“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
I can’t get Dillard’s simple observation out of my head.
How do I want to spend my days? This new year?
I want make time. To be there.
To look at the prairie up close, and marvel at a seed head’s complexity.
To listen to the empty wild white indigo pods, tap-tap-tapping in the wind.
To notice the tracks of a coyote in the snow and follow them…
…find the remains of her dinner in the snow…
…a reminder of how fleeting and precious life is.
How violence and beauty coexist in the natural world.
Let me soak up the colors of prairie grasses around a lake…
…marvel at the ice forming on the grasses…
Take time to notice the kaleidoscope of the sky.
And all the ways the clouds configure themselves in-between. Such ongoing drama! Yet, the bison on the prairie graze beneath the sky, oblivious.
Don’t they know? Each day may be our last.
I want to admire the unpopular opossum, with his face like a valentine.
Be there to see the moon rise in the East, like a smile.
Appreciate the play of light and shadows on snow.
Why? Making time to be fully present to life on the prairie helps me be fully present to life off the prairie. To the people I love. To the work that I do. It is restoration of another kind. The restoration of my soul.
There might come a time when I may no longer be able to hike the tallgrass. Until then, I’m storing away images in my mind.
Inhaling deeply so the smells of the prairie are etched into my memory. Mentally recording the sounds of the sandhill cranes and the song sparrow. Remembering how the tallgrass brushes my face.
If the time comes when I can no longer physically hike the prairie, I’ll still be able to sit and think back on how I spent my days. The images will be there, like pages in a scrapbook. I’ll count my life richer for this: paying attention.
All photos by Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): figwort (Scrophularia marilandica), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) SP; unknown seed, SP; white wild indigo pods (Baptisia alba), SP; coyote tracks, SP; squirrel kill, SP; coyote, SP: grasses, Meadow Lake, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; grasses and ice, ML; grasses and ice, ML; sunrise, Newton Park, Glen Ellyn, IL; sunset, Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; clouds over bison, NG; opossum, author’s backyard prairie, Glen Ellyn, IL; crescent moon over author’s prairie, GE; blue shadows, SP; coyote, SP; switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), SP.
Note: SP, NG, GE: Schulenberg Prairie, Nachusa Grasslands, Glen Ellyn.
Quote from Annie Dillard is from The Writing Life.