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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Sun

What a difference a day makes on the vast steppe we so affectionately call the Llano Estacado. On our morning hike Cooper and I revel in balmy breezes and warm sunshine, 40°F above yesterday’s bone chilling excursion.
The short-grass prairie echoes with the sounds of its denizens. The crackling crepitation of Red-winged Grasshoppers advertises readiness for courtship and mating. In the distance I hear a high-pitched, repetitive kee, kee, kee and attribute the calls to courtship rituals of Northern Harriers I had observed on past outings. They’re normally quiet in flight. I surmise the ruckus comes from a nesting site. However, most prominent are the melodic trills of meadow larks.

Inspired by primal urges I decide to kick the old ticker into a higher gear and change my walking gait to a slow jog. I head into the 25-30 mph northwesterly winds. A few minutes into my run I execute an instinctive blink-duck maneuver, just as one of the Red-winged Grasshoppers hits my sunglasses. It glances off and gets stuck between my hat and forehead. I free the critter. It flies off.
I’m fascinated how the prairie ecosystem will adapt to our extreme drought conditions. How will the flora and fauna respond over the next several months? The Siberian Elm seems to be the only tree showing any spring greenery.

Down the trail, we encounter Cooper’s Alaskan Malamute buddies and their human. While we humans talk and walk the pack exercises their freedom to roam, albeit much more sparingly than a few days ago--one word, heatwave.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Spring Sun

Winged Seeds (Siberian Elm)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Crabapple Tapestries

The Llano Estacado still lingers in a late-winter mode. A dense fog blanket shrouds West Texas and for several days now makes overnight incursions into our back yards. Nighttime temperatures flirt with the freezing point. Snow flies once more across the northern escarpments of the Llano Estacado. Photographic subject matter is scarce on the prairie, so I turn to our yard for my daily fix of creative outlet. 

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Crabapple Tapestry

Fall Into Spring

Oak Leaf Concerto In G Minor

Monday, March 28, 2011

Simple Pleasures

In my photography I strive to discover and highlight images we often look at but don’t see. Simple pleasures in life tend to have immeasurable impacts on the human heart and soul.

© Ilija Lukić 2011


Green Fireworks

It Rained Pear Blossoms

Prairie Art Gallery

Often prairie images inspire reflection on my roots in contemporary art at the Muir Campus of the University of California in San Diego.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Prairie Splatter

Tough As Nails

Weathered #6

Windblown Plastic

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tulip Mania

Spring fever rages at our humble home. Warm, sunny days and soft breezes encourage lazy lounging on lawns and stir wanderlust. Cooper takes every opportunity to enjoy my lawn mowing skills. I anticipate green tree canopies within the week. Our tulips are at their best and bring much delight. I can imagine the pleasure the hearty tulips brought to the Dutch after their long and cold winter seasons.

Tulips make their first appearance in Europe by the mid-16th Century. One hundred years later the Dutch are so enamored with tulips that a Tulpenmanie (tulip mania) sweeps the Netherlands. At the height of the mania it’s not unusual for certain single tulip bulbs to sell for more than 10 times the annual salary of a skilled worker. In February 1637 the speculative bubble bursts. The lovely tulip is responsible for the first recorded burst of an economic bubble.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Wheel Of Dutch Fortunes

Tulpenmanie (Tulip Mania)

Comfort Food

Kiss Winter Goodbye

Gentle Dungeons

Tulips are in full bloom. Their beauty captivates the heart and opens the soul to the mysteries of the universe. A red-blossomed temptress entices my eyes and senses to wander into her seductive scarlet recesses. I discover a star-shaped cradle of life. Lemon yellow highlights a treasure trove of nectar and pollen. An aphid joins me in a dash across the colorful landscape of the enclosure. For a brief moment I am one with my gentle dungeon. The strands of time start and end within its walls. I am a willing captive. My soul reaches out and partakes of eternity.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Seductive Beauties

Scarlet Temptress

Cradle Of Life

Gentle Dungeons

The First And The Last

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sunshine In Your Smile

Tulips are hardy perennials with showy flowers. They are indigenous to arid mountain areas of Southern Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor, parts of Iran, and into Northwest regions of China. Commercial cultivation began in the Ottoman Empire. Their aesthetic beauty is the essence of Spring awakenings. They inspires poets and romantic notions. A yellow tulip comes to symbolize hopeless love. Over the years the meaning evolves to convey cheerful thoughts. Every time I look at a yellow tulip my heart soars and optimism lights up my smile.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Cheerful Awakening

Sunshine In Your Smile

Essence Of Spring

Yellow Beauty

Open Invitation

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Llano Requiem

An angry Llano Estacado awaits Cooper and me as we work our way into the morning prairie. Stiff easterly winds chill the 38°F air to near freezing. Ominous clouds race across the sky, keeping the sun from its appointed life-sustaining duties. The Southern Great Plains of Eastern New Mexico is a landscape of shadow dancers.

