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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.

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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