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

Tom Kelly / Flickr Creative Commons

Not so long ago, I took Bella, my ancient border collie, for a short outing to a pond close by my village. The wind was quiet and the water smooth at the approach of a storm. Bella wandered a little then stopped suddenly and looked over toward a nearby cornfield.

And then I saw the geese. Out of the field they emerged, two or three abreast, solemnly waddling at about the speed of walking meditators, their plumage like monkish habits, gray and white, all the same, forming a long, formal procession.

Shooting Star
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes / Flickr Creative Commons

The sun now reaches slightly more than one degree from its lowest position in the sky. Its declination stays within a degree of solstice until January 8, producing a period of solar stability similar to the one between June 4th and July 8th.

Martin LaBar / Flickr Creative Commons

No one suspects the days to be gods, says Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay Self-Reliance.

Here in the last days of late fall I look for the divine. Each day is only the sum of its parts. The gods are not only triune but plentiful. They lie out before me out as far as I can see. Each object and each event, present or past, literally creates the sacred day in my mind.

Chris Pawluk / Flickr Creative Commons

Sky clear: 55 degrees: Walking slowly through the wetlands, the ground green with chickweed and garlic mustard. You see the squat spears of skunk cabbage a hand high but not open, Moss is long, often gilded with bloom, on stumps and fallen branches. Red berries shine in the barberry. The river is blue from the sky, and sunlight flashes on the water.

November rain on window
Lisa Risager / Flickr Creative Commons

After almost six weeks of energy and planning, which is my typical response to the close of summer, my mood is quickly changing. It could be the rain and the cold outside my window.

Along with a shift in emotional priorities, I experience twinges of guilt and frustration. What about the projects outlined in early fall? What about the excitement of getting ready for winter. What about the sense of purpose that I had just a short time ago.

Nagaraju Hanchanahal / Flickr Creative Commons

Remembering back and forth from autumn to autumn, I watch the critical, pivotal events of November come to converge in space and time.

On November 5, 1992, the first snow covered my yard at 5:00 a.m. with heavy, fat flakes..

fauxto_digit / Flickr Creative Commons

I walk through the gateway to late fall. There is still time, the landscape tells me.

The last crickets still sing in the warmer evenings, and the last daddy longlegs huddle together in the woodpile. Mosquitoes still wait for prey near backwaters and puddles. Woolly bear caterpillars, most of them dark orange and black, still emerge in the sun.

Danny Plas / Flickr Creative Commons

The sun is bright. I shut the blinds against the day, pulling in, keeping myself from being taken outside by the clear sky, by the relentless turning and shedding of the maples.

I pull back to watch myself, to see how my body remains here, momentarily invulnerable in this room. I pull back to watch my feelings before I let autumn in, to see myself the way I was in summer.

Mark Kramer / Flickr Creative Commons

The vigil for spring begins with middle fall, and the Big Dipper at midnight is one of the easier markers for judging the progress of the year.

When its pointers, named Merak and Dubhe, point north-south, and the Dipper lies tight against the northern horizon, most of the country has entered autumn. Leaves are turning, birds migrating, wildflower time closing.

When, Merak and Dubhe, (over in the eastern half of the sky) point east-west (as well as to Polaris, the north star), the harvest is complete, all the leaves are down, and winter solstice approaches.

arcturus15 / Flickr Creative Commons

Not long ago, I made a trip to a monastery in Kentucky. I spent a weekend walking in the fields and woods, reflecting on the close of summer and the approach of winter.

The weather was warm and comforting. The surrounding hills were covered with the dusky glow of middle fall. In my wanderings, I entered a grove of oaks and maples that I hadn’t seen before, and as I walked down a gentle slope, I began to come upon statues that had been placed along the way. A weathered cherub held a message from Exodus 23: “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way…..”

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