Category Archives: tallgrass prairie

A Prairie Wish and a Prayer

 “Labor brings a thing nearer the heart’s core.” –Mary Webb

***

For prairie volunteers, it’s impossible to walk the tallgrass in December and not think of endings. This month is the symbolic culmination of a year’s worth of stewardship; the grand finale of planning, sweat, risk, small successes and—sometimes—epic failures. Three steps forward, two steps back.

SPMAprairieaglow1217

Take a deep breath. Look around you. Everything that can go to seed has flossed out; emptied itself into the wind and soil. Wade into the tallgrass. Bits of seed silk fly out in  pieces all around, a little prairie mock snowstorm.

Sun slants through seedheads; sparks stalks and stems into silver and gold.

creamwildindigo1217MASP

Hike the trails and mull over the season that has passed. Muse on the new season still to come. 

Belmont Prairie Brome spp. 1117

In the distance, smoke hazes the prairie, tumbles above the treeline. 

IMG_3872

Natural resource managers, taking advantage of the warm, dry conditions, lay down prescribed burns in the nearby woodlands and wetlands. But not yet on the prairie. Soon, we tell the tallgrass. Very soon. Your turn will come.

December has been, by turns, warm and balmy; all sunshine then thunder; bitter and breezy.

BeebalmSPMA1217

Listen closely as you hike the prairie trails and you’ll hear the tell-tale sounds of the end of juice and sap. The rustle of switchgrass. The brittle rattle of white wild indigo seed pods.

P1140823

The indigo stems snap off in 50 mph winds then roll, tumbleweed-like, across the prairie, scattering their progeny.

WhitewildindigoSPMA2017

Broken—but accomplishing their evolutionary task of moving around their DNA. In years to come, we’ll see the results: those incomparable white wild indigo blooms. Close your eyes. Imagine.

IMG_5447

But for now, look closely.  Who knows what you’ll see? A heightening of intense rusts and coppers, right before the final brutal bleaching freezes of January and February.

SPMAdecember17littlebluestem

Keep looking. You may see the occasional fluke or strange oddity as nature deals the tallgrass a wild card.

BelmontPrairie-roundheadedbushclover1117

Admire the blown-out stars of asters, spent for this season. Think of the seeds they’ve dropped in the rich black prairie soil, which now harbors a constellation of future blooms for the coming summer.

Belmont Prairie 11:17Asterspp

New beginnings. They’re all here. Think of what weeding, a bit of planting, and a little dreaming might help this prairie become.
P1140876

So much possibility.
P1140907

Make a wish. Say a prayer.
P1140878

Your hard work may be mostly done for this season. But it has brought this little patch of tallgrass very close to your heart. Let your imagination run wild for what this prairie might become.

P1060625.jpg

Because on the prairie in December, anything for the coming year seems possible.

***

Mary Webb (1881-1927), who penned the opening quote, was an award-winning English poet and romantic novelist. Her health ultimately failed from Grave’s Disease; her marriage failed as well and she died alone and with her last novel unfinished at age 46. Her writing reflects her fatalism and compassion for suffering. Gone to Earth (1917) expresses her horror of war; Precious Bane (1924), whose heroine has a disfiguring impairment, received the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse Anglais award, a French literary prize. She is known for her intense creativity, mysticism, and her love for the natural world.

***

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): Schulenberg Prairie in December, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; cream wild indigo (Baptisia leucampha), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL;  unknown brome (Bromus spp.), Belmont Prairie Nature Preserve, The Nature Conservancy, Downer’s Grove Park District, Downer’s Grove, IL; prescribed burn, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL;bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; white wild indigo (Baptisia alba macrophylla) seed pods, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; white wild indigo (Baptisia alba macrophylla) upside down stalks, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; white wild indigo (Baptisia alba macrophylla), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Schulenberg Prairie in December, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata) with mutation because of fasciation (viral, genetic, chemical), Belmont Prairie Nature Preserve, The Nature Conservancy, Downer’s Grove Park District, Downer’s Grove, IL; unknown aster, Belmont Prairie Nature Preserve, The Nature Conservancy, Downer’s Grove Park District, Downer’s Grove, IL; common milkweed (Asclepias  syriaca) pods, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) pappus, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; hand with common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) pappus, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Nomia Meadows Farm Prairie, Franklin Grove, IL.

Thanks to Illinois Botany FB page for their help with my question about fasciation and the round-headed bush clover, especially Paul Marcum. 

A Prairie Patchwork Quilt

“You have to keep taking the next necessary stitch, and the next one, and the next…you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again. ” — Anne Lamott

***

It’s a ritual of autumn. The changing of our summer comforter to a heavy quilt, made for us by a friend. A few nights ago, as sleet tapped against the window, I slipped into bed and pulled the quilt close under my chin. Admired the patchwork. Taupe, rust, emerald, peach. Grass-green and olive. Pearl. Oyster.

