Tag Archives: mud

Finding our Story on the Prairie

“Stories are compasses and architecture; …to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions. Place is a story, and stories are geography….” -Rebecca Solnit ***

It’s spring.  The geography of the early spring prairie is an unfolding story. It’s a good place to think about where you’ve been and where you are at now.  Where you’re headed next.

P1050719 (1)

There’s  evidence of what has passed on the March prairie. Bison tracks, filled with ice, glitter under the cold, clear sky.

P1050878.jpg

You may find an icy stream rearranging itself in the sunshine. Change.

 

The last — or will it be the last? –snowfall melts under the focused blaze of the sun.

P1050898.jpg

Old attitudes begin to thaw along with the snow and the ice. You feel pliable, flexible, more comfortable with ambiguity.

P1050885.jpg

 

There’s still plenty of the old prairie grasses, untouched by fire, to remind us of last season.

P1050905.jpg

On other prairies, the newly-scorched earth is witness to how life can drastically change within moments.

IMG_9329.jpg

In early March, the remains of last year’s prairie seem fragile; transient. Poised on the edge of something new.

P1050717.jpg

On the first day of spring, a thunderstorm rumbles through. Hail taps against the tallgrass. Who knows what the week ahead will bring? Sunshine or snowflakes; sleet or heat, mud or slush. Then, rewind to winter again. Anything is possible.

P1050890.jpg

Despite the calendar’s confirmation of spring, on long strings of gray days, it’s easy to feel stuck. Mired in the old.

P1050872.jpg

But the return of migrating birds; the heightened colors of our regular year-round visitors at the backyard feeders and on the prairie, are a reassurance that something new is coming. Another chapter in the prairie story is beginning. How will our own story be different this time around?

P1050659

Spring, with its wildflowers and floods of green, slowly moves onstage; a series of stops and starts.

IMG_9348

We’re impatient to embrace it all. This season, we vow, we’ll be more intentional. Risk  a little, love more, adventure out where we’re uncomfortable. Speak up instead of be silent. Pay attention.

In her book, The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit offers this thought: Will your story be largely an account of what has happened to you? Or will it be an account of what you did?  It’s so easy to stay with what works. Go with the flow. Let the days pass as they always have.

P1050862.jpg

Take a long hike on the prairie. Think about its story of growth, of testing by fire, of resurrection. Reflect on what you really want to do with the time you have just ahead.

P1050695.jpg

How will you be intentional about your story this season? What will your story be?

Go, and find out.

***

The opening quote is from The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit (1961-), who has written more than a dozen books about the nature of place,  and our place in the world. Another good book from Solnit is Wanderlust: A History of Walking. She is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): wetland, Prairie Walk Pond and Dragonfly Landing, Lisle, IL: iced bison (Bison bison) track, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; ice melt video, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; beaver (Castor canadensis) dam on the prairie wetlands, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; bison (Bison bison) tracks in the mud, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; tallgrass, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; prescribed burn, local prairie planting, Glen Ellyn, IL; switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Prairie Walk Pond and Dragonfly Landing, Lisle, IL; iced bison (Bison bison) track, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) in a willow (Salix viminalis), author’s backyard prairie, Glen Ellyn, IL; moon over author’s backyard prairie, Glen Ellyn, IL; wildflower street sign, Rochelle, IL; deer (Odocoileus virginianus) at The Morton Arboretum oak savanna, Lisle, IL; Schulenberg Prairie Savanna, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.

 

Signs of Spring

It’s coming. Have you noticed?

IMG_3142 (1).jpg

 

Forget the scraps of snow still visible in the shadier corners of the prairie.

IMG_2427.jpg

 

Overlook the still-cold temperatures.

The first signs of spring are everywhere. Sunrises are earlier.

IMG_3078 (1).jpg

 

Sunsets are later.

IMG_0294.jpg

 

In our gardens and yards, daffodils, crocus, and hyacinths knife up their bundles of leaves.

IMG_3096

 

Temperatures tease us by briefly climbing into the upper 50s. Snowdrops heed the signal; offer their first blooms. Who will break the news to them that a winter storm is in the forecast, only days away?

IMG_4027.JPG

 

All our glimpses of early spring are not sweetness and light. This week, warm winds howled up to 60 mph across the prairie. A spring tantrum, more than a winter storm.

IMG_3123 (1)

 

No longer frozen, the prairie paths shout “mud season!” Go for a hike, and your boots slurp, slurp, slurp with every step.

IMG_3111

 

The ice that limned the creeks and streams has disappeared …  temporarily, anyway. Water runs fast with snowmelt; cold and clear.

IMG_3129.jpg

 

Faintly familiar, but long-gone birds reappear and begin adding notes to the tallgrass soundtrack. Killdeer. The first tentative notes of red-winged blackbirds.  Winter’s juncos still hang around, not getting the spring memo. But give them a few weeks and they’ll pack their bags and head north. Soon the dickcissels and bob-o-links will be back on their regular tallgrass perches.

IMG_5649

 

In the last days of February, I study the prairie sky for migrating snow geese. I see them thick as storm clouds on weather radar reports. Yet, the sky remains empty, except for a few ubiquitous Canada geese.

IMG_3114.jpg

 

Nonetheless, I like knowing the snowies are flying somewhere above me. A sign of spring. On the move north.

IMG_0823.jpg

 

On the move, like the life of the prairie. The end of one season;

IMG_2656 (1)

… the beginning of something new.

Yes, there will be more snow and ice. February’s full moon is named by  Native American’s as the “Full Snows Moon.” I watched it rise last night; a harbinger of more snow and cold on the way.

IMG_3147.jpg

But we’ve gotten our first whiff of spring.  And it is good.

 

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom):  Rice-Lake Danada prairie planting, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Wheaton, IL; trail, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; sunrise looking east from author’s backyard prairie patch,  Glen Ellyn, IL; sunset, Nachusa Grassland, Franklin Grove, IL; crocus shoots, author’s backyard, Glen Ellyn, IL; snowdrops, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; storm over the Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; muddy trail, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Willoway Brook, Schulenberg Prairie savanna, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL;  dickcissel, Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; Canada geese over the Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; snow geese and Ross’s geese, Bosque del Apache, San Antonio, New Mexico; sunset, Russell Kirt Prairie East, College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, IL (looking west); full moon, author’s backyard prairie, Glen Ellyn, IL.