Monday, July 28, 2014

Listen to prairie laugh as it dances with the wind

The Nature Conservancy posted via Facebook yesterday a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, "the earth laughs in flowers." If you want to experience that laughter first hand, this would be a great week to visit what I call the county line prairie --- a remnant sandwiched between Highway 65 and the Cinder Path on the Lucas-Wayne county line between Derby and Humeston.

I drove down Sunday --- a very windy afternoon marked by shifting light as cumulus clouds waltzed with the sun. It wasn't a good day for photography so I'll be headed back --- there are miracles hiding in the grass. But it was a great day to experience a tiny sample of a time 200 years ago --- and for millennia before that ---  when Iowa's tallgrass prairies laughed as they danced with the wind for as far as eyes could see.

Dense colonies of Gray-Headed (yellow) Coneflowers are putting on the best show right now, but Prairie Blazing Stars are coming on.

This is not a drive-by experience; you need to stop the car, get out and look. Watch for the big white anhydrous ammonia tank on the east side of the highway and pull off there, onto a gravel drive that provides access to the Cinder Path. 

The best way to experience the prairie is to wade in --- don't worry, farm equipment destroyed the prairie, buffalo and prairie fires didn't. But watch where you're going and don't tromp on anything unnecessarily. Wear sturdy shoes and long pants. At the least, walk north a little on the Cinder Path and look to the west.

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