Nature
11:14 am
Tue December 6, 2011

Poor Will's Almanack: December 6 - 12, 2011

Poor Will’s Almanack for the First Week of Early Winter.

My diaries have become timetables, lists of annual events in nature. The obsession with detail is sufficient in itself; it is a peaceful neurosis of record taking. But I often think the notebooks ought to be useful for something other than tracking the seasons.

I have had plenty of practice at taking notes. My former work in academe promoted the illusion that individual, unconnected pieces of information all have their places in a grand context of history.

So it's not unusual for me to feel that the length of comfrey leaves on April 16th of a given year should somehow hold significance. In fact the size of my comfrey on that day in 1983 was eight inches. The following year, after a very cold spring, it was only two inches. In 1985, it was six inches. In 1986, nine inches. This past year, seven inches.

It is true that the length of a comfrey leaf, like the state of any leaf, can measure the quality of a season as precisely as a scientific instrument. And that ought to provide rationale enough for anyone who feels the need to measure leaves.

But for me, there is more. I think it comes from growing up with the old Catholic notion of indulgences. I miss indulgences. I miss being able to say a few power-laden words and, in seconds, create ultimate meaning with ultimate practical application in heaven.

These days, indulgences are out of favor and I just keep on writing things down. My notes, I realize seem to carry few matters of ultimate concern. Who knows if the angels read them. On the other hand, even they may not get me a higher place in heaven, little by little, they are helping me figure out where I am on earth.

Next week on Poor Will’s Almanack: notes for the second week of Early Winter. In the meantime, make a few notes. Check out your place on earth.

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