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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kissed By Light

Cooper and I arrive at the trail head exuberant and ready for adventure.  Within minutes a large hare leaves protective cover and invites Cooper to a foot race down a dusty ranch road.  He obliges but loses his speedy quarry, when the Jack Rabbit turns off into the shortgrass prairie.  While Cooper catches his breath several horses in a corral near a homestead whinny to acknowledge our presence.  Minutes later I pause to observe a juvenile Bullsnake raise its head, taste the air and continue with its sunbath.  The mood is right and I willingly drift into a dream state.
Morning sunlight has set the prairie awash in its alluring glow.  Unabashed, the flora competes for the sun's attention.  Even the softest movement of the cool air sets off shimmering ripples across prairie grasses.  Wild flowers embark on their daily parade of insect-enticing goods.  Bird song and chatter fills the stillness and complements a distant train whistle.  Magical images reach into my heart at every turn of the game trail.  Llano Estacado dreamin’ sure refreshes the spirit before returning to reality and yet another windblown, dusty, rainless, drought-ridden Summer day.

Bare Essentials

High Plains Gold

Yucca Lanterns - New Mexico State Flower

Off The Beaten Path (Cooper)

Light Sabers

Prairie Lights

Monarda Punctata

Preaching To The Choir

Yucca Bell Towers

Hopi Tea Greenthread

Scanning The Horizon

Squirrel Tail Lightshow

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blowin' In The Wind

How many more days must the Llano Estacado endure the current cycle of drought? The answer my friends is written on the relentless prairie winds sweeping the withered landscape. We humans agonize over lack of rain. The short grass prairie appears content to wait for moisture. Native flora and fauna employ survival skills and mechanisms selectively bred into them long ago by the harsh high plains environment.

The artist within me wrestles with the choice of making images of the status quo or allowing imagination to paint the prairie. I choose the latter.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Torch Of Liberty

Red Domes

Sunlight And Parasols

Cruising In Yucca, Snakeweed, And Mallow (Cooper)

Shadow Walker (Cooper)

Fleabane And Yucca

Purple Prairie Pride

Hymenopappus Filifolium

Horsemint In Little Barley

Friday, May 20, 2011

Staked Plain

Down-slope winds off the Manzano Mountains to our west dance across the Llano Estacado tablelands. They carry a dry morning chill along with promises of a warm day. Fluffy flocks of clouds drift across a deep blue New Mexico firmament.  

Cooper and I ease into the prairie amid a bird concerto. Escorts of barn swallow pause their insect pursuits to chatter and hover above this human and canine intruder of their hunting grounds. A burrowing owl bobs its head just above the rim of their residence in an abandoned prairie dog den. Its bright yellow eyes mark every move we make.

We continue with our haphazard trek across sandy terrain and a yucca forest.  These stalwart knights of the Llano strut their evergreen, sword-shaped leaves and stalks. The latter reminiscent of trail markers. Cooper picks up scents of rabbits and prairie rodents. He executes carefully choreographed stalking episodes among the bayonet-sharp leaves of yucca rosettes. One brief chase materializes. 

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Yucca Forest

Purple Royalty

Stalking Jack Rabbits

Yucca Flats Trail Markers

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wet On The Wild Side

Rains sweeps across the Southern Great Plains prairie. Summer precipitation tends to come in torrential thunderstorms. Add even a little water and prairie dust transforms into slippery mud paste. The prairie comes alive.

Emerald carpets of snakeweed punctuate terra cotta earth tones. Ground beetle larva activity just below the soil surface creates elaborate terra glyphs upon the softened shell of the hardpan. The raised tubes provide cover from elements and predators. Black-tailed prairie dogs, a Llano Estacado keystone species, also take advantage of the loose soil to repair and shore up their burrow mounds. A flower spider emerges from its shelter to set up an ambush. Rain drops sparkle and flirt with sunlight emerging from storm clouds. The prairie breathes a sigh of relief.