P1140614.jpg

As he quilted, our friend incorporated the transient autumn colors of prairie grasses into the coverlet. I was nestled into the prairie itself. Deep under. I might go dormant. Sleep for several months. Awaken to a cleansing fire in February, and leaf out. Be fresher. Vibrant. Renewed.

SPMA-413.jpg

It’s a heavy quilt, made from denims and corduroys; a quilt that—like the Midwestern prairies—looks tough and ready to handle anything the future might throw at it. A quilt for the ages.

Midewin 2012 tallgrassjpg.jpg

As I slipped off to sleep, I thought of the thousands of tiny stitches in this quilt and the prairie it reflects.  The time and the care that one person put into one quilt. And the time and the care — all the “stitches” that have been put into the care and repair of the grasslands which have been lost to us in the Midwest.

IMG_9090

How will the grasslands “quilt” be patched back together?

We need the conservationist in the field, who is bringing back the bison. One stitch.

P1140569.jpg

We need the research student, who is trying to understand why the bison make a difference to the upland sandpipers and prairie vole and the dung beetle. Stitch. Stitch. Stitch.

compassplantSPMA1017.jpg

We need the steward who cares for the remnant where the new bison are browsing, and reconstructs new prairie plantings close by. She knows these new plantings won’t exactly replicate the old, but she hopes, she hopes… .

PurplecloverSPMA1117.jpg

The activist at the state capital, who has ridden the bus and marched with a sign, and spent the day pleading the case of the natural world to the legislators. Stitch.

SPM1017.jpg

We need the poet who sees  little bluestem, red and wet under November rains, rippling in the wind, and wrestles with just the right words to share what she sees on paper. More stitches.

Nachusa Grasslands 1117 Landscape

Or the textile artist, the photographer, or the painter…

IMG_1356

…creating images that share prairie in ways that open doors of understanding to those who may not have experienced prairie before. Stitch.

Flint Hills 1017.jpg

The gardeners, who make their backyards their painter’s palettes. They plant prairie patches that swirl and glimmer with color and motion. A neighbor pauses. Asks a question. A spark is kindled. Another stitch.

Midewin 2012 fence.jpg

Or people like my friend the quilter, who took up his needle and created something beautiful.

Midewin savanna 2012.jpg

Each person who places each stitch—one carefully thought-out restoration, one painstakingly done research study on hands and knees in the cold and rain—each photograph, wall hanging, poem, book, song, painting, quilt—

SPMA-1117willoway.jpg

—adds another stitch to the patches of the prairie patchwork quilt. Brings us closer to the beautiful whole of the Midwestern tallgrass that once was complete, and now is lost.

Midwin 2012.jpg

Keep hoping.

Nachusa Grasslands 11 17 rainyday.jpg

Keep stitching.

img_2177

Sweet dreams.

***

The opening quote is from Anne Lamott’s (1954-) Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair. Read some highlights of her book here.

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby: prairie patchwork quilt by Lynn Johnson; prescribed burn on the Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, United States Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy, Wilmington, IL;  volunteer collecting seed, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; bison (Bison bison), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL, compass plant  (Silphium laciniatum) with water droplets, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL , purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) on the Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; clouds over the Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; grasses in the rain at Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL;  photographer at Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; Flint Hills prairie, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, U. S. National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, Strong City, KS; fences at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, United States Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy, Wilmington, IL; savanna at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, United States Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy, Wilmington, IL;  Willoway Brook, The Schulenberg Prairie Savanna at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; harvesting big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, United States Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy, Wilmington, IL; fall at Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; mouse tracks in the snow at the Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Franklin Grove, IL.

And with ongoing thanks to my friend Lynn Johnson, whose beautiful prairie patchwork quilt warms me and my husband Jeff each winter.  Kudos, my friend.

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.

A Thousand Prairie Details

” …few (if any) details are individually essential, while the details collectively are absolutely essential. What to include, what to leave out. Those thoughts are with you from the start.” –John McPhee

***

“What to include, what to leave out?” How do you decide—when you try to describe September on the prairie?

P1120044.jpg

Look through the tallgrass kaleidoscope. Details change. From hour to hour; moment to moment.

Taltree917eleven.jpg

The prairie is a shape-shifter.

Taltreecompassplantrattlesnake917.jpg

Color and pattern maker.

NGbutterflies.jpg

Each insect and plant outlined and highlighted.

Taltreeprairiedockwithdew917.jpg

A few shocks of color. Burnt cherry.

Autumn Meadowhawk917NG.jpg

Pure purple.

