Tag Archives: hope

Seeds of Hope in an Uncertain World

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” — from the Prayer of St. Francis


So much hate. How did we come to this?

The tallgrass offers solace, if only for a few hours. Come hike with me.  See what the prairie has to say about it all. Gain some perspective.


It’s good to be reminded that there is beauty in the world, even if it is sometimes fleeting.


There are small creatures who keep singing, no matter what the headlines say.


Little winged ones who bathe themselves in light.

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Comical critters who make us smile, even when world events and politics seem grim.

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The tallgrass reminds us that the cycle of the seasons will continue.


The prairie ripens its fruits, as it has each autumn for time past remembering.


The grasses and wildflowers foam with seeds.


The seed fluff puffs like fireworks…


…catches the wind, and sails aloft.


Landing in unlikely places.


Other seeds are plucked from thistle plants to line a goldfinch’s nest, and help nurture a new generation.


Each fruit, each seed is a promise. Although the road ahead is fraught with uncertainty…


…we will soon find ourselves at the beginning of a new season.


Every day, beautiful things are unfolding.


The prairie reminds us that the issues that consume our attention are only a blink in the immensity of time.


How will we spend our days this week? Let the seeds we sow for the future be ones that lighten the darkness.


When so many around us speak hate, let’s sow love. Let’s make a difference.


The opening quote is widely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-2 to 1226). He was known for his simplicity and a love for nature and animals, and often portrayed with a bird in his hand.

All photos above copyright Cindy Crosby at Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL (except where noted): view from Fame Flower Knob in October; two cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae), an orange sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme)and two clouded sulphur butterflies (Colias philodice) puddling by Clear Creek; red-legged grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum); field sparrow (Spizella pusilla) bathing in Clear Creek;  American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) ; fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus), author’s backyard prairie patch, Glen Ellyn, IL; Nachusa Grasslands in October; ground cherries (Physalis spp.); little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) with sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium); virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana);  unknown seed; unknown seed in spider web at Clear Creek; goldfinch (Spinus tristis) on pasture thistle (Cirsium discolor); road through Nachusa Grasslands; common buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) on white clover (Trifolium repens);  eastern comma butterfly (Polygonia comma) at bison watering area;  grasses on Fame Flower Knob with St. Peter’s sandstone; whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) seed pods. 

The Grassy Sea

“This dewdrop world  is a dewdrop world. And yet. And yet.” –Kobayashi Issa


September draws to a close. The prairie dreams;  wakens later each morning.


You gaze at the grass, all waves, and wind, and water. A grassy sea.


Foam is kicked up by the churning of the grasses.


The clouds become the prows of ships, tossing on the tumultuous air…


And you realize fences, no matter how strong, can never contain the tallgrass, washing up against the wires.


Fungi cling like barnacles to dropped limbs on the edges of the grasses…


You reflect on how, after almost being obliterated, the tallgrass prairie has hung on to life; survival by  a thread.

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It was a close call. Even today, prairie clings to old, unsprayed railroad right-of-ways in the center of industrial areas and landscaped lawns.


Little patches of prairie, scrabbling for life, show up in unlikely places.


Although the prairie’s former grandeur is only dimly remembered…


…and in many places, the tallgrass prairie seems utterly obliterated from memory, gone with the wind…

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…the  prairie has put down roots again. You can see it coming into focus in vibrant, growing restorations, with dazzling autumn wildflowers…


…and diverse tiny creatures.

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There is hope, glimpsed just over the horizon…IMG_8579.jpg

The dawn of a future filled with promise for a grassy sea.


Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), whose haiku opens this essay, was a Japanese poet regarded as one of the top four haiku masters of all time. He wrote this particular haiku after suffering tremendous personal loss.

