Nature
8:45 am
Tue July 17, 2012

Poor Will's Almanack: July 17 - 23, 2012

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack for the fourth week of middle summer.

Followed by Sirius, the Dog Star, the constellation Orion accompanies the Dog Days of Middle Summer as he moves invisibly into the center of the southern sky at noon. A simple star chart reveals all this, but the land itself gives plain cues about the heavens.

When one thing is happening, says the first law of phenology, something else is happening, too. Finches in the thistledown, cicadas calling through the day, katydids at night, all pull the Dog Days in. This is simple earth astronomy, in which the plants and insects read the stars, even when the midday sun is so hot and bright it keeps those stars from view.

Earth astronomy is like a formula of space and events, where "X" could be the sky and "Y" could be elderberry fruit and blueberries and summer peaches, and the solution or the conclusion lies in seeing them reflecting one another, tied like theorems in a true geometry of creation, constellations of close and distant objects, stars that may have died a million years ago, still shining to us in their lanky formations, placed into shapes by our minds, tied to other shapes here on earth, all around us, so that Canis Major and Orion, the signature star groups of the noontime Dog Days, end up hiding in the tangle of velvet leaf and water hemlock, burdock, stonecrop, Joe Pye weed, plants that move in time across the wheel of earth just like Sirius and its cohorts drift above the southern horizon.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fifth week of middle summer. In the meantime, watch for constellations in the garden, stars in the grass, flowers in the sky.

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