Poor Will's Almanac

Once a week, Bill Felker shares his thoughts on the podcast, Poor Will's Almanac. There is a Fred Rodgers quality to his wisdom and manner and it is always a wonderful day in his neighbourhood.

The older I become, the more I am aware of the sources of my moods, the more I see the almost deciduous nature of my emotions, the clear and critical relationship between the outside world, the passage of the seasons, and my mind.

I've found that my self is somehow loose, unanchored, and that it continually needs an abundance of landmarks and time tellers, needs colors, and aromas, and textures over and over in order to find meaning, orientation, and place.

Support from a human society often seems too fragile and sparse, too unpredictable. It has no stable mechanism for reassurance and consolation. It makes a story of resurrection something to be taken on faith. Whereas flowers seem to offer flawless, rigorous and immediate reassurance of rebirth. And they teach a gentle, sustainable path.

For example, the traditional language and symbolism of flowers form a litany of self-sufficiency: periwinkles stand for friendship, sage for domestic virtue, camomile for perseverance, violets for faithfulness, chicory for frugality, snowdrops for hope, bindweed for humility, bluebells for constancy,  clover for providence, columbine for determination, sweetbriar for simplicity, fennel for strength, azaleas for temperance.

If I allow such lessons to create a bouquet of power around me, I embrace a many petalled Easter of good news, a landscape of both outer and inner clarity with which to counter the perilous uncertainties of distant autumn.

Loving lichen

Loving Lichen


In pristine places across the northern hemisphere like here at Camp, on a drab day, when the light is low, tufting out of  trunks and twigs, riding on the rocks, and poking out where nothing else will grow are wads and wisps of wolf moss. Their neon greens and yellows are the bling of the forest and often the only bit of bright to remind that the world is not black and white or gray.


Fiber artists for millennia have pulled pigments from it for their wares.  There are many articles on how to capture the dye on the web. I also speculate they have value as model railroad shrubbery.


Pretty as it is, it is not entirely benign. Hunters on two continents keep wolf moss for a poison it contains.


The Achomawi, a branch of the local Pit River tribes knew of this quality and dipped their arrowheads in an extract to add a little venom to the quiver.


In Europe, people would concoct a poison for wolves and foxes mixing it with glass and meat to rid them of their menace. The biologist’s name for wolf moss is a testament to that, Letheria vulpina, lethal to foxes.


That biologist  may refer to it as wolf moss but begrudgingly as the "moss" portion of that name is not supported by the facts. Wolf moss is a lichen and not a moss at all.  But it got it’s name long before life was categorized by genus and species and wolf lichen is not likely to catch on.


So, what is a lichen?


We look at wolf moss and see a single thing like an orchid or a worm but a lichen is two different things, a fungus and an algae, so bound with one another that they can not be taken apart or separated. I like to think of the fungus as the house, the structure that supports and gives shape and the algae as the party providing food and color.

I envy how they live together in such perfect harmony.

Question: What is it?

A.  Peppered Mashed Potatoes                                   B.  Time for a Shave C.  Chicken Knuckles                                                 D.  Snow Fleas

A.  Peppered Mashed Potatoes                                   B.  Time for a Shave
C.  Chicken Knuckles                                                 D.  Snow Fleas


A, Peppered Mashed Potatoes is not the answer, neither are B or C.

D, Snow Fleas, yes snow fleas. These little guys appear atop the snow as little dots of dirt on warmer winter days. They would go unnoticed if it were not for their disconcerting way of disappearing. Another name they have is Springtails.  By their bellies are appendages that propel them distances a grasshopper would envy.


Want to learn more? Jump to this article from WIRED magazine.

Keeping Watch

Spring was here it seems to me
For two weeks, warmth and receding snow

Each day, a catalog of revelation
the return of the raven, turkeys down the hill, 
a patch of ground, now brown.
Each day closer to stowing snowshoes

But not today

Today fourteen inches fell
again the shovel is my future
and all the world is white

Castle Lake, Spring Equinox, March 18, 2017

Published on Mar 18, 2017

Nature sounds only. Photography by Leslie Lightfall of snow covered Castle Lake, and pure freshets, creeks and rivers flowing in fullness with the melting of the snow. Dedicated to honor Water Protectors all over the world. Thank you all for standing up for WATER!

*Editor's note: More of Leslie Lightfall's work can be seen at her Facebook page,
   "Listening to Earth's Song".