Let your heart be a portal for the songs of the universe.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Crystal Solace

Cooper and I slide into the prairie just after daybreak. Uniformly somber skies devoid of cloud patterns sprinkle light mists onto the slumbering Llano Estacado. The meager moisture does nothing to mitigate the ravages of drought in the bone dry environs. With air temperatures below the freezing point, weather conditions are ripe for transforming the bleak landscape into a land of enchantment.

The first to show appreciation of the damp breath of winter are the grasses. They quickly saturate and turn gray, freeze-dried hues into splendiferous rust and gold color tapestries. The freezing muzzle also starts to accentuate prairie vegetation with lucent coats of that alluring allotrope of water--ice. It dresses chollas to the nines. It modifies Wax Goldenweed skeletons into bejeweled scepters for prairie royalty. It converts cholla stems and branches into rhinestone cowboys. I pause to admire lustrous jewels of ice on rough shells of yucca pods. Their beauty amazes and energizes my spirit.

The frosty solitude seems to dampen Cooper’s urges to scamper across the prairie. His steps are deliberate. He pauses often and we listen to the whispers on the wind. They carry a message of hope and solace. This time of adversity shall pass.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Llano Estacado Horizon

Crystal Solace

Frosty Solitude

Diamonds On The Rough

Dressed To The Nines

Whispers On The Wind

Rhinestone Cowboys

Ruffled Passage

A Touch Of Class

Bejeweled Scepter

Splendiferous Straw

Lucent Adversity

Prairie Portal

Freezing Mizzle Bath

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sunlight, Shadows, And Frutas Amarillas

The first rays of sunlight find Cooper and me slogging down red dirt ranch roads. Recent snows are but a memory. Subfreezing night temperatures harden road surfaces and tire tracks into intricate arrays of grooves and ridges. Frozen water puddles heighten the drama of light and shadows playing across the ruddy complexion of the less-travelled prairie passages. The crystalline sheets resemble ice flows on a muddy river. Their shimmer invites brief pauses, pokes, and foot stomps. I savor a few moments of childhood memories.

Soon the raw reality of biting westerly breezes encourages us to push on. We end our ice road trek and thread our way down a Cholla Flats game trail. Cooper lives for these morning jaunts. Daybreak activities and wind borne scents of prairie denizens rouse primal instincts. They whet his desire to run. He leaves my side and disappears in the prairie grasses.

"To’sa-mocho ta’yetchy," whispers the wind. "White beard who rises with the sun...there is great medicine among the cholla. Close your eyes. Drink the timeless elixir of life." Eyes shut I erase a century of time and connect with the people of the Llano Estacado plains--the native inhabitants our forefathers new as Comanche. What would they make of such a fine day? They would embrace the power and austere beauty of the prairie. Similarly, the raw wilds of the Llano Estacado help to define me. I choose to walk forever with the people in harmony with the land.

I open my eyes. Splashes of distinctly yellow cholla fruit dominate the color palette of the sun-drenched winter prairie. In the tongue of early Mexican traders the bright yellow gems are frutas amarillas de cholla. What a glorious sight. Winter on the Llano Estacado is good for ailments of the heart and soul.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Ice Road Trekkers
(Cooper and El Llanero Viejo)

Comanche Spirit Warrior

Stalking The Llanero's Shadow

Frutas Amarillas De Cholla
(cylindropuntia imbricata aka Cane Cholla)

On Cholla Flats Trail

Winter Colors
(Cane Cholla fruit)

Daybreak Jaunt

Preaching To The Choir
(El Llanero Viejo)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Old Man Winter

One hour past midday azure skies and full complement of calories from brother Helios do their best to disguise the frigid conditions draped over the Llano Estacado plain. Mr Cooper and I recognize resistance is futile. We bow to the allure of snow-covered environs and head into the prairie. The thermometer is stuck at seventeen degrees Fahrenheit. A lively westerly wind fraught with chills near zero degrees punishes our advance. We persevere and soon the magic of the landscape abates the physical discomforts of reality.

I saunter along game trails and stop often to marvel at the artistry of snow, wind, vegetation, and light. Nature’s handiwork inspires poetry of spirit and light. I aspire to capture the mood of the prairie on this chilly winter afternoon. Photographic images are my medium.

While I tarry, Cooper frolics on the blanket of white down. He’s on the prowl for any wild denizen willing to play. Tracks along trails entice his senses. He soon finds himself in hot pursuit of an elusive rabbit. Chest deep snow piles are not a deterrent.

Further down the trail reality creeps into my joyous adventure. Inattention to terrain leads to several stumbles into snow covered prairie dog burrows and refreshing dives into virgin snow. The burning sensation of painfully cold fingertips get the better of intentions to create artful images of the idyllic winterscape. I can barely operate camera controls. I should have worn gloves. It’s time for Mr Cooper and me to ease our shivering shadows out of the Llano Estacado tablelands. We head for shelter. Old Man Winter has won this skirmish.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Old Man Winter

White Chocolate Swirl

Winter Repose
(opuntia macrorhiza aka Plains Prickly Pear Cactus)

Scouting For Jack, Rabbit

Bunny Hop

Winter Slumber

Chest Deep Pursuit

Lone Yucca
(yucca campestris aka Plains Yucca)

Wind Swept

Down Blanket

Earthbound Clouds

Detour Ahead

Needles In A Snow Stack

Mr Cooper

On Lagomorph Way

17°F Deep Freeze

Winter Woods

Shadow Warrior (Cooper)

Coyote Candles

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Cactus

While I ponder the wisdom of a romp with Cooper in the sun-drenched snowfields of the Llano Estacado in 3°F temperatures and wind chills well below 0°F, I’m easily distracted by the beauty of our Christmas Cactus (schlumbergera truncate . It’s also known as Thanksgiving Cactus and Crab Cactus and can have pink, white, yellow, orange, red, or purple flowers. In Brazil, this beauty is known as Flor de Maio. It flowers in May in the Southern Hemisphere.

This cactus originated in the coastal mountains of South-Eastern Brazil. In the wild it grows on trees or rocks in habitats which are generally shady with high humidity. It can form sizeable shrubs with woody bases. Most cultivars of Christmas Cactus have stems and branches resembling toothed, leaf-like pads. The pads join one to the other at the tips as the plant grows. The lavish blossom crop grows from aereoles at joints and tips of the stems.

This Christmas herald has been in our home for many years. It started out as several four to five inch stems rooted in a flower pot. Now some of its branches extend twenty inches and drape the flower stand. It’s a family tradition to have a Christmas Cactus in our home.

© Ilija Lukić 2011