Taltreeasters917.jpg

Other details, less colorful, still dazzle. Fizzy whites, knitted together by spiders; pearled by dew.

Taltree917twelve.jpg

Sheer numbers sometime disguise the finer elements.

NG bur marigold 917.jpg

The particulars lost in a tangle. Taken out of context.

P1120007.jpg

The familiar becomes unfamiliar.

Taltree917six.jpg

The tiniest details create the sum of the whole. The autumn prairie.

P1120074.jpg

Dreamlike.

P1120076.jpg

Almost invisible at times. Camouflaged. But unforgettable.

P1110955.jpg

The magic of a thousand prairie details.

P1120095.jpg

They all add up to something extraordinary.

***

The opening quote is from John McPhee’s Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process.  McPhee (1931-) is the author of more than 30 books, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for Annals of the Former World.

***

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) at the end of a trail, Taltree Arboretum Prairie, Valparaiso, IN;  white wild indigo leaves with spider silk, Taltree Arboretum Prairie, Valparaiso, IN; September in the tallgrass, Taltree Arboretum Prairie, Valparaiso, IN; three butterflies puddling (two male clouded sulphurs (Colias philodice) and an orange sulphur (Colias eurytheme)), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) with morning dew, Taltree Arboretum Prairie, Valparaiso, IN;  yellow legged or autumn meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), Taltree Arboretum Prairie, Valparaiso, IN;  unseasonal bloom on white wild indigo in September (Baptisia leucantha), Taltree Arboretum Prairie, Valparaiso, IN;  nodding bur marigold (Bidens cernua), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL;  bison (Bison bison) hair on the trail, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) with dewdrops, Taltree Arboretum Prairie, Valparaiso, IN; early morning on the prairie, Taltree Arboretum Prairie, Valparaiso, IN; fog over Taltree Arboretum Prairie, Valparaiso, IN; eastern tailed blue butterfly (Cupido comyentas), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Taltree Arboretum prairie, Valparaiso, IN.

Purple Prairie Haze

“No matter how chaotic it is, wildflowers will still spring up in the middle of nowhere.” — Sheryl Crow
********
There’s a plethora of prairie purple right now. (Say it three times, very fast.) The pinky purple of wild geraniums color the prairie edges.

P1070642 (1).jpg

Here and there–but much more rare–the bird’s foot violet.

P1070403 (2).jpg

And its close kin, prairie violet.

P1070226 (2).jpg

Go plum crazy over fragile blue toadflax.

P1070366

Do some whoopin’ over purple prairie lupine…

P1070495.jpg

Seek out the violet wood sorrel, dabbed here and there across the prairie.

P1070419.jpg

Look up! May skies are often the purple-blue of a storm.

P1070320 (1).jpg

After the rain, amethyst-colored long-leaved bluets are splattered with grit.

P1070362.jpg

The rain encourages wild hyacinth’s lavender blues to open. Inhale their fragrance. Wow!

P1070587.jpg

Sunset prairie purples close many May days on the prairie. Not fiery. Not spectacular. But in true purple form…peaceful.

P1070609.jpg

No matter how chaotic the world seems at any given time, an hour on the May prairie–with its purple moments–puts things into perspective again.

An hour that is always well-spent.

***

Sheryl Crow (1962-), whose quote opens this blogpost, is an American recording artist perhaps best known for her hits, “Every Day is  a Winding Road,” and “All I Wanna Do.”  She has won nine Grammy Awards, and been nominated for a Grammy 32 times. Her album, Wildflower, has sold almost a million copies.

***

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) East Woods area, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; bird’s foot violet (Viola pedata), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; prairie violet (Viola pedatifida), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; lupine (Lupinus perennis), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; storm over Fame Flower Knob, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; long-leaved bluets after the storm (Houstonia longifolia var.longifolia), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; wild hyacinths (Camassia scilloides), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; sunset over Willoway Brook, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.

Special thanks to Bernie Buchholz for his restoration work, and for introducing me to several new wildflowers at Nachusa Grasslands.

Fire and Rain

“I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain… .” –James Taylor

Those relentless March rains! Now it’s April—pushing the envelope for fire.

The prairie waits.

SPbeforeburn4817.JPG

Wildflowers and grasses, urged to life by spring showers, push up through the damp earth. Oblivious to the fire still to come.

P1060134.jpg

The prescribed burn crew gathers. Light the match! The drip torch ignites.  A crackle and pop… the dry grasses catch.

SPburn4817.JPG

Smoke rises; smudges the sun.

PVSburnSP4817 (1).jpg

Trees are cast into sharp relief;  wraith-like shadows haunt the grasses.

CINDYCROSBYfireSPvisitorstation4817 (1).jpg

Flames devour the prairie; lick the savanna. Whispering. Growing closer.

