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Poor Will's Almanack: January 14 - 20, 2020

Tom Lee
Flickr Creative Commons

The year seems to pause now, frozen in the middle of deep winter, but natural history and our own hope for  spring continue to be the sum of our observations. 

Since there is no limit to what a person might watch and record, an endless winter is only in the eye of the beholder. Like every other season, winter accumulates, is the product of the sensations it causes, is only what we see it to be, is all that we see it to be.

Even now, the landscape is part spring, part late fall, the grass greening in sheltered corners, the fallen leaves darkening in decay. Osage fruits are becoming speckled with age. Autumn berries, which measure the advance of the year in color and substance are thinning. Coralberries are becoming paler, Almost all the bittersweet hulls have fallen. Red winterberries lie scattered about the ground. Honeysuckle berries are completely gone.

Early spring weeds like purple deadnettle and hemlock have expanded into mounds. Pussy willows have cracked a little, and multiflora rose buds are flushed look ready to open. Crocus and snowdrops are starting to push up through the mulch.

Overwintering robins gather in flocks. Crows that spent the winter in the South return to join their year-round counterparts. Starlings come more frequently to feed in town, and sparrows have begun to mate.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the transition time to Late Winter. In the meantime, watch for cracks in the landscape letting in the light of spring.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.