Early January can’t make up its mind between rain or snow. Water droplets cling to plants…
…then begin to freeze.
A squirrel, oblivious to the precipitation, snuggles into the crook of a walnut branch. Its scritch, scritch, scritch, of teeth against hull breaks the silence.
I find her cast-off walnut hulls in the tallgrass.
The prairie, once plump with seeds of every sort in October, is in the throes of letting go. Partially-nibbled or mostly gone is the rule for seeds now. Birds, insects, and wind have done their work.
Carrion flower fruits wrinkle in the cold.
Its deep purple berries are a welcome bit of color. The January prairie is more about structure than bright hues.
The colors of the tallgrass are muted.
…in a veil of drizzle turning to snow.
Tree limbs, battered by winter weather, fall into the tallgrass. Their soft wood will become a nursery for fungi, moss, lichens, and insects.
White wild indigo seed stalks snap off at the base. The wind tumbles them across the prairie into the brook. They pile up like a dam. Their seeds are now scattered through the tallgrass, waiting to sprout in the spring.
All across the prairie, seeds loosen their grip on stalks; drop onto the waiting frozen ground. The cold and snow begin to work their magic, readying the seeds for the moment in the spring when everything shouts……
Bright colors are in there — invisible. Tucked into the dull, lifeless looking seeds.
We believe in what’s coming. The miracle of hard, dry seeds dropped onto ice and mud that will transform the prairie and seed the snow.
Until then, we watch. Wait for miracles…that will come out of the snow.
All photos by Cindy Crosby (top to bottom) figwort (Scrophularia marilandica) with water drops, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; squirrel with walnut, SP: black walnut hull, SP; grey-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) seedhead and Illinois bundleweed (Desmanthus Illinoensis) seedhead, SP; carrion flower (Smilax herbacea) seedhead, SP; gray skies, SP; prairie in the drizzle, SP; grasses, SP:; bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) seedheads; white wild indigo (Baptisia alba) plants, SP ; tall coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris) Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; Michigan lily (Lilium michiganense), NG; black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) with katydid, SP; bottle gentians (Gentian andrewsii), NG.
Abbreviations SP, NG: Schulenberg Prairie, Nachusa Grasslands.