes greet me when I wake. I was still tired and wanted to stay in bed, but remnants of my dreams kept me from going back to sleep and finally pulled me up.

Brandon Giesbrecht / Flickr Creative Commons

In the course of my almanack record keeping, I have found that soil temperatures generally follow the normal average air temperatures within maybe ten degrees. But in the spring, the ground often lags behind the weather, remaining cold, and causing considerable anguish to the farmer and gardener.

For example, if your beans go in before the earth is warm enough, they rot where you lay them. “Nothing sprouts,” says the ancient Greek sage, Theophrastus, “before its proper time.” At least I think he said something like that…..

Jo Naylor / Flickr Creative Commons

Cross-Quarter Day is April 21, a day before Earth Day this year, the day on which the sun reaches halfway between equinox and solstice, and enters the late spring sign of Taurus. Now the meager inventories of change that characterized equinox quickly fill with new details each day. The floral and faunal fragments of the season multiply, literally filling in the space of Earth with tangible, visible clockwork.

hoptographie / Flickr Creative Commons

The older I become, the more I am aware of the sources of my moods, the more I see the almost deciduous nature of my emotions, the clear and critical relationship between the outside world, the passage of the seasons, and my mind.

I've found that my self is somehow loose, unanchored, and that it continually needs an abundance of landmarks and time tellers, needs colors, and aromas, and textures over and over in order to find meaning, orientation, and place.

frted / Flickr Creative Commons

“I believe,” wrote the poet Robinson Jeffers,  “that the universe is one being, all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, therefore parts of one organic whole….”

Under the spell of middle spring, it is not so difficult to feel part of that one being, to sense that we express its energy and hope. Because this  is the week of pale violets in the lawn and vast patches of dandelions along the roadsides.

Jerry and Pat Donaho / Flickr Creative Commons

In his 1989 classic, The End of Nature, ecologist Bill McKibben talks about people’s expectations that spring will come the way it always has come. There may, of course, be cold springs and warm springs, wet springs and dry springs, but what if  our deeper expectations are unmet? What if spring is so cold or so warm that it becomes a different season altogether? And what happens, McKibben asks, if our certainty about the predictable sequence of nature falters?   

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