“The more concerned we become with the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.” —John Wooden
Come hike with me, as March’s sunshine duels with storms and rainbows. Let’s get away from the news for while.
March weather means brace for turbulence. Each forecast hangs by a thread…
… and may change from moment to moment. When you’re inside watching college basketball you don’t notice the weather so much. But on a long hike! The weather is the thing. You check the sky each moment for clues about what the weather will throw at you next.
So much going on along the trail. Mosses greening up…
…while fungi fans out orange on the fallen logs…
…and lichens crochet circles on the tree trunks.
A few trees are eviscerated by prescribed fire, a different “March madness” that consumes all natural resource stewards and staff in the spring. There’s only a short window to put the flames on the ground; rejuvenating our woodlands and prairies. Will the weather cooperate?
Other trees are poised between dormancy and leaf-out. Soon the woods will be misted with emerald. It’s the pause before the big dance between dormancy and awakening.
Rains and snowmelt have left large pools of standing water. No chorus frogs…yet. Too cold today.
Limestone trails are sloppy; the chalky slush clings to my hiking shoes.
In the prairie ponds, a blue-winged teal paddles alone, back from its winter vacation down south.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen this duck species. What a pleasure to find one amid the common mallards, dabbling for goodies under the water’s surface! Although mallards are pretty handsome birds.
Overhead, the first killdeer fly by, uttering their strange eerie cries. Feathers caught in the grasses and shrubs hint at other birds, still unseen.
Large flocks of sandhill cranes pass over, calling to each other as they scrawl their calligraphy in the sky.
Waves and waves and waves of sandhill cranes… .
As Jeff and I hike the seemingly endless trail under a shifting platinum sky, the sun occasionally illuminates the prairies around us. Then retreats. Deep in the grasses, white-tailed deer herd themselves from prairie to woodland. We count them as they spring across the prairie. Three…five…ten…thirteen.
Then, they noiselessly vanish into the woods.
I turn my attention to the grasses. Can I identify the prairie plants in various states of decomposition?
I try. Tall coreopsis.
And—a jumble of other plants in various stages of senescence.
The soft, fuzzy common mullein, one of the forest’s aliens, push up toward warmth and sunlight.
Garlic mustard, another unwanted invader, announces its presence with its bright green leaves. Lots of stewardship work ahead.
Such a juxtaposition! The bright emerald growth of spring. The russets and taupes; ochres and chocolates of last year’s grasses, woody plants, and wildflowers.
March is a season of transition. It’s ripe for the possibility of change.
The southwest skies darken. Wind ripples the grasses. We pick up our pace, feeling the aches and pains of almost five miles on the trail.
Out of breath, we reach the parking lot just in time. The first rumbles of thunder and raindrops are minutes away.
It’s the end of March on the prairie.
Out with the old.
Waiting for something new.
April is a breath away. Another month to start fresh.
Another month to wait, work, and hope for change.
John Wooden (1910-2010), “The Wizard of Westwood,” is best known for winning ten NCAA national basketball championships— and a record seven in a row —during his tenure as coach with the UCLA Bruins.
Join Cindy for a class or program this spring!
Literary Gardens–In Person: — Wednesday, March 29, 7-8:30 p.m. La Grange Park Public Library, LaGrange, IL. (Free but limited to the first 25 people). For more information, contact the library here.
The Tallgrass Prairie: Grocery Store, Apothecary, and Love Charm Shop: April 4, 7-8:30 pm. Free and open to the public. Presented by the Winfield Area Gardeners. For more information and location, visit here.
A Brief History of Trees in America: April 5 (Closed event for the Illinois Garden Council). Chicago Western Suburbs.
Literary Gardens — In Person — April 11, 7-8:30 p.m., Glenview Garden Club and Glenview Public Library. Free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Register here.
Illinois’ Wild and Wonderful Early Bloomers — Monday, April 17, 5-6 p.m., Rock River Garden Club, Dixon, IL. (Closed event for members)
The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction — Tuesday, April 18, Algonquin Garden Club, 12:30-2 p.m. (Closed event for members)
Spring Wildflower and EthnobotanyWalk—Thursday, April 20, 8:30-10:30 am or Saturday, April 29, 8:30-10:30 am at The Morton Arboretum. Registration information here. (Both walks SOLD OUT, ask to be put on a waiting list)
The Tallgrass Prairie in Popular Culture –Sunday, April 23, 2-5 p.m. The Land Conservancy’s 32nd Annual Celebration, High Tea at the McHenry Country Club, Woodstock, IL. Tickets are $45-$70 — available here.
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