I asked a prairie restoration manager I knew if there was a time of the year he didn’t particularly care for on the prairie. He grimaced. “Late winter,” he told me decisively.
February, that is.
The large expanse of sky often turns steely gray, depressing spirits. Bird life slows. It’s cold. Bitterly cold. Sometimes February on the prairie can seem, well… flat. Static.
Then comes the snow.
February 3 – tonight — is the “Full Snow Moon” according to Native American lore and the Farmers’ Almanac.
Here, just west of Chicago, the name seems particularly apt, as we accumulated more than 19 inches of the white stuff in less than 24 hours.
There’s something magical about a big snow on the prairie. As it falls, it muffles sounds, softens rough edges; polishes sharp angles into soft curves.
Then the sun comes out. The prairie, earthy and unassuming the day before, glitters with a tinseled radiance like a Hollywood starlet. The brook thaws.
Blue shadows pool in the new-laid tracks of prairie critters venturing through the drifts.
A red-tailed hawk thoughtfully considers their movements, contemplating lunch.
The cloudless sky is achingly blue; you feel it like a jolt when a crow inks its way overhead.
And suddenly, February on the prairie is transformed.
It’s the most beautiful month of all.
Or so it may seem, after a snow.
( Top: Willoway Brook on the Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Thistle (SP); Moon, Glen Ellyn, IL; Willoway Brook (SP); mouse tracks, Nachusa Grasslands,Franklin Grove, IL ; Red-tailed Hawk (SP). All photos by Cindy Crosby)