Tag Archives: promise

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. 

Prairie Possibilities

Two weeks ago the prairie was a smoldering ruin. Now, it brims with possibility.


There’s a surge of energy as green shoots push against ash and earth to break through to sunshine. Wood betony is immediately recognizable.

All that curly red!


Ditto for the rattlesnake master, whose yucca-like leaves are ID-friendly from the tiniest sprouts. The scientific species name, yuccifolium, speaks volumes about how the leaves appear. Yucca! Of course.


Despite all the new growth, the prairie is at least a week behind last season’s flowering schedule. Not a bloom in sight. However, there’s plenty of floral action in the adjacent edges of the prairie savanna. Bloodroot is opening under the trees.


An evocative name, isn’t it? Earned because of the reddish sap that flows when you break the root. Artists use the sap to create a natural red, pink, or orange dye for baskets and textiles.


Bluebells are budding. Wild ginger leaves emerge. Striped spring beauties splash the grass with pink, making a starry carpet under the oaks. Spring beauties are sometimes called “fairy spuds” as foragers treat the small roots of some species like miniature potatoes. I think they’re too pretty to eat.


The umbrellas of mayapples gradually unfurl.


Everywhere you look is the promise of something exciting. It’s the start of a new prairie year.

And you begin to believe that anything is possible.

(All photos by Cindy Crosby taken at The Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; prairie greening up; wood betony; rattlesnake master, bloodroot; bloodroot in full bloom; spring beauty; mayapple.)