Tag Archives: fullmoon

September Song

The prairie orchestra tunes up. The conductor pauses, lifts her baton.

The earth slants. There’s a shift in the light.


September’s first full moon rises, red-tinged against the sky.


Days shorten. The prairie strikes new notes each morning . The first New England asters open, fringed blasts of color against a chorus of brassy golds and whites.


In my backyard, the feeders underscore the mornings with activity. Although the male hummingbirds have left for warmer climes, females and small fry remain, juicing up for the long journey across the Gulf of Mexico.


So tiny. And yet, capable of so much.

Monarch butterflies respond to orchestrated seasonal cues; sip goldenrod nectar, pack their butterfly bags for Mexico.


Green darner dragonflies swarm, a percussion of clicks, clacks, whirs and buzzes. They gird themselves for migration as well, although where they will end their journey remains a mystery.

The last white-faced meadowhawks and American rubyspot damselflies linger on the prairie, measuring their lives in moments. They pause. Rest.

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There’s a melancholy feel to the days, a change to a minor key. Green, stippled chords of fruit cling to the rapidly undressing black walnut limbs that overhang the brook.


Willoway Brook catches the trees’ spent leaves, then moves them in legato downstream.


On the edge of the prairie, there’s a crescendo of white snakeroot, goldenrod, and lavender Joe Pye.


The bison at Nachusa Grasslands rustle the musical score of summer; turn it to the new pages of autumn. Their coats thicken in anticipation of the cold weather to come as the last echoes of hot weather begin to fade.

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The conductor waves her baton, and tells the prairie: Make seeds… Seeds… SEEDS. The prairie responds in a wild orgy of outpouring.

Wild lettuce nods to the woodwinds, waiting to send its next generations  aloft.


I hike through Indian grass blooms, which shower me with staccato bits of yellow confetti. Later, I brush bits of gold out of my hair; flick them from my clothing.


But the music of the prairie stays with me, long after I’ve left the tallgrass.

It’s only the first verse of September’s song.

Just think of the beautiful music to come.

All photos by Cindy Crosby. (Top to bottom): White snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) and Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; rising full moon, author’s backyard, Glen Ellyn, IL; New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) SP; ruby-throated hummingbird, author’s backyard; monarch on Canada goldenrod, SP; white-faced meadowhawk dragonfly, SP; American rubyspot damselfly, SP;  black walnuts, SP; Willoway Brook, SP; oak savanna (white snakeroot; Canada goldenrod; Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum), SP; bison, Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL (The Nature Conservancy); wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa), SP; Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) SP. 

After a Snow


I asked a prairie restoration manager I knew if there was a time of the year he didn’t particularly care for on the prairie. He grimaced. “Late winter,” he told me decisively.

February, that is.

It’s true the prairie is different this month. The grasses, once vibrant, lush and green, now take on a straw-like brittleness. Colors drain into beiges and browns. Thistle-SP 2015

The large expanse of sky often turns steely gray, depressing spirits. Bird life slows. It’s cold. Bitterly cold. Sometimes February on the prairie can seem, well… flat. Static.

Then comes the snow.

February 3 – tonight — is the “Full Snow Moon” according to Native American lore and the Farmers’ Almanac.


Here, just west of Chicago, the name seems particularly apt, as we accumulated more than 19 inches of the white stuff in less than 24 hours.

There’s something magical about a big snow on the prairie. As it falls, it muffles sounds, softens rough edges; polishes sharp angles into soft curves.

Then the sun comes out. The prairie, earthy and unassuming the day before, glitters with a tinseled radiance like a Hollywood starlet. The brook thaws.


Blue shadows pool in the new-laid tracks of prairie critters venturing through the drifts.


A red-tailed hawk thoughtfully considers their movements, contemplating lunch.


The cloudless sky is achingly blue; you feel it like a jolt when a crow inks its way overhead.

And suddenly, February on the prairie is transformed.

It’s the most beautiful month of all.

Or so it may seem, after a snow.


 ( Top: Willoway Brook on the Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Thistle (SP); Moon, Glen Ellyn, IL;  Willoway Brook (SP); mouse tracks, Nachusa Grasslands,Franklin Grove, IL ; Red-tailed Hawk (SP). All photos by Cindy Crosby)