“Start anywhere to catch the light.” — Joy Harjo
Snow! At last. Bright sparks in what has been a predominantly gray week.
Snow quilts the Chicago suburbs, softening harsh edges, muffling sound.
It prompts joie de vivre for the holidays.
And where better to hike in the snow than the prairie?
Snow dusts crystals on the tallgrass wildflowers, gone to seed…
…sifts into milkweed pod seams…
….makes the unexceptional—astonishing.
Listen! The snow softens sounds in the tallgrass. Even the geese are uncharacteristically silent as they slide across the prairie pond.
A harsh wind blows the snow into em dashes.
The wind numbs my nose; sends a chill deep into my bones.
I keep hiking.
Who knows what the snow has transformed? What else is there to discover? I don’t want to miss a thing.
The sun has been a stranger this week. But Sunday and Monday, we had a short reprieve. Sunshine! Good sledding weather. I took a turn or two with a few of my grandkids, sliding down our small hill. Later, the day seesawed back and forth from sun back to that familiar silver-plated sky. But the brief hours of bright light were enough to lift our spirits.
Wednesday—tomorrow—is the Winter Solstice, also known as the first day of astronomical winter. With the fewest hours of daylight, it’s considered the darkest day of the year.
But the light is coming. Each day we’ll see more of it, until these gray days are only a distant memory.
Despite the parade of mostly gloomy days, there is so much beauty all around.
Even a short hike like this one today unwraps so many gifts. The gift of quiet. The gift of paying attention. The gift of using our senses to fully enjoy the incredible world around us.
I want to linger longer.
Every step on the snowy prairie rekindles my sense of wonder.
More snow—perhaps more than we might like—is on the way in the Chicago Region. The sort of snow that keeps the weather forecasters happily occupied as they predict the coming blizzard apocalypse. As I type this, the forecast calls for 30 below zero wind chill at the end of the week; plus a foot of white stuff on the way. Time to head to the grocery store and lay in a few supplies.
It’s not just people watching the weather. Sunday, right before dusk, I hear an unmistakeable sound over the house. I look up…and… .
Sandhill cranes! On their way south. Perhaps they’ve sensed the forecast—and are putting as many miles between themselves and the coming snowstorm as possible. I watch them until they disappear over the horizon.
Safe travels, sandhills.
And safe travels to all of you, dear readers, during the Hanukkah and Christmas festivities.
The opening quote is from Joy Harjo’s Catching the Light. Harjo (1951-) is our current United States Poet Laureate, and the first Native American to be so. She is also a musician and playwright.
Join Cindy for a Class or Program this Winter
The Tallgrass Prairie in Popular Culture—Friday, January 20, from 10-11:30 a.m. Explore the role the tallgrass prairie plays in literature, art, music—and more! Enjoy a hot beverage as you discover how Illinois’ “landscape of home” has shaped our culture, both in the past and today. Offered by The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL; register here.
Nature Writing Workshop— Four Thursdays (February 2, 9, 16, and 23) from 6-8:30 p.m. Join a community of nature lovers as you develop and nurture your writing skills in person. For more information and to register visit here.
Illinois Prairie needs you! Visit Save Bell Bowl Prairie to learn about this special place—one of the last remaining gravel prairies in our state —and to find out what you can do to help.