Nature
8:35 am
Tue November 20, 2012

Poor Will's Almanack: November 20 - 26, 2012

Celandine
Credit Flickr Creative Commons user wallygrom

Poor Will's Almanack for the Third Week of Late Fall.

More than one naturalist has noted the similarities in March and November. Even nature seems confused throughout late autumn, encouraging new growth - a kind of second spring - as if there would be no winter interruption of that cycle.

Protected in the swamp near my village, water cress brightens as though April were only a month or so away; dock and ragwort grow back beside the dead field grasses. Waterleaf is filling up the bottomlands again. Celandine is blooming, and a few dandelions, some chickweed, some violets, too. Seeds sprout in rotting logs. Skunk cabbage has already pushed to the surface, and it is ready to flower if December is warm.

Riding leisurely south, you can still find early October, catching up with the best of leafturn in Arkansas. Along the Gulf coast, the trees still hold their leaves, and colors haven't even reached their peak. And by the time the frost reaches New Orleans, it will be just about time for it to recede from the north. By the time the very last leaves fall in Chicago in December, the first leaves of the new year will be emerging in Florida.

March and November are, in fact, not so far apart as they appear. Paper calendars measure time in just one way, the linear way of human history. There is another kind of time, of course, one more metronomic and tidal, one in which the same matter, pushed and pulled by the moon, advances and retreats. In that rhythm, the seasons are stripped of their Gregorian sequence.

Those seasons do not compute the limited span of our lives. They are not confined by space; they have no meaningful borders. All of their successions are reversible and illusory, metaphoric and prophetic. Their commencements are their closures.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the Fourth Week of Late Fall. In the meantime, look closely – it’s almost spring

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