CINDYCROSBYfirespsavanna4817.jpg

Listen. Can you hear the fire advancing? A sound like rain.

 

Last year’s prairie vanishes in moments. Becomes only memories.

P1060162.jpg

More rain falls. The prairie fizzes over, all chocolates and emeralds.

P1060139.jpg

Life-giving fire. Life-giving rain.

P1060167.jpg

The beginnings of something new emerge.

P1060182.jpg

Hope. Anticipation. Wonder. So much is on the way. Right around the corner.

***

James Taylor (1948-) is a five-time Grammy Award winner who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. His albums have sold more than 100 million copies. Although it only went to #3 on pop charts (1970), his single, “Fire and Rain,” is considered Taylor’s breakthrough song.

All photos and video copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; Schulenberg Prairie and Willoway Brook, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Schulenberg Prairie Visitor Station area, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Schulenberg Prairie Visitor Station, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Schulenberg Prairie and Savanna, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; video of Schulenberg Prairie and Savanna, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Russell Kirt Prairie in my side view mirror, College of DuPage Natural Areas, Glen Ellyn, IL; Fame Flower Knob, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; sunset over Russell Kirt Prairie, College of DuPage Natural Areas, Glen Ellyn, IL;  red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) on marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris), author’s backyard prairie pond, Glen Ellyn, IL.

Finding our Story on the Prairie

“Stories are compasses and architecture; …to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions. Place is a story, and stories are geography….” -Rebecca Solnit ***

It’s spring.  The geography of the early spring prairie is an unfolding story. It’s a good place to think about where you’ve been and where you are at now.  Where you’re headed next.

P1050719 (1)

There’s  evidence of what has passed on the March prairie. Bison tracks, filled with ice, glitter under the cold, clear sky.

P1050878.jpg

You may find an icy stream rearranging itself in the sunshine. Change.

 

The last — or will it be the last? –snowfall melts under the focused blaze of the sun.

P1050898.jpg

Old attitudes begin to thaw along with the snow and the ice. You feel pliable, flexible, more comfortable with ambiguity.

P1050885.jpg

 

There’s still plenty of the old prairie grasses, untouched by fire, to remind us of last season.

P1050905.jpg

On other prairies, the newly-scorched earth is witness to how life can drastically change within moments.

IMG_9329.jpg

In early March, the remains of last year’s prairie seem fragile; transient. Poised on the edge of something new.

P1050717.jpg

On the first day of spring, a thunderstorm rumbles through. Hail taps against the tallgrass. Who knows what the week ahead will bring? Sunshine or snowflakes; sleet or heat, mud or slush. Then, rewind to winter again. Anything is possible.

P1050890.jpg

Despite the calendar’s confirmation of spring, on long strings of gray days, it’s easy to feel stuck. Mired in the old.

P1050872.jpg

But the return of migrating birds; the heightened colors of our regular year-round visitors at the backyard feeders and on the prairie, are a reassurance that something new is coming. Another chapter in the prairie story is beginning. How will our own story be different this time around?

P1050659

Spring, with its wildflowers and floods of green, slowly moves onstage; a series of stops and starts.

IMG_9348

We’re impatient to embrace it all. This season, we vow, we’ll be more intentional. Risk  a little, love more, adventure out where we’re uncomfortable. Speak up instead of be silent. Pay attention.

In her book, The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit offers this thought: Will your story be largely an account of what has happened to you? Or will it be an account of what you did?  It’s so easy to stay with what works. Go with the flow. Let the days pass as they always have.

P1050862.jpg

Take a long hike on the prairie. Think about its story of growth, of testing by fire, of resurrection. Reflect on what you really want to do with the time you have just ahead.

P1050695.jpg

How will you be intentional about your story this season? What will your story be?

Go, and find out.

***

The opening quote is from The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit (1961-), who has written more than a dozen books about the nature of place,  and our place in the world. Another good book from Solnit is Wanderlust: A History of Walking. She is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): wetland, Prairie Walk Pond and Dragonfly Landing, Lisle, IL: iced bison (Bison bison) track, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; ice melt video, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; beaver (Castor canadensis) dam on the prairie wetlands, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; bison (Bison bison) tracks in the mud, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; tallgrass, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; prescribed burn, local prairie planting, Glen Ellyn, IL; switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Prairie Walk Pond and Dragonfly Landing, Lisle, IL; iced bison (Bison bison) track, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) in a willow (Salix viminalis), author’s backyard prairie, Glen Ellyn, IL; moon over author’s backyard prairie, Glen Ellyn, IL; wildflower street sign, Rochelle, IL; deer (Odocoileus virginianus) at The Morton Arboretum oak savanna, Lisle, IL; Schulenberg Prairie Savanna, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.