‘Natural Time’

Published 10:45 am Thursday, January 6, 2022

The “academic year” long eclipsed my experience of the rhythm of the seasons I knew before my fifth birthday. I became immersed in the academic year for decades, first as a student, then a parent and finally an instructor. My ability to track the nuances of the natural world in anything other than general terms was obliterated. This year, I was very clear as we talked about a warmer than average fall and that last spring remained cooler longer than usual.

The fall tree colors this year caught my attention for weeks. I basked in their glory as I took the sunny back roads of the county to get to my desired locations. I have had a bit of a challenge getting my fall forest thinning in full swing and wonder how the temperatures will play out as I go into the new calendar year. So many different ways to mark time each with its quirks:

• The academic year and the calendar year have sharp edges between sections. The “natural year” is less precise, more likely to go back and forth a bit.

• The academic year and the calendar year are shared with others. The experience of the natural year is more likely to be a solitary one or shared with a few.

• Where one is in the academic/calendar year is clear. With the natural world, it is a little less clear.

Perhaps that is the healing quality of being in nature, it allows us to become fully present in a world less familiar. As I go out in the colder months to gather pinecones for fire starters, my cat often comes along. She runs “full tilt boogie” toward a tree, climbs up it 8, 10 or 12 feet…and then comes down, before heading off to the next tree.

On days with 40s, 50s or 60s temperatures, working on the land is most comfortable. So, in my head, I plan to clear land in the spring and the fall and focus on indoor pursuits in the summer and winter. If I pay close attention, a day will pop up supporting the pursuit of “the other activity.” A cool day in the middle of summer, a rainy day in the spring, a warm day in the winter, all provide an opportunity to “change things up” that following appointments on a calendar preclude. Quieting the chatter can be challenging. Some time in the natural world can be an antidote.

JO WEAVER is a Master Naturalist.