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): mist rising over prairie planting, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; autumn at Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Conrad Savanna, The Nature Conservancy and Indiana DNR, Newton County, IN; Nachusa Grasslands in September, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; purple love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis) and sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium), Kankakee Sands, The Nature Conservancy, Newton County, IN; unknown fungi, Brown County State Park, Nashville, IN; marbled orb weaver in the grasses (Araneus marmoreus), Brown County State Park, Nashville, IN; big bluestem  (Andropogon gerardii) and other prairie plants along a railroad right-of-way, Kirkland, IN; prairie plants along an overpass, Bloomington, IN; thistles and grasses, Kankakee Sands, The Nature Conservancy, Newton County, IN; wind farm, Benton County, IN; great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), Kankakee Sands, The Nature Conservancy, Newton County, IN;  Eastern-tailed blue (Cupido comyntas), Brown County State Park, Nashville,  Indiana; Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL. 

Ghosts of the Tallgrass

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” George Washington Carver.

It’s an unseasonably warm day in December. Fog shrouds the prairie. Everything softens. Fades. Blurs.


Bison haunt the tallgrass, elusive and half-hidden.

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Illinois once had more than 22 million acres of prairie.


Today, only 3,000 original acres of  tallgrass remain.

A ghost of what once was.

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When we went looking for what was left of the prairie, we found only scraps. Prairie was found  in pockets and corners of land where the farmer’s plow and development could not reach.

Around rocky outcrops.


Along old railroad right of ways.


Tucked into neglected graveyards.


Isn’t it ironic that these neglected, overlooked places were virtual time capsules? That the  cemeteries of the dead became a repository for the living? For hope?

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A springboard for rebirth. Resurrection.


It takes vision to imagine a better future. To remember — and believe —  that hope for the future may be found in the most unexpected places. Where will you look?

All photos by Cindy Crosby except where noted (top to bottom) : prairie in the fog, Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; bison in the fog, NG;  misty December evening, NG; stand of trees in the tallgrass, NG; rocky knob, NG;  railroad tracks, Bosque del Apache, San Antonio, New Mexico — photo by Jeff Crosby;  tombstone, Chapel Hill Cemetery, just outside Rochelle, IL; CHC:; road through the bison unit, NG.


Prairie Endings and Beginnings

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” –T. S. Eliot

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October recedes in the rear-view mirror.


Hello, November.

On the edge of the prairie, ruby-leaved maples still spill their colors into the cold, blue air.


An Asian beetle scrambles along a wooden beam, then slows.


Grasshoppers flip and turn on the bridge through the tallgrass, then pause, as if asking: “What’s next?”


It’s the end of one cycle. And the beginning of another.

The season of seeds.


The prairie explodes with a seed extravaganza.

Asters shake their pom poms.

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Milkweeds breathe out tendrils of silk.


Cattails wave their batons to the rhythm the wind commands.

Seeds, seeds, seeds.


The prairie tosses its curls full of Canada wild rye, punctuated with thistle.


Enchanter’s nightshade casts its spell over the prairie savanna.


One by one, the seeds ripen, then loosen.

And so, they begin their journeys. Some by wind…


Some by water…


Some lifted by the hands of volunteers, who spend hours in the tallgrass picking prairie seeds into buckets;


spread them out in trays to dry.


The seeds wait, ready to be sown on winter’s first snow. The cold, damp conditions will ready them for germination in the spring.


The end of one chapter; the beginning of another.


The promise of something new to come.

All photos by Cindy Crosby: (top to bottom) Leaves, Springbrook Nature Center, Itasca, IL; bridge, SNC; maple (Acer spp.), SNC; Asian beetle, SNC; grasshopper, SNC; wild plum (Prunus americana), Songbird Slough Forest Preserve of DuPage County, Itasca, IL; asters (unknown species) , SS;  milkweed pod (Asclepias syriaca), SS; cattails (Typha latifolia), SS; Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis), Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana canadensis), NG; beebalm with milkweed seed (Monarda fistulosa and Asclepias syriaca), author’s backyard in Glen Ellyn, IL; Springbrook Creek by the prairie at SNC; seeds collected on the Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL;  native prairie seeds drying in the headhouse, SP;  little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), SP; goldenrod (Solidago spp), SS.

The opening quote is from T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets.”