Thursday, December 29, 2016

Coming attractions #phenology

The month of December is almost gone. The year 2016 is almost gone. Tonight is a New Moon and although my nice new Minnesota Weather Guide Engagement Calendar refers to it as the Ojibwe Manidoo-Giizisoons (Little Spirit Moon), it seems to me to make more sense to consider it the Gichimanidoo-giizis (Great Spirit Moon) New Moon, which will be full next month, January of next year. If anyone has more definitive guidance, please share. I'm assuming moon phases begin with a New Moon, rather than end with one, in part because the New Moon occurs between the Waning Crescent (decreasing) and the Waxing Crescent (increasing).

Waxing crescent moon (March 2014)
Waxing crescent moon (March 2014)
Photo by J. Harrington

There will probably be many surprises in store for us next year, but some things we can most likely count on. January and February will bring more snow to those of us in the North Country while in January, whitetail bucks will be dropping their antlers and doe's wombs will be growing fawns. February is often wonderful as mixed flocks gather at the feeders and late in the month about-to-bloom potted crocuses (croci?) can often be found to perch on window sills. By March, red osier dog wood will be brightening in color, we may get some melting of our encrustations of snow and ice, and migrating birds begin to return. April offers forsythia blossoms, even if they're forced, and skunk cabbage will be showing and growing. That more than gets us through the first quarter of 2017 with signs to bring us hope each month.

During the first quarter of 2017, two of my personal goals are 1) to catalogue and organize my digital photos and 2) to finish one third to one half of a multi-part poetry project I started several years ago. There, I've made a public commitment. Lets see if I manage to keep it. (Actually, if I do well enough, quickly enough with those two goals, I might get really ambitious and try sorting out my fly-fishing stuff, another long-standing goal.)

flocks of finches at feeder
flocks of finches at feeder
Photo by J. Harrington

For now, remember to keep your feeders full. A chickadee eats its body weight every day in the Winter. Imagine what we'd look like if we had to do that.

Hunter's Moon


By Molly Fisk


Early December, dusk, and the sky
slips down the rungs of its blue ladder
into indigo. A late-quarter moon hangs
in the air above the ridge like a broken plate
and shines on us all, on the new deputy
almost asleep in his four-by-four,
lulled by the crackling song of the dispatcher,
on the bartender, slowly wiping a glass
and racking it, one eye checking the game.
It shines down on the fox’s red and grey life,
as he stills, a shadow beside someone’s gate,
listening to winter. Its pale gaze caresses
the lovers, curled together under a quilt,
dreaming alone, and shines on the scattered
ashes of terrible fires, on the owl’s black flight,
on the whelks, on the murmuring kelp,
on the whale that washed up six weeks ago
at the base of the dunes, and it shines
on the backhoe that buried her.

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