My first introduction to a foreign language came when I took piano lessons at six years old. If you were in band in high school, or play a little guitar, you know what I’m talking about.
Allegro. Crescendo. Fortissimo.
Fast, gradually louder, very loud. Musical terms. Almost all in Italian.
Watch the prairie through its four seasons, and you’ll begin thinking in musical terms. Speaking a little Italian. Imagining visual music.
Early winter shows off the punchy staccato of tick trefoil seeds, waving like notes six feet high.
Under deep snow, the shadows repeat the round bergamot seedheads. Eco, Italian for “echo,” means notes are quietly repeated. Indigo lines and shape-shadows mirror the prairie in the wind-swept drifts.
In the spring, the prairie is acceso, ignited, on fire. The flames crackle and leap across the acres of tallgrass, consuming last year’s memories of the prairie, stimulating growth and offering a new beginning.
The prairie is brilliante in summer; it sparkles with color and energy.
Then comes a gradual decrescendo — softening — into fall. Autumn is legato, as the tallgrass ripples and waves, a smooth connected ocean of motion.
Prairie music is played a piacere – the performer is not required to follow it exactly; the prairie is free to improvise. Every season in the tallgrass is different. Every year, the music changes.
Visual music, for the imagination.
(Photos by Cindy Crosby: From top to bottom: Tick trefoil, The Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum; snow shadows, SP; prairie burn, SP; pale purple coneflowers, Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; road through the tallgrass, NG).