UK Wildflower Meadows v. Illinois Prairies/ Learning to Appreciate the Subtle

In an article in The Conversation about Roadside Wildflowers, the author states that…

Since the end of World War II, 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been dug up or destroyed. Many won’t remember a time when the countryside was filled with grassland that rippled with rainbows of flowers, but they are likely to recognise the intense yellow glare of pesticide-soaked oilseed rape fields that dominate rural landscapes today.

(See here for the article: http://theconversation.com/roadside-wildflower-meadows-are-springing-up-across-the-uk-and-theyre-helping-wildlife-in-a-big-way-120014)

Here I am in the Midwest USA and I cannot imagine the joy of finding a roadside wildflower meadow! I do try to find parking lot beauty, sky beauty, nature’s beauty wherever I can, but I have yet to find a wildflower meadow.  I do notice lovely small colors in early and late spring, weed like plants in the Midwest that must do for us, but no riot of colors as seen in UK wildflower meadows.

Meadows of flowers? I cannot imagine such joy.

However, I grew up near a native Illinois prairie, but rarely appreciated it. The colors are much more mute, scruffy somehow compared to a wildflower meadow.

Nearby, a group of conservationists at the Morton Arboretum have preserved this mostly now gone natural wonderland, the Illinois Prairie.  I must visit and report back, keeping in mind that no, the colors won’t be as dramatic, but I am practiced in finding beauty.

I have often used this more subtle beauty in my poetry and fiction, and I do appreciate nature’s beauty and healing properties–but admit to loving the dramatic colors of autumn more.

Thanks for reading.  May you find beauty everywhere as well.

 

milkweed in prairie  (Image of milkweed in a prairie from the Creative Commons.)

 

Prairie Walk and Illinois Prairie Wildflowers

This photo I took in the prairie today:  (See also: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/146854985/posts/606)

 

rosinweed native illinois prairie wildflowers
Rosinweed, Illinois prairie wildflower

Photos by Dr. John Hilty, Illinois Wildflowers, Illinois Wildflowers

 

And these from the University of Illinois: Illinois Wildflowers from the University of Illinois

 

 

 

I (accidentally) grew up on a prairie (sort of)

Sand prairie at The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.                 I accidentally grew up with a few acres of rare Midwestern prairie behind our home.  When we moved from Chicago, my parents bought a house not yet built, in a neighborhood with streets not yet paved.  At first, we had sticks in mud with street names painted on them.  The area was filled with former soldiers using their benefits to buy their first home in that unknown place called the suburbs. The lure was land, open spaces, less crime, better schools, and a chance at the so-called American Dream.

Before we moved, neighbors had nearly burned us out of our apartment with cooking while drunk, had left their used needles in the common ways, and gangs were eyeing my now teen aged elder brother.

My parents were terrified of what would happen to my teen brother at first, then the rest of us.

So they headed west, to a suburb mostly mud and dreams at that time.

And a surprise behind the house? The few acres of prairie remained, with a small swamp at one end.  We didn’t know it at the time, but two towns were suing for the right to build on this land.  Each town felt these precious acres were part of their town, and the lawsuit went on for a dozen years.

But during those years, we had this piece of prairie heaven to ourselves; it was a place for children to safely play and explore.  We grew to believe that butterflies lived everywhere and were plentiful, that wildflowers would forever grow, that the summer days would never end as we played, made up stories (okay, that was me), and explored.

But to me, I was a bit afraid of the swamp up close, for the stories were becoming our childhood myths: witches lived there. Children–and even airplanes!–disappeared in the swamp.

So I spent a lot of time watching the prairie sunsets from my own backyard, often standing on a rickety picnic table to catch the very last rays of sun.  I was drawn to this beauty, drawn to the sky, the sun, the miracle of the ending of daylight.

I had no camera back then to capture a sunset, as I was just a child myself and cameras were something professionals had at weddings or older family members had for special days.

As to the swamp? I’ll write more about my love/ hate relationship with that magical place another time.

When I drive through the flat lands of the Midwest now, I often think of how boring all this flatness is–no variety.  But then I remember the magic of sunsets on a prairie.

These are not my photographs, (these are photos in the public domain) but they do capture something of what I remember: the beauty of wide open land that led to the miracle of a sunset.  Every day.