“Mornings were cooler and crisper than before. The ever-lengthening shapes of afternoon shadows seemed drawn more irresistibly into the night. Fields were rough and tweedy, as though an old brown woolen jacket had been thrown over them to ward off the chill.” — Vincent G. Dethier
Oh, wow, October. The prairie is stunning. Although it’s not to everyone’s taste.
“No flowers,” say some of my friends. Yes, the blooming flowers now are few. Goldenrods. Asters.
They melt into the grasses, slowly becoming invisible. Going. Going. Gone—to seed.
Most prairie wildflowers have closed shop for the season.
They surrender to the inevitable with elegance.
Ravenous insects glean whatever is left for the taking.
So many insects.
They make themselves at home in the prairie wildflower remains.
Autumn trickles through my fingers.
Each day seems over before I’ve fully woken up. I remind myself, “Pay attention!” But—the prairie is beginning to blur. I rub my eyes and try to focus. So many seeds. So much grass.
It’s all about the grass.
Loops and whoops and swoops of grass.
Even my old enemy, the invasive reed canary grass on the prairie, shimmers in the morning dew.
In her eloquent essay in The Tallgrass Prairie Reader, Louise Erdrich writes: “Tallgrass in motion is a world of legato.”
The wind sighs as it sifts the grasses. The coda is near.
What new wonders will unfold?
I only know this: The wonders will be more nuanced. Less easily available as immediate eye candy than when in the growing season. But no less remarkable.
We’ll have to pause. Think. Absorb. Take time to look. To really look.
Why not go for a hike and see? Now. Before the snow flies?
The prairie is waiting.
Vincent G. Dethier (1915-1993) was an entomologist and physiologist, and the author of Crickets and Katydids, Concerts and Solos from which the opening blog post quote was taken. This is a delightful book and accessible to anyone who loves natural history, or who has found joy in the grasshoppers, crickets and katydids of the tallgrass prairie. It takes a little extra work to find the book at your library. Well worth the effort.
Thanks to Nature Revisited Podcast for their interview with Cindy about dragonflies and prairie! Click here to listen to it on Youtube.
Thanks to Benedictine University for airing: Conservation: The Power of Story with Cindy as part of their Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum “Science Speaker Series.” See it on Youtube here.
Thank you to Mark and Jess Paulson for their tour of the Great Western Prairie this week. I was so grateful to see it through your eyes!
Join Cindy for a Program or Class!
Tallgrass Prairie Ecology: Opens online Monday, Nov.1 –Are you a prairie steward or volunteer who wants to learn more about the tallgrass? Do you love hiking the prairie, but don’t know much about it? Enjoy a self-paced curriculum with suggested assignments and due dates as you interact with other like-minded prairie lovers on the discussion boards. Then, join Cindy for a live Zoom Friday, November 12, noon to 1 p.m. CST. Offered through The Morton Arboretum. See more details here.
Winter Prairie Wonders: Discover the December Delights of the Tallgrass! Dec. 3 (Friday) 10-11:30 am (CST): Make yourself a cup of hot tea, snuggle under a warm afghan, and join prairie steward and writer Cindy Crosby virtually for this interactive online immersion into the tallgrass prairie in winter. See the aesthetic beauty of the snow-covered grasses and wildflowers in cold weather through colorful images of winter on the prairies. Follow animal tracks to see what creatures are out and about, and see how many you can identify. Learn how birds, pollinators, and mammals use winter prairie plants; the seeds for nourishment and the grasses and spent wildflowers for overwintering, protection, and cover. Then, listen as Cindy shares brief readings about the prairie in winter that will engage your creativity and nourish your soul. This is scheduled as a Zoom event through The Morton Arboretum. Register here.
Save Bell Bowl Prairie!
Please visit www.savebellbowlprairie.org to learn about the planned destruction of a special gravel prairie remnant by the Chicago-Rockford Airport in Rockford, IL. Ask them to reroute their construction. Discover how you can help save this home of the federally-endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. The remnant is slated for bulldozing on November 1. Every small action by those who love prairies will help!
Hi Cindy, haven’t written in a while. I of course still read you every week. This years rotation of flowers wasn’t as totally stunning as last year. Still fabulous! I’ve managed to get a few more people to roam the Prairie this year. Difficult task to encourage more real time in the Prairie. A quick glance, which is better than nothing, is the usual. Or an exercise walk.
We burned this spring and the grasses took off. If this time is like the last burn clover will be a problem next year. We’ll see.
Some of the Big Bluestem is over 9 ft tall. Hurray. Walked into that area and was surprised to see how much just soil was between the plants. Suppose it shouldn’t have but it surprised me. Always something new and fascinating showing up.
I’ve been attempting to figure out how to preserve the Prairie when I’m gone. I know it needs attention and maintenance through out the year. I’m 75 so the time to figure this out is now. Open to ideas. 22 years is a tiny start but a start none the less.
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Hello, and how wonderful to hear from you! How kind you are in your encouragement. Thank you. It’s good to catch up. Good for you, getting people out to “roam the prairie” — I love that! Even if they don’t seem interested, they’ve seen your delight and enthusiasm. Maybe that spark will catch fire in the future. Good luck with the sweet clover! We had to hand pull it for years before we tackled the problem. We still have it, but in small doses instead of large swaths. It can be conquered! Big Bluestem! “Ice Cream Plant” of the prairie! How lovely to read about this. I loved your note about “always something new and fascinating showing up.” YES! So true. Good for you, thinking about the future of your prairie. 22 years is amazing, and I hope you will find a like-minded person (or conservation organization, like TNC?) who might be interested in continuing to care for it when the time comes. Do you have conservation easements in your neck of the woods… I mean, prairie? 🙂 That might be something to consider. As always, I am so grateful for the time you take to read the posts, and to respond. Your work is an inspiration to me. Take care! Cindy 🙂