Cooper takes time out from his grassland forays and visits with his prairie dog friends to ensure they weathered the onslaught of the heavy rains.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Emerald Forest Homestead

Wet And Wild

Beetle Larva Terraglyphs

They Call Me Mellow Yellow

Knock, Knock...Who's There... (Cooper)

Terraglyphs In Mud

Shoring Up The Mound

Jester's Crown (Cane Cholla)

Rainy Daydreams

We use coping mechanism when faced with unpleasant circumstances affecting our psyche or physical comfort. Music, daydreams, photographic and other fine arts are but a few available vessels.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Dampened Spirits (Cooper)

Happy Birthday To El Llanero Viejo

King's Wet Scepter

Looking For Douglas

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hierbas Del Sol

Anyone know a professional rainmaker? Even one of the hardiest Llano Estacado flora, the Prickly Pear Cactus, sheds lifeless buds. Flowers never bloomed. The dried-out reminders of absent rains barely cling to life. The dire state of the prairie causes me to reach into repositories of Southern High Plains flora images. A year ago the prairie flourished.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Coronilla De Oro

Slender Gaillardia Parade

Withering Tongues

Hierba Del Sol

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eternal Sisyphus

Compelled by their nature to hoard great quantities of seed into food caches within their nest, the Red Harvester Ant (pogonomyrmex barbatus) lives in an orderly system of castes. True to their name, worker ants follow scent trails to harvest food identified by scouts of the colony.

I pause to admire one of the determined workers wrestling with what appeared to be a section of Wild Rye grass inflorescence. Tirelessly, my little Sisyphus heaves his enormous load to and fro down a clearly identifiable ant highway on his way back to the nest.

Red Harvester

Sunday, May 15, 2011

American Plains Dragon

A cool night with temperatures in the 40s yields to the warm embraces of Helios. The prairie and its denizens prepare for another day of desiccating winds and more than fourteen hours of sunshine. A ground beetle scurries across my path of travel. I briefly focus my attention to make an identification. At the same time, a long, dark shadow on the ranch road pops into my peripheral vision. It's a bullsnake stretched out in a seven to eight foot blotched, yellowish-brown serpentine. Subterfuge of predators appears to be its secondary concern. An early morning sunbath has priority.

I approach cautiously to keep agitation of the reptile to a minimum. My stealth mode succeeds briefly. Its forked tongue whips through the air furiously...tasting my presence. I manage one image before the colubrid exhibits its distinctive defensive coils, rattlesnake-like cocked head, hisses and rattles. This subspecies of the gophersnake forcibly exhales through a bisected glottis, which flops back and forth to produce a fearsome hiss and convincing rattle sound. The exhalation of air is so forceful that skin across its lower jaw puffs out giving the snake drooping jowls. Images of Marlon Brando in the Godfather movie series come to mind. 

There’s nothing more effective than a reptilian hiss and 50°F temperatures carried on brisk morning breezes to wipe the last remnants of sleep from your eyes and get the old ticker pumpin’. As I move off, the pituophis catenifer sayi relaxes, uncoils, and moves into the cover of the shortgrass prairie. The epithet “sayi” honors zoologist Thomas Say.

Nasty Disposition

In Striking Range

Watchful Eye

Cool, Calm, Relaxed Colubrid

Prairie Godfather

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sretan Rodjendan

Three score and 4 years ago my father celebrates this fourteenth day of May with dance, song, and a glass or two of Šljivovica Rakija.  His son is born. Today, my American heart and Serbian soul yearn for a musical journey to my roots...to dance joyfully.  The irresistible, lively Serbian Kolo dance called Kragujevčanka performed by flautist Bora Dugić fills this desire...opaaa! 

The joyous color of yellow roses in my garden mirrors my mood. Sretan Rodjendan, Ilija, Happy Birthday!

Mysterious Beauty

Shy Friendship

Joyous Light