We seek out a Siberian Elm grove for shelter and a respite from the winds. The raw wind moving through the trees whispers a somber song mourning the Llano’s drought and winter weather casualties.

Unexpectedly, a Meadow Lark inserts a joyful melody into the dirge permeating the prairie. A patch of blue pushes through the dark canopy. The denizens of the moody Llano Estacado will not be denied their journey into spring.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Shadow Dancer

Llano Requiem

Path Into Spring

A Patch Of Blue

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Llano Estacado At Dusk

The softer side of the Llano Estacado reveals itself in the warm hues which envelope its vast and rugged spaces just after sunset. The abandoned homestead glows reminiscing of its heyday. To the east the deep-blue blanket of night starts to rise just above the horizon.  Horses in a nearby corral settle in for a long cold night.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Llano Estacado Memories

Horses And Windmill At Dusk

Llano Estacado Moonrise

A Burst Of Pears

While I prefer prairie wildflowers, the beauty of ornamental cultivars such as the Cleveland Pear is irresistible. The Llano Estacado prairie awaits Spring rains to encourage a growth spurt of the flora. I fear last year's cornucopia of wildflowers will not repeat.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

A Burst Of Pears

Anxious For Warmer Days

Cleveland Pear Bouquet

Crabapples And Pears

The Gift Of Spring

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pear Blossom Capital

Mother Nature is well on the way to rolling out her full splendor in the Pear Blossom Capital of the Southern Great Plains. The delicate white pear blossoms continue to delight the senses and rejuvenate the winter-weary soul. Sunlit bursts of spring greenery are now a part of the palette.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Pear Blossom Paradise

Ode To Joy

Spring Serenade

Springtime Huddle

Subtle Shadows

On The Wings Of Spring

Monday, March 21, 2011

Announcing The Resurrection

Cooper and I slip into the Llano Estacado in stealth mode. Our daybreak journey intends to surprise prairie denizens engaged in their daily survival rituals. A gentle southwesterly breeze barely affects the gray, foggy overcast stretching as far as the eye can see. Air temperatures hover in the mid-fifties. Weather forecaster predict what seems an unlikely record high of 82°F.

We slog across the damp prairie with nary a prairie dweller in sight. They evade every effort of my search patterns. At times Cooper alerts on airborne scents and investigates. His eager dashes roust swarms of birds. Western Meadow Larks, Mourning Doves and a variety of sparrows are particularly active. A noticeable increase in the number of Prairie Pocket Gopher mounds hinders steady footing. As urban sprawl displaces natural predators, they thrive. I proceed with caution.

On our journey we encounter one of Cooper’s canine pals, Pola, a Coonhound. They convince a large Jack Rabbit to play “catch me if you can.” The rabbit’s speed and evasive maneuvers prove too much to handle.

A note of cautious optimism hangs in the prairie winds. Signs of emerging flora are few and far between. We remain in drought conditions. Nevertheless, Cholla and Prickly Pear Cacti have lost their reddish, shriveled winter appearance and turn dark green. Plains Yucca leaves don distinctive lemon yellow late-winter robes. These golden daggers will soon bend to the ground and dry out, thus clearing the way for new foliage and flower stalks. The resurrection of the yucca progresses.

An elm thicket ahead peaks my curiosity. Immature Siberian Elm seeds still dominate the appearance of the robust saplings and trees. Their green coloration and density on the branches gives the appearance of leaves. Now first leaves make their appearance. The tree is of Asian origin, first introduced to North America in the aftermath of the Dustbowl. Its drought tolerance and fast growth rate make it an ideal windbreak cultivar. It flowers very early in spring and self-pollinates.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Resurrection (ulmus pumila, winged seeds)

Late-Winter Yucca Robes (Cooper)

Daybreak Trail (Cooper)

Cautious Optimism (Siberian Elm)

The Zen Of Redbud

Zen Of Redbud

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Texas Roadways

Annual rituals of spring renewal in West Texas extend past natural settings. The renaissance in Santa Ana TX includes an old Victorian home. Just up the road in Coleman TX a Redbud clump adds a beautiful contrast to delicate spring greenery. The town carries the name of Robert M. Coleman, aide-de-camp to General Sam Houston.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Dreaming Of The Glory Days

Redbud Spring

Victorian Renaissance