“The opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference.”–Paul Gruchow
The sun lobs her light into the early morning hours. Mist rises from the warmth of the tallgrass into the cool air. It’s quiet, except for the wake-up songs of a few migrating warblers, resting in the nearby trees.
Dawn is later now. The autumn equinox is only days away. You feel the transition in the slant of the light, the scent of the breezes. The just-past-full harvest moon this week seemed to speak of the cold and dark to come.
The prairie year rushes toward its inevitable conclusion.
Drive by the prairie in late September. The impression is a sea of grasses. It’s easy to be indifferent to the seeming sameness, if you don’t take time to pay attention and look carefully.
So. Get out of your car. Sit. Look up at the sunflowers. See the migrating monarch nectaring?
Celebrate the grasshopper, the bee, the cricket. Each one with plant associations; each irreplaceable in the prairie community.
Applaud the profusion of asters, dabbing the prairie with purple.
Watch as the prairie, under the lessening light, gently puts on the brakes. Seeds ripen and fall; some gathered by volunteers, others fuel for grassland birds or tiny mice and voles. Bison thicken up their hairy chocolate-colored coats.
Admire the boneset, one of the last flushes of extravagant flowers before the frosts touch the grasses. Boneset was once valued for its medicinal qualities; its ability to alleviate pain. Discomfort is part of change, but there is always solace in unexpected places. The clouds of pale boneset are one of the comforts of a prairie in transition.
Inhale, smell the buttery prairie dropseed, the lemony scent of gray-headed coneflower seeds, the dusty mint of bee balm.
Are transitions difficult for you, as they are for me? Are you watching and listening as the tallgrass moves from the warm season; melds into the coming cold?
Let the prairie remind you that there is always something amazing waiting, just around the corner. Love the transitions. Embrace what is bittersweet. Don’t be indifferent. Or afraid of change. Keep moving forward with anticipation to the new season ahead.
The opening quote is from Grass Roots: The Universe of Home, by Minnesota writer Paul Gruchow (1947-2004). Gruchow grappled with depression throughout his writing life; he found solace in the solitude of wild places, especially prairie.
All photos copyright Cindy Crosby: (top to bottom): Prairie planting, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; just past full harvest moon seen from author’s prairie patch, Glen Ellyn, IL; Clear Creek, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; red-legged grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum) on Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; silky asters (Symphyotrichum sericeum), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; bison (Bison bison), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; tall boneset (Eupatorium altissimum), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; mist over prairie planting, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; September on the Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.