Practicing Prairie Patience

The prairie is patient. When drought sets in, as it inevitably does, prairie grasses bide their time. They do not flower without the nourishment to make good seed. Instead, they save their resources for another year when the rains have fallen, the seeds promise to be fat, and the earth is moist and ready to receive them. The prairie teaches us to save our energies for the opportune moment.” –Paul Gruchow

***

I love to read. But I just put down Thomas Friedman’s new book, Thank You for Being Late about the too-rapid, frenzied acceleration of climate change, technology, and globalization in the world because—I confess—I felt  it was too slow-paced.  I was impatient.

The irony of this is not lost on me.

Belmont Prairie grasses 1418.jpg

If I slow down and pay attention to my life closely enough, I see particular patterns emerge. If I listen to my life, certain messages are repeated. Lately, the messages and patterns are all about my need to relearn patience. Take things slowly. Sit with decisions. Wait.

Thimbleweed-belmontprairie118.jpg

Two years ago, I blew out my knee while hiking in the snow and ice on the 606, Chicago’s terrific new urban trail. Since then, I’ve become much more aware of my own limitations. Because I have to physically slow down, it’s forced me to slow down in other ways. To become more attentive. More patient with myself. More patient—hopefully—with others.

But I can’t say it’s been easy.

P1150511.jpg

Until I was forced to slow down, I thought I was a pretty patient person. But there’s nothing like congratulating yourself on a virtue you think you have to discover how pitiful your abilities really are. Patience? Let’s see what she’s got. You quickly realize your illusions about yourself.

P1150501.jpg

In the last few months,  I’ve been invited to practice patience. Sitting in hospital waiting rooms. Long hours of car travel. Trains that didn’t run as scheduled. Cancelled flights. Jets that sat on the tarmac without taking off. Listening to endless loops of “on hold” music on the phone while watching time tick away. Anxious hours waiting for our new granddaughter to be born. Waiting for a response from someone I e-mailed weeks ago about a project.  Waiting for the temperature to warm up past zero so I can hike longer than 20 minutes at a stretch. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

P1150418.jpg

Those of us who love the tallgrass and work with prairie restoration are well acquainted with patience.  We know the power of waiting. Nothing worthwhile happens on the prairie without it.

Goldenrod-BelmontPrairie1418

And yet. Our world values speed. It values brevity. It promotes instant gratification. One click! Is “next day” not soon enough? How about the same day, then? Faster! Faster! 

rattlesnakemaster-belmontprairie1418.jpg

The prairie reminds me that many good things take patience. The pale purple coneflower seedhead below is an echo of numerous cycles of  freeze and fire; sprout and leaf; bud and bloom.

palepurpleconeflower-belmontprairie118

In only weeks, the prairie will be touched by flames again. Floods of flowers will follow.

SPMA2016.jpg

None of this can be rushed. That’s part of the beauty of the whole. What makes it so meaningful.

P1150531

Think about it. Slow might be the way to go. Take a minute and look.  Don’t be in such a hurry.

P1150663.jpg

With the prairie as my model, I’ll keep trying to practice patience.

Difficult. But worth it.

***

Paul Gruchow (1947-2004) was a Minnesota writer who wrote such beautiful books as Travels in Canoe Country; The Boundary Waters: Grace of the Wild; Journal of a Prairie Year; The Necessity of Empty Places; and Grass Roots: The Universe of Home from which this opening quote was taken.

***

All photographs copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): Belmont Prairie Preserve at sunset, six degrees, Belmont Prairie Preserve, Illinois DNR, The Nature Conservancy Illinois, Belmont Prairie Preserve Association, Downer’s Grove, IL; thimbleweed (Anemone cylindrica), Belmont Prairie Preserve, Illinois DNR, The Nature Conservancy Illinois, Belmont Prairie Preserve Association, Downer’s Grove, IL; old apple tree (Malus unknown species), Schulenberg Prairie Visitor Station, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; shadows in the snow, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; prairie dock leaf (Silphium terebinthinaceum), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; probably Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), Belmont Prairie Preserve, Illinois DNR, The Nature Conservancy Illinois, Belmont Prairie Preserve Association, Downer’s Grove, IL; rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), Belmont Prairie Preserve, Illinois DNR, The Nature Conservancy Illinois, Belmont Prairie Preserve Association, Downer’s Grove, IL; pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) seedhead, Belmont Prairie Preserve, Illinois DNR, The Nature Conservancy Illinois, Belmont Prairie Preserve Association, Downer’s Grove, IL; pale purple coneflowers (Echinacea pallida) (foreground), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) seedhead, Belmont Prairie Preserve, Illinois DNR, The Nature Conservancy Illinois, Belmont Prairie Preserve Association, Downer’s Grove, IL;sunset on the Belmont Prairie Preserve, six degrees, Illinois DNR, The Nature Conservancy Illinois, Belmont Prairie Preserve Association, Downer’s Grove, IL.

10 responses to “Practicing Prairie Patience

  1. Beautiful reflections and images here. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, yes. Practicing patience. So important – on the prairie, and elsewhere. Beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Cindy, for another great insightful message that speaks so clearly to all of us! And your winter images are SO beautiful and serene.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I retired I thought “great! now’s my chance to really dig in!” In an effort to decompress, and better understand and see the prairie (and woods), I brought a lawn chair out and tried just being there. After 10 minutes I got impatient. Wrestled with the arguments to move on before breaking thru and being rewarded. By doing so, I’ve experienced trusting being still and staying in the moment (and bringing a sandwich and water). Patterns and compositions….as well as new realizations emerge. A new form of communication. Last summer 2 curious fawns passed thru from behind me, stopping to nervously check me out. Stuff like that ….priceless!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mike, I love your retirement story— Those fawns! How wonderful… thanks, as always, for reading and taking a moment to share from your own prairie experiences. I always enjoy the connections you make.

      Like

  5. This was such a precious piece. Aging brings a lot of impatience and frustrations but I’m trying to practice a lot of control over both. Your photos are always inspiring and please know that I read each one even if I don’t comment on them separately. Much love to you and ALL of YOURS!!

    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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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