“In my end is my beginning.” —T.S. Eliot
You can see it coming.
It’s the last day of meteorological autumn.
Monday, I woke to scoured aluminum-colored skies. It was cold. So cold. This is the transition season, where I’m not quite adjusted to the shorter daylight hours, the dropping temperatures. I feel an urge to hibernate. To curl up with a good book and stay indoors.
But look what I’d miss!
As John Updike wrote in his poem, November: “And yet the world, nevertheless, displays a certain loveliness; the beauty of the bone…”.
I go to the prairie, and I’m glad I did. Four deer greet me.
They spook at first, then settle in to browse. I wonder what greens they might find on a landscape that’s the color of an old sepia photograph. Then, a buck pokes his head out of the tallgrass. Oh! Yummy.
As a prairie steward, deer don’t always strike me as beautiful, or desirable. They browse some of the choicest wildflowers in the spring and summer.
But I admire the deer this morning. I don’t usually see so many of them here. Deer hunting season is underway this month. This Illinois Nature Preserve is a safe haven for them.
The prairie is full of endings now. Battered plants. Tattered foliage.
Endings are evident in the spent flower heads, whether you view them from the side…
…or from the top.
The compass plant’s dried, resinous sap, when scraped from the stem, still has that pine-fresh smell. The sap looks like snow crystals…
The seed heads are as pretty as the flowers were this summer.
I don’t usually think of an ending as particularly beautiful, unless it’s the ending of a powerful book. But the grand finale of a prairie autumn is worth the term.
Tomorrow is the first day of meteorological winter. Farewell, November Prairie. Hello, December. A new beginning.
The opening quote is by poet T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) from his Four Quartets. Eliot won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948). You can read about Eliot here, and listen to him read from Four Quartets here.
Join Cindy for a Program or Class!
Winter Prairie Wonders: Discover the December Delights of the Tallgrass! Dec. 3 (Friday) 10-11:30 am (Central): 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.
Just in time for the holidays! Northwestern University Press is offering The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction and Chasing Dragonflies: A Natural, Cultural, and Personal History (with watercolor illustrations by Peggy MacNamara) for 40% off the retail price. Click here for details. Remember to use Code Holiday40 when you check out.
Please visit your local independent bookstore (Illinois’ friends: The Arboretum Store in Lisle and The Book Store in Glen Ellyn) to purchase or order Cindy’s books. This includes Tallgrass Conversations: In Search of the Prairie Spirit, where you’ll discover full-color prairie photographs and essays from Cindy and co-author Thomas Dean.
Save Bell Bowl Prairie! Visit the website to find out how you can help keep this critical remnant from being bulldozed in Illinois. One phone call, one letter, or sharing the information with five friends will help us save it.