Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack Bill Felker's almanack for the WYSO listening area, Southwest Ohio and beyond.
Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack

Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack


Bill Felker's almanack for the WYSO listening area, Southwest Ohio and beyond.More from Poor Will's Miami Valley Almanack »

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Poor Will's Almanack: August 8 - 14, 2017

The Perseid meteors bring starfall to the northeastern portion of the sky on the nights of August 12 and 13, and the arrival of those shooting stars marks high tide of the Dog Days. Rising out of winter's Taurus and Orion, they cut across Perseus and Andromeda, Cassiopeia and Pegasus, piercing the illusion of endless summer. Throughout the countryside, Queen Anne's lace, chicory, goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, sundrops, bull thistles, mustard, black-eyed Susans, wingstem, mullein and ironweed arein full bloom along the roads. Soybeans are deep green, corn lush. Now ragweed pollen fills the humid afternoons, wood nettle goes to seed in the bottomlands, wild cherries ripen, and hickory nuts and black walnuts drop into the undergrowth. Blackberries are ready to eat when the Perseid meteors fall. Golden and purple coneflowers, and red, pink and violet phlox rule the gardens. Orange-and-gold-flowered trumpet vines curl through trellises. Mums and stonecrop color the dooryards. In the mornings,

Poor Will's Almanack: August 1 - 7, 2017

Crows are usually silent during their mating time and the time they raise their young. Now, the fledglings are almost grown, and the crows come back together in flocks, and they begin to converse near my house before sunrise. The singing of robins and cardinals grace the spring and early summer, but as middle summer warms, the songs of those birds grow quiet. The crows, though, are the most faithful morning sky-talkers throughout the late summer, fall and winter. Sometimes, I feel like answering them, to caw and join their society. My voice lacks their clarity, however, and I am hesitant to respond out loud to their calls. Now some Trappist contemplatives with whom I am acquainted emphasize waiting in prayer. Their practice of lectio divina (meditative reading of sacred texts) invites inspiration, insight and communion. The one who practices lectio quiets his or her ego and voice and listens for the voice of God. If crows were God, and I wished communion, and if I wanted to use the

Poor Will's Almanack: July 25 - 31, 2017

This past spring, I walked, an ancient pilgrimage route in northern Spain. Many of the simple lessons I had learned prior to my trek resurfaced as I went along. For example, I relearned: Walking slowly matters. Anywhere is as good as somewhere. Home is where you choose it to be. Truth comes from the ground up. The horizon is the place to be. Distance is physiology. Nothing is ever the same. Motion is the great teacher. The path ahead is the great teacher. Now that I have returned home, I relearn other basic lessons, like.... Stillness is the great teacher. Staying put is the great teacher. Everything is always the same. The horizon is right in front of me. Somewhere is better than anywhere. Home is better than somewhere. Home is the great teacher. And then I think: There are no great teachers. There is no path. It doesn't matter to me that the lessons sync or clash, are true or false, make sense or not. Lessons, once they are embodied, are - of course - physical. Living and learning are

Poor Will's Almanack: July 18 - 24, 2017

July 19, is the 200th day of the year, and now the tide of summer reaches as far north as it can go, and then starts to slip away back toward the Gulf of Mexico. The rate of the retreat varies with each year, but the balance always shifts during the seventh month. The day's length becomes one to two minutes shorter every twenty-four hours, and the countryside responds with changing color and sound. At the start of the year's ebb tide, the land is in the middle of bee balm and coneflower bloom. Fireflies mate in the humid nights. The first katydids and crickets chant after dark. Woolly bear caterpillars, chiggers, ticks and Japanese beetles become more common. Thistledown unravels in the sun and collapses in the rain. Seed pods form on trumpet creepers. Milkweed pods emerge; they burst their shells at the approach of middle fall, just 80 days from now. The first peaches and summer apples are coming in. July's wild cherries ripen, and elderberries set fruit. Blueberries are blue. The

Poor Will's Almanack: July 11 - 17, 2017

I have been making notes about the seasons in a daybook since 1978. Each day's post contains observations of common events in nature in my neighborhood, village and nearby parks. I have learned that events in nature occur more or less at the same times each year. Sometimes I see trends, and I enjoy comparing the quality of seasons. I enjoy finding new things the more I look. What is most rewarding in all of this is discovering my life in the observations I make. The daybook has become an autobiography in the sense Jean-Jacques Rousseau expressed in his Reveries of the Solitary Walker . When Rousseau went back through his botanical collections, he relived his life within what he felt was the idyllic context of his informal research. His collection of plants became a kind of filter for his view of the past that only allowed the tranquility of his nature walks and his thoughts and daydreams of the time to shine through. As I look through the notes I have made, I remember the tranquility

