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Poor Will's Almanack: September 29 – October 5, 2020

On my birthday this past summer, I took a day off from my usual routine and looked at clouds all day on the shore of Keuka Lake in western New York. Facing east, I watched clouds move from the weeping willow tree behind me, across the open sky and then sink into the hills beyond the far shore.

I saw the usual clouds: wispy cirrus clouds, the scaly, mackerel-sky clouds, many raggedy fair-weather cumulus clouds that looked like rabbits or dragons or dogs or sea monsters. I saw thunderheads in the late afternoon that promised rain along the horizon. I saw how the sun brightened the clouds when it struck them, and how the clouds turned dark underneath when the sun was blocked or filtered by other clouds. Some clouds moved more quickly others. Some clouds didn’t seem to move at all.

The thing was that neither I nor the clouds seemed to matter. The weather was perfect, neither too hot nor too cold. When the clouds blocked the sun, I didn’t care. When they revealed the sun, I didn’t care. If they were fast or slow or big or small or beautiful or ugly did not matter. They were endless, and I didn’t care. They asked no judgment, and none was given.

Since that day, I have been sitting and watching everything more. Having been tutored by clouds, I have been liberated, have fallen off some sort of psychic precipice or other, have received a birthday epiphany, and so, of course, I really don’t care because…it’s time to watch clouds.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the first week of middle fall. In the meantime, of course, just watch clouds.

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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.