“Show’s over, folks. And didn’t October do a bang-up job? Crisp breezes, full-throated cries
of migrating geese, low-floating coral moon. Nothing left but fool’s gold in the trees.” —Maggie Dietz
It’s transition week on the prairie.
This past weekend in the Chicago region we had our first freeze warning. In my garden, I’ve long given up on the tender perennials. Basil and zucchini were zapped by frosts last week. But parsley, rainbow chard, and zinnias still hang on, as do some overlooked cherry tomatoes. I plucked infant “Giant Italian” green peppers from the plants, chopped and froze them. Then, I picked bowlfuls of hard green tomatoes which slowly ripen on the kitchen counter. Each one is a memory of a warmer season past.
October is over. Welcome, November.
Now, the leaves flame into color, then drift through the cold air like confetti in brisk winds.
Now, the late prairie wildflowers transform to seed or are plundered by birds.
Grasses, nibbled and worn by weather and wind, sprinkle their progeny on the prairie soil.
It’s all about the seeds.
And will be, until fire touches the dry grass and wildflowers. Months away.
In the mornings, I brew large carafes of coffee and sip slowly while reading the paper. The news is both encouraging—and disheartening. The pandemic seems to be winding down. Vaccines are widely available. And yet. As of November 1, more than 5 million have died from Covid-19. Who would have imagined this, just two years ago? Later, I pull out my journals and revisit those early days of March 2020, when the pandemic began. Wiping down groceries. Waving at our grandkids from the driveway. Counting how many rolls of toilet paper we had left. It’s been a long haul.
Despite the grim news, I feel hopeful going into the winter of 2021. Much more optimistic than I’ve been since the pandemic’s first days.
There was good news over breakfast. On Monday, November 1, Chicago-Rockford International Airport was to bulldoze the Bell Bowl Prairie. At the eleventh hour, thanks to the tireless work of many dedicated people, it received a stay of execution until March 1, 2022. Perhaps not the type of closure we hoped for. But a step in the right direction. You can read more here.
It feels good to tap into those emotions again.
The prairie walks I take are a part of that optimism. They’ve kept my spirits up through the pandemic. Kept me in touch with the wonders that are always all around, no matter how grim the headlines.
I hope wherever you find yourself, you’ll go for a walk today. Pause. Soak up whatever beauty you see.
Then, say a “thank you” for wonders, big and small. And “thank you” for a little good news.
The opening lines for today’s post are from the poem “November” by Maggie Dietz is a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Her first book of poems, Perennial Fall, won the Jane Kenyon Award. Read more about Dietz here. She lives in New Hampshire.
Thank you to everyone who helped write letters, make phone calls, create art, music, and poetry, and give time to the Save Bell Bowl Prairie campaign. The prairie isn’t safe yet, but there is hope for its future.
Join Cindy for a class or program!
Winter Prairie Wonders: Discover the December Delights of the Tallgrass! Dec. 3 (Friday) 10-11:30 am (CST): Make yourself a cup of hot tea, snuggle under a warm afghan, and join prairie steward and writer Cindy Crosby virtually for this interactive online immersion into the tallgrass prairie in winter. See the aesthetic beauty of the snow-covered grasses and wildflowers in cold weather through colorful images of winter on the prairies. Follow animal tracks to see what creatures are out and about, and see how many you can identify. Learn how birds, pollinators, and mammals use winter prairie plants; the seeds for nourishment and the grasses and spent wildflowers for overwintering, protection, and cover. Then, listen as Cindy shares brief readings about the prairie in winter that will engage your creativity and nourish your soul. This is scheduled as a Zoom event through The Morton Arboretum. Register here.