Poor Will's Almanack: August 23 - 29, 2011

Aug 23, 2011

Poor Will’s Almanack for the third week of Late Summer

Yesterday was Late Summer's Cross Quarter Day, the halfway mark to autumn equinox. Having dropped below the celestial equator in the first week of Late Summer, the sun leaves the stability of Leo and enters the more volatile sign of Virgo, the first of the more violent periods of change in the second half of the year.

Stealing an hour from the day’s length all along the 40th Parallel, Virgo takes the night all the way to its equinox length.

The latest flowers of the summer - the burr marigold, zigzag goldenrod, tall goldenrod, Jerusalem artichoke, broad-leafed swamp goldenrod and small-flowered asters, virgin’s bower and New England asters and autumn crocus – all bloom and decay in Virgo. Peaches, blackberries, second-crop raspberries, plums and elderberries sweeten, then close their seasons.

Under the month-long sway of Virgo, the soybean fields turn yellow then gold then brown. Wingstem and ironweed, which overwhelm the paths in middle August, complete their cycles. Buckeyes pop from their hulls. More hickory nuts and more acorns come down. The huge pink mallows of the wetlands die back, heads black, leaves disintegrating.

Still, Virgo is not all about closure. Deep in the woods, the final days of this year’s wildflowers coincide with the first days of the Season of Second Spring, a season that sometimes lasts until the end of winter. March’s henbit comes up in the garden, initiating its eight-month season of steady growth. Next May’s sweet rockets and sweet Cicely grow back, and next July’s avens send up fresh basal leaves. Mint and watercress grow back in the brooks and springs.

Next week on Poor Will’s Almanack: notes for the fourth week of Late Summer. In the meantime, check below all the growing signs of Virgo. You might come across the new leaves of second spring.