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Biophilia: The micro-seasons of Minnesota

Mary Jo Hoffman, artist and author of 'STILL: The Art of Noticing,' shares her list of micro-seasons for Minnesota's Great Lakes region.

Biophilia: The micro-seasons of Minnesota
A composite of pink tulips photographed by artist Mary Jo Hoffman. Hoffman's book "STILL: The Art of Noticing" includes 72 micro-seasons she adapted for Minnesota's Great Lakes region. (Courtesy of Mary Jo Hoffman)

Artist and author Mary Jo Hoffman, whose book "STILL: The Art of Noticing" was published on May 1, adapted Japan's 72 micro-seasons to Minnesota's Great Lakes region.

Mary Jo Hoffman's book, "STILL: The Art of Noticing," was published on May 1, 2024. (Courtesy of Phaidon)

Hoffman gave Project Optimist permission to list the 24 Sekki and 72 Ko, or micro-seasons. Be sure to check out Hoffman's blog, as well as her Instagram page for more of her work.

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Be sure to read our recent story on Hoffman written by Lisa Meyers McClintick.

Time of Awakening

February 19-March 5

Bright sun, long shadows / Red osier dogwood stems turn scarlet / Waxwings get drunk on fermented crabapples

Time of Thaw

March 6-March 20

Tinkling of melting snow / Herons land on icy shores / Pussy willows softly explode

A vine grabs hold of a pussy willow dampened with rain drops. (Courtesy of Mary Jo Hoffman)

Time of Sap

March 21-April 4

Leaf buds bulge with running sap / Sparrows return / Bulb shoots climb through soil

Time of Rain

April 5-April 19

Lakes swallow last winter ice / Birch catkins dangle from bare branches / Mallards dabble near shore

Time of Birth

April 20-May 4

Frogs call for mates / Leaves burst from buds / Robins start to sing

Time of Blossoms

May 5-May 20

Elm samaras crunch like snow peas / Ferns unfurl like scrolls / Apple blossoms profuse

Time of Greening

May 21-June 5

Lilacs perfume the air / Spruce tips sprout green tassels / Thunder rumbles in the distance

Bittersweet and robin eggs (Courtesy of Mary Jo Hoffman)

Time of Growth

June 6-June 20

Milkweed pods swell / Summer's green curtain descends / Fireflies wink after sunset

Time of Light

June 21-July 6

Meadows turn bright with wildflowers / Musk thistles nod on hillsides / Dragonflies patrol marshes

Time of Heat

July 7-July 22

Painted turtles bask on logs / Blueberries fatten / Cricket choruses throb at twilight

Time of Indolence

July 23-August 7

Bass fin in the shade of lily pads / Lazy breezes sweep over cattails / Queen Anne's lace stands along roadsides

Time of Ripening

August 8-August 22

Air hangs heavy and hot / Flower heads turn to seed heads / Blue jays molt

Time of Tall Grasses

August 23-September 7

Prairie grasses bow to weight of seeds / Bumblebees sip from coneflowers / Acorns bounce on rooftops

Time of Color

September 8-September 22

Green apples blush red / Morning dew glistens / Sumacs burst into flame

Red sumac leaves (Courtesy of Mary Jo Hoffman)

Time of Harvest

September 23-October 7

Wild rice scatters in canoe bottoms / Smell of woodsmoke and fallen leaves / Squirrels cache nuts

Time of Migration

October 8-October 22

Sunflowers wilt and die / Color drains from leaves / Wood ducks binge on acorn mast

Time of Frost

October 23-November 6

Morning frost nips / Leaves let go / Lichen on bare branches

Time of Gray Skies

November 7-November 21

Bucks chase does / Geese draw Vs across the sky / Clouds drift over frozen ponds

Mary Jo Hoffman has been creating a daily piece of art using elements found in nature since 2012. Her observations led her to adapt the Japanese calendar of 24 Sekki and 72 Ko, or micro-seasons, based on Minnesota's Great Lakes region. (Courtesy of Mary Jo Hoffman)

Time of Snow

November 22-December 6

Barred owls call into the night / Snow that lasts until spring / Black branches against white skies

Time of Ice

December 7-December 21

Fish swim below the ice / Prairie stems poke through snow / Woodpeckers hammer for grubs

Time of Darkness

December 22-January 4

Darkness falls early / Lakes boom with expansion cracks / Turkeys snack on seed heads

Time of Stillness

January 5-January 19

Cattails bend to weight of snow / Night woods striped with moon shadows / Ice crystals grow on windowpanes

Time of Bitter Wind

January 20-February 3

Wind whips across frozen lakes / Oak leaves rattle / Trees pop from freezing sap

Time of Hunger

February 4-February 18

Coyotes hunt the marshes / Frost fills fields with ghostly stems / Dry snow squeaks underfoot


This column was edited by Nora Hertel. It is part of Project Optimist's Biophilia series about nature and design. It's supported by a grant from Arts Midwest. Learn more here.

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