“I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is.” —Barbara Brown Taylor
Sandhill cranes cry high above the prairie, scribbling indecipherable messages in the sky. They’re on the move south.
I’ll scan the skies the next few weeks, admiring them as they leave. The prairie skies will be emptier this winter when they’re gone. Months from now, I’ll see them again, heading north in the spring. What will the world look like then? It’s impossible to know.
I hike the prairie, deep in thought. It’s so easy to focus on what is being lost. November, with its seasonal slide into long nights and short days, seems to invite that. I have to remind myself to pay attention to what is in front of me. What the season offers. Seeds. Everywhere, the prairie is an explosion of seeds.
Seeds like pom poms.
Seeds born aloft, in spent flower heads, like so many antenna.
Seedheads are skeletal. Architectural.
Seeds are impressionistic.
Seeds flying high in the prairie sky.
Seeds caught in mid-fall. Almost there. Almost.
The pandemic has dragged on and on. Just when I thought we’d turned a corner—almost!—it feels like we’re headed in the wrong direction again. Seems we’re not out of the woods yet.
It’s easy to get distracted, worrying about the future. Sometimes my mind turns over my fears in a relentless cycle. Reading the newspaper over breakfast just fuels the fire. I forget to remind myself of all I have to be grateful for.
Family. Friends. Food on the table. A roof over my head. This prairie to help care for.
It helps me to list these things. And then, to remind myself what’s good and lovely in the world.
I’m thankful to see the prairie seeds.
They remind me that another season has passed.
A new season is just months away. Seeing the prairie give its energy to creating life through its seeds fills me with hope. Such a cycle! What a marvel.
Here, in the tallgrass, I see a world full of color. Motion. Sound. Beauty. The only tallgrass headlines are “Wow!”
How wonderful it is to be alive.
I walk, and I look, and I walk some more. How amazing to have the luxury of going to a beautiful place, with time just to think. How grateful I am to have a strong knee now, to take me down these trails that just three years ago gave me tremendous pain to hike.
How overwhelmed with thanks I am that my body is cancer-free, after two years of uncertainty and fear. How grateful I am for this reprieve. There are no guarantees. We can only, as the late writer Barry Lopez wrote, keep “leaning into the light.”
Your list of worries is probably different than mine. So, I imagine, is your list of what you’re thankful for. I hope this week finds you in a good place. I hope you have your own list of what brings you joy, in the midst of whatever you are dealing with.
This week I’m going to put aside my worries about the future. I’m going to focus on joy. There’s a lot to be thankful for. The prairie reminds me of this. I hope you can go for a hike, wherever you find yourself, and be reminded, too.
All photos this week unless otherwise noted are from the Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.
The opening quote is from Barbara Brown Taylor’s (1951-) An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. She is also the author of Learning to Walk in the Dark and many other books.
Join Cindy for a program or class!
Winter Prairie Wonders: Discover the December Delights of the Tallgrass! Dec. 3 (Friday) 10-11:30 am (Central): 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.
Just in time for the holidays! Northwestern University Press is offering The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction and Chasing Dragonflies: A Natural, Cultural, and Personal History (with watercolor illustrations by Peggy MacNamara) for 40% off the retail price. Click here for details. Remember to use Code Holiday40 when you check out.
Please visit your local independent bookstore (Illinois’ friends: The Arboretum Store in Lisle and The Book Store in Glen Ellyn) to purchase or order Tallgrass Conversations: In Search of the Prairie Spirit for the holidays. Discover full-color prairie photographs and essays from Cindy and co-author Thomas Dean.
Save Bell Bowl Prairie! Visit the website to find out how you can help keep this critical remnant from being bulldozed in Illinois. One phone call, one letter, or sharing the information with five friends will help us save it.