Our Inland Prairie Sea

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.”—Isak Dinesen


To refer to the tallgrass prairie as a “sea of grass” is almost cliché.

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And yet, when you juxtapose sea and prairie, you understand why the image comes so readily.


Like many suburban Chicago prairie lovers, in the mud season of the year—late February to mid-March—I do my best to migrate south for a few days. Sunshine, salt water, and sandy beaches are restorative.

The sky over the Gulf of Mexico reminds me of the sky of the tallgrass prairie; open, limitless.



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The flattened waves of prairie grasses and wildflowers, weathered by wind and rain…

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…with blue-shadowed pockets of snow…

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…are in my mind as I watch waves slap the shore.


Funny, isn’t it? Even when we leave the landscape we call home, it haunts us.

It’s not that everything is similar—far from it! The birds are different from those of the prairie in so many ways. The food they eat.


The way they move.



Even their attitude.

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Many of the Gulf Coast birds I see are readying themselves for a long flight north. Soon, migration will bring them and others through the flyways of the Chicago region.

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No matter where I look in Florida, I find unexpected reminders of my life as a prairie steward.


As much as I enjoy getting away from the Midwest in early March, my mind keeps wandering from the beach back to what’s going on in the tallgrass up north. Am I missing out on a prescribed burn? Has the skunk cabbage leafed out yet? What new birds are singing along Willoway Brook?

After five days in Florida, I’m ready to dive back into my prairie work.


One great thing about traveling: At the end of the day…

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…sometimes a little displacement makes you appreciate the place you call home.


Isak Dinesen (Baroness Karen Blixen) (1885-1962) authored Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast. Both were adapted as movies, and won Academy Awards.

All photos and video copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; Captiva Island sunset, Florida; Captiva Island beach, Florida; Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Schulenberg Prairie at the end of February, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL;  blue-shadowed pockets of snow, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; waves on the beach, Captiva Island, Florida; willet (Tringa semipalmataeating a crab (species unknown), Sanibel Island, Florida; video of sanderlings (Calidris albaand other shorebirds, Sanibel Island, Florida; great black-backed gull (Larus marinus), Sanibel Island, Florida; sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Buckthorn Lane street sign, Sanibel Island, Florida; brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalisdiving for fish, Sanibel-Captiva causeway, Florida; sunset with birds, J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Sanibel Island, Florida. 

14 responses to “Our Inland Prairie Sea

  1. What a delight to read your recent email while lounging in Sanibel myself. Reinvigorated, I will head home to Cleveland tomorrow. Rejuvenated enough to make it through the mud days with eternal hope for spring.


    Ms. MJ Hilker


    Liked by 1 person

    • What a coincidence! We may have passed each other on the beach…Please eat some seafood at Doc Fords for me, and have a coffee at the Sanibel Bean. Enjoy every minute of the sand, sun, and surf! Snow and sleet up north, what a contrast! But still — there’s no place like home. Thanks for taking time to read and to comment.


  2. That first photo is absolutely gorgeous. I may save it for painting inspiration…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cindy, are you still on Sanibel? My family and I are here now and have never seen so many pelicans! Little did we notice until we walked to the waters edge, are millions and millions of tiny fish swimming to the east creating a river of blackness for five to ten feet as far as the eye can see! Did you see that too? Now we understand why there are so many pelicans!

    On Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 7:27 AM Tuesdays in the Tallgrass wrote:

    > Cindy Crosby posted: “”The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, > or the sea.”—Rachel Carson **** To refer to the tallgrass prairie as a > “sea of grass” is almost cliché. And yet, when you juxtapose sea and > prairie, you understand why the image comes so readily. ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jeff —
    Wow, another coincidence! (See above messages about other readers on Sanibel!) Seems like a lot of us prairie fans go south this time of year. I’m home now, but was also amazed while I was there last week by the pelican activity. I missed the fish schools! Lucky you! Enjoy the sunshine and surf — and thanks for taking time to read and comment.


  5. This post reminds me of the “Prairie Schooner”, which was actually water tight for crossing streams and rivers. And, I’ve already seen Sandhill groups overhead heading north!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mike —
      I hadn’t thought of the “prairie schooner” — thank you for that! Also, for the sandhill crane report. It seems like spring is here when they return, doesn’t it? Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.


  6. Enjoy your precious time in the sun. We have the sun sporadically, but the COLD is just tooooooooooo cold. Love your presentations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Back home now and I think we’ve experienced every type of weather possible — snow, sleet, sun, cold, hail (graupel), ….well, maybe not heat! Stay warm, and big hugs! Thanks for taking time to read and comment! xo


  7. pathill682056510

    Heard (but didn’t see) flocks of Sandhill Cranes flying north during the nice weather this past weekend.

    Pat Hill

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love these reports from the field, Pat! Thanks for sharing about the cranes…. their sound is unmistakeable, isn’t it? And thank you for reading and taking time to comment.


  8. Sandy Phillips

    Hi Cindy –

    I’m Sandy Phillips, and I met you at Nachusa’s Autumn on the Prairie in 2016. I live in Albany NY, and have come to Nachusa several times over the past 10 years to help with seed collection, and attend either the Prairie Potluck or Autumn on the Prairie. I found it by Nature Conservancy serendipity in 2007, and there it was, only 27.7 miles from where my Dad was born in Ohio IL + where I’d gone to see relatives and cemeteries regularly in family travels back from whichever of several states I lived in (never Illinois) as a child!

    I’m planning to return to Nachusa in early May for my first spring visit, and in addition to seeing what’s appearing there in the spring, I’m planning to do some exploring in Chicago. I wonder if you could point me to a list of restoration projects within that territory, especially within the city. Truth be told, if you have a comprehensive list of the places you access regularly for Tallgrass Tuesdays, I could overdose and die happy! If it’s too big a favor to ask, I’ll just compile some choices from your end-of-blog info.

    I’m hopeful of spring getting here to Albany, but just now we’re getting over 2 wallops of snow in a week. Still…….the light, the feel…and April’s just over the horizon.

    Thanks, Sandy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Sandy — what a great e-mail! Loved hearing your story. Please e-mail me at my social media e-mail, phrelanzer@aol.com, and I will send you a list of some of my favorite sites! Grateful for your interest in our prairies here — you will not be disappointed! I’ll watch for your e-mail. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment!


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