Prairie Ghosts

“O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.” — Thomas Wolfe

***

Prairie restoration often seems a paradox.

We set the prairie aflame, to bring life out of the ashes.

Schulenburg Prairie 417.jpg

We learn to weld fences—in hope of the return of wild things.

P1080615.jpg

Although we are organic gardeners; we take tests, earn licenses to spray herbicide to keep aggressive plants at bay in the tallgrass.

P1120979.jpg

We listen to plants which have no voices; ask them to tell us their stories.

Evelyn Pease 2016.jpg

We construct beautiful buildings to tell the message of open spaces.

Evelyn Pease Interpretive Center-Glen Air Prairie 2016.jpg

We look for traces of the past in order to create a different future. Ghosts. They linger in out-of-the-way places. A certain wildflower, perhaps. An endangered bird. A rare butterfly. Do they still exist? Or have they vanished forever?

Schulenberg Prairie 417.jpg

Even as we search, we wonder at the absurdities. Past generations labored to change these prairies into fields of corn and soybeans. We patiently endeavor to return fields to  prairie.

P1050650.jpg

Why did we lose so much before we realized its value?

P1070291.jpg

We envision a different future for the acres we care for. A future that might be possible through the work of our hands, the strength of our longing, the power of our imagination…and a little luck.

SP-bloodroot2017.jpg

We recognize that the prairie restoration work we do is in part, our desire to know that we can make a tangible difference. That change is possible.  That it is never too late to try.

P1060049.jpg

We pray that what is now fragile and  broken…

NG2016.jpg

…and once almost erased…

P1050890.jpg

…will return again. A shadow of what it once was, perhaps. An echo.

But worthwhile, all the same.

MASP2017.jpg

Because we recognize that when we heal the land, in many ways, we heal ourselves.

P1100078.jpg

As for how we accomplish both—we make peace with the paradoxes.

****

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) was the author of Look Homeward, Angel (1929), from which the first quote in this post was taken. This quote is also included as a stunning conclusion to John Madson’s classic book, Where the Sky Began: Land of the Tallgrass Prairie

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): Schulenberg Prairie prescribed burn, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; bison (Bison bison) herd, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; interpretive sign at Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie, Glenview, IL; the stunning Evelyn Pease Tyner Interpretive Center, Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie, Glenview, IL; prairie burn, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL;  pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) seed head, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; small white lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium candidum), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in bloom, Schulenberg Prairie Savanna, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; pasque flowers (Pulsatilla patens), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; broken eggshell in a nest, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; icy bison track, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; pale purple coneflowers (Echinacea pallida), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.

14 responses to “Prairie Ghosts

  1. April Rietjens Sedall

    The most likely start to Halloween ever. Thank you for sharing your gifts of caring, writing and photography! You are so gifted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cindy,
    Thanks for a beautiful post! I loved John Madson’s book “Where the Sky Began …” David

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cindy, you tell a beautiful story of rescue, by “the strength of our longing”.
    I appreciate your poetry and knowledge. And I ordered the Madsen book. Haunting works in more than one way on this Halloween Day!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Lovely! Yes…we make peace with paradoxes. Beautiful post, in words and image. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Look what I found. Leave it to….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for the very poignant post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such an amazing daughter! She is gifted, even if I say so…Mom

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s