Poor Will's Almanack: January 25 - 31, 2011

Jan 25, 2011

Poor Will’s Almanack for the first week of late winter, the ninth week of the natural year

The end of January often brings a dramatic and most welcome thaw. If the warmth is strong enough to melt the snow cover, then the season past and the season still to come are revealed together.

During the most recent warm spell, I walked around my yard, I found that some things were a little flatter than they had been in November. A few late Osage leaves, covered before I was able to rake them, were matted, sodden and dark. Celandine, lungwort, lamb's ear, parsley, and sweet rockets had all their leaves pushed akimbo. My neighbor's lily-of-the-valley foliage had been pressed to the ground by a storm, leaf tips forced to point east by the hard west wind. The New England asters and the white boneset had been bent by the snow, and now they were prostrate to seed the soil around them.

The thaw exposed those steps in the passage of the year, but also uncovered the perennial life that had remained at the end of November, reassuring reminder of what the cold cannot touch.

After just three mild days, including one sunny afternoon in the 60s, the land had reappeared as through winter had never come. The grass was still half green, just like it had been at Thanksgiving. The mint was standing tall and strong. The hellebores near our south property line had risen back to their autumn height.

Creeping Charlie was ruddy but creeping. Chickweed was bright between the bricks in the outdoor patio. Pachysandra was upright and budded. Garlic mustard had not been touched by all the weather. Blood-red peony buds still crouched in the peony garden. Waterleaf peered out from the mulch.

Next week on Poor Will's Almanack: notes for the second week of late winter. In the meantime, take a walk in the thaws to come. The past and the future are right there.