Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This American Dream

American Dream

We have lost much of what was America—
the prominent tallgrass prairies of our Midwest, the natural look of this land.

Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea

Where, within open spaces dominated by the towering seedheads of big bluestem, Indiangrass and switchgrass, wildflowers on leggy stems emerged from between the broad, toothed leaves of prairie dock. Fields were sprinkled with shades of lavender in spreading stands of wild bergamot. Blankets of purple coneflower, rested beneath reaching rods of blazingstar.
And a lovely, wild lily was found here--
head nodding from a tall, slender stem.

Sullivant's Milkweed, Asclepias sullivantii

Wild Burgamot, Monarda fistulosa

Michigan Lily, Lilium michiganense

Onto fertile, black earth, the steel plow arrived, to turn and till these plains—
plant crops for a growing nation.
Until today, only fragments remain.
Of those hardy prairie plants, tough enough to withstand the droughts claiming others less well-rooted, the fires necessary for their survival.
Once covering more than a million acres, the wild beauties of Ohio’s Tallgrass have become a sight you, now, must search to see.

Trumpeter Swans and cygnets on lake

Past a small, yellow farmhouse and its neighboring cell tower straddling dense, deep rows of green corn, is Killdeer Plains, a remnant of the Sandusky Plains Prairie of long ago.
Its gravel roads and gated paths signify its place now—
a space set aside from the others.
Tucked between fields of winter wheat,
preserved and protected from change.

Purple Coneflower and Blazingstar, Liatris sp.

From across this wide sky, where clouds are stacked upon the horizon waiting for the full light of day, an eagle crosses before me. And takes his place in the dead tree on this prairie which now is his home.
If we could do things differently, would we--
redefine the American dream?

Bald Eagle over Killdeer Plains

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Shelly Cox said...

What a beautiful and inspiring post. Missouri has less than 2% of it's tall grass prairies still intact. I experienced my first foray onto the prairie a couple of summers ago and it was an adventure I won't soon forget. The lovely flowers, the gorgeous Regal Fritillary's that call no other habitat home, the heat, the blackberry bushes leaving behind their scratches. Each exciting first, and each discomfort combined for a truly memorable moment in time.

KGMom said...

Nina--this post makes me ache.
I fear we are doing irreperable damage to our country as we so casually use (and abuse) the land.
I just drove home today, after visiting my father, along roads with jerseys walls dividing the sides, and high sound barriers along the sides. And I cringe when I see the carcasses of poor trapped critters that got stuck inside this human made labyrinth.


Kathie Brown said...

Nina, you know I would! I love that first photo. It gives me the feeling of the vast expanse of sky and land. I love the roiling clouds, so puffy and lumpy!

nonizamboni said...

Wonderful prose and photos. I can't get enough of that large sky. Very nicely done and thought provoking.
p.s. Prodigal Summer is one of my top ten favorite books!

Wanda..... said...

Beautiful photos Nina and a very moving post...

Bradley Hsi said...

I remember when I in Kansas and reading about the opening of American West. Then when I drove out to the field and felt sad of when we took the West (from the Indian or from nature), have we taken care of it?

jay said...

What a lovely, reflective post! So nicely written!

We have lost much of what was England, too. You can still find traditional hayfields, complete with a multitude of wildflowers, and of course, we have our National Parks which preserve all, but so much is lost to concrete and intensive farming.

I think it's very sad, but in a way, inevitable.

Roger Owen Green said...

Seems that a lot of the beauty has be eroded Need to hold onto as much of nature as we can.

Rose said...

Such a beautiful post, Nina! There are very few places where the original prairie still exists in Illinois as well. Just yesterday my friend and I visited a local park where a few acres have been restored to prairie. Walking around this prairie restoration, admiring all the wildflowers provided some tranquillity in an otherwise hectic week. Thanks for verifying the wild bergamot--we thought that was what it was!

Deborah Godin said...

What a wonderful paen for the disappearing eastern wild lands! When I lived in the foothills of the Rockies, I had 10.5 acres of mixed poplar/spruce woods and pastures of original shortgrass prairie. The variety and sheer numbers of wildflowers (especially after a good run-off and spring rains)was something to behold. Your beautiful photos make the celebration here complete!

Tom said...

Hello again Nina
I have to say that I am English to the bone.... but this post and how you wrote bought lump to my throat... if I was an American I think by the end I would have been blubbering away. Your love of, and care for, of your countries nature and wildlife is a joy to view and read.
My blogs today show a Gypsy Waggon and a Weather Vane

nina at Nature Remains. said...

This whole weekend was bittersweet.
Because as lovely as it was and wonderful to visit the prairie, the fact that I had to GO somewhere to see something that had been a part of the natural landscape years ago, says much.
And, for a Bald Eagle, the emblem of our country, to chose this prairie for nesting and for its re-establishment means these places, as well as the lives they support carry great importance.
It's more than just a pretty place.

Robin said...

That last picture just about makes me cry.....

Weedpicker Cheryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Weedpicker Cheryl said...

You captured it beautifully, Nina. 99.9% of our Ohio Prairies have gone by way of the plow but something was terribly lost, when progress made such a gain. CBH

Anonymous said...

I have never been west of...Cleveland, so I too share that typical American dream, which drives many of us, inexorably, west, toward the land where everything is big and wonderful.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I would like to think that we would take better care of our earth...but it is unlikely I am sad to say.