Poor Will's Almanack: July 4 - 10, 2017

Now in early middle summer, the days still seem to last forever, the Sweet Corn Moon is waxing, and cicadas soon fill the warm mornings and afternoons with their high buzzing whine. The number of flowers in bloom reaches its peak, and the world is full of color. Sirius, the Dog Star, the star of the Dog Days of July, moves to the center of the southern sky at noon, announcing the most intense heat of the year. Late at night, middle summer brings the stars of Hercules almost overhead, bearing the first ripening tomatoes, fresh sweet corn and green beans, and zucchini. In the east, Cygnus (the Northern Cross), Lyra with bright Vega, and Aquila with its anchor star, Altair, are rising with the Milky Way, foretelling blackberries and peaches and plums of August. The tone of green in the leaves of the high canopy takes on a slight midsummer darkening. Now the crickets and the katydids, whose night calls will soon replace the early morning songbird chorus, emerge in the shade. Fledgling

Poor Will's Almanack: June 27 - July 3, 2017

I walked down toward the river in the morning: All around me, leaves were turning a deeper green from the advance of the season. Toward the water, white hobblebush hydrangeas in bloom brightened the undergrowth. Cobwebs of micrathena spiders lay across my way. I found a cluster of webworms on a buckeye tree.. Two luminescent tiger beetles raced in front of me. I saw that some honeysuckles had orange berries. Privets had green berries. Solomon's plume had brown berries. Blackberries were green. Raspberry branches with sweet black fruit hid behind the touch-me-nots. Catchweed seeds were yellowing and they stuck to my shoes. I picked and sampled one May apple: bitter. Near the wetlands, moss on a fallen tree glowed in the canopy twilight. Spent watercress lay upended in a shallow backwater. A few shining blue damselflies hovered near the aging skunk cabbage. I listened to cardinals, a thrush and a pileated woodpecker. All around me, robins clucked and peeped to guide their young. These

Poor Will's Almanack: June 20 - 26, 2017

A season ago, I walked over a hundred miles at what I felt to be the same rate as the advance of spring. With a pack of about twenty pounds and a sore hip, I moved so slowly that the microclimates of farms and yards and roadsides and woods, closely observed, altered my previous sense of time and place, a sense that had been based on routine or schedule or obligation. In stead of that disconnection, in this pilgrimage, I sensed something like a congruence of movements – mine and the season's - so that I actually seemed to follow alongside the transformation of the land, which was being led and transformed by the sun. I felt attached to, felt myself to be a part of spring in that particular habitat. I was walking, it seemed to me, in sync with the spin of the earth. If, for example, the height of the roadside ferns was different from one day to the next, I felt I was a witness, validating their growth, joining with, growing with them. Instead of suddenly coming upon them by a roadside, I

Poor Will's Almanack: June 13 - 19, 2017

On a recent walk, I covered several miles a day over the course of a month. The longer I walked, the more I found it was harder to remember the day of the week or month. The time on my watch was no longer so important as the position of the sun or the temperature or the direction or strength of the wind. A taxi ride of twenty miles at the end of my hike revealed some of the other differences in my way of looking at what lay around me. As the car traveled quickly, covering ten to fifteen walking hours in about thirty minutes, I was disappointed to find the landscape plain and homogenized: I watched green trees, rolling hills, garden plots, houses painted in pastels with tile roofs all pass by in seconds. Inside the vehicle, I discovered the outside habitat to be a parallel universe. The precious details of my walking were replaced by vague impressions. The tactile engagement with the land had been broken, and I had no reason to appraise climb or descent. There was no effort required,

Poor Will's Almanack: June 6 - 12, 2017

When I walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain a few months ago, I relearned old lessons, lessons of motion and feeling. I hiked down country roads and byways, my face in the chilly wind, the weight of my pack on my shoulders and lower back, my legs pulling me along, the sky clearest blue – no clouds mile after mile, sun warming my neck. All the time I was heading west toward what is called "the End of the World" in Finisterre, the last outcropping of Europe. Along the dirt path were wild large yellow primroses, whispering streams of runoff from the succulent fields, waysides of violet and gold ground-cover bloom, grass so fresh. Nothing around me old or dying warbling birds all the way. Hills pale green with early leaves, pastures deep green, stone walls speckled with heavy moss, plums and apples in bloom. From the early afternoons toward evening, I saw so many butterflies: cabbage whites, sulfurs, blues, fritillaries, many in randori play and mating. I was aware of the

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