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

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Promises Of Joy

It is a cool prairie morning. The sun still clings to the eastern horizon. Cooper and I step into the light and feel its warm embrace. The sensation lingers, etched onto my heart for eternity. 
Affectionate beams of sunshine glimmer on countless pearls of dew. Curls of mud glisten in futile attempts to keep the lingering drought at bay. Two silhouettes chase one another across red dirt playing fields and briefly surrender to the promises of joy the light reveals. I marvel at the fleeting moments of pristine beauty.

Elated we press onward. Three to four paces ahead, a Big Robber flies touch-and-go, search-and-devour hunting patterns. Clusters of broomweed flash first sprays of golden blooms. Boneset prepares buds. Encouraged by recent rains, mallow, zinnia, prairie berries, and asters thrive, albeit in diminutive versions. These forbs will soon define the color palette of the autumn prairie. On a distant yucca skeleton a meadow lark performs a solo ode to joy. Ubiquitous hordes of harvester ants wrestle with oversized loads of prairie treasures. Swallows make farewell passes and ready for migration to warmer climes. A hawk punctuates the serenity of the scene with majestic loops against an azure sky.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Promises Of Joy (El Llanero and Cooper)

Field Bindweed

First Spray Of Golden Blooms

Embraced By Light (Cooper)

Common Purslane

Slender Snake Cotton

Curls Of Mud

Jardín De Flores Portulaca Pilosa

Flor De Verdolaga

High Plains Garden Of Eden

Earth Mover

Pink Purslane Magic

Ranch Road Brownies

Prairie Gold

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Let's Go Mudding

Answers to prayers--soaking rains, 54°F temperatures chilled into the 40s by lively southeasterly winds, and 97% relative humidity. Cooper senses the changes unleashed by overnight thunderstorms and cannot resist the call of the wet, muddy, and wild. He paces impatiently at the back door. His energy and the lure of a rain-drenched prairie also prove irresistible to his human trail running buddy.

Minutes later we’re out the door and navigating muddy Llano Estacado byways. Light fog drapes its misty silence across the soggy prairie environs. A lone hawk briefly emerges from the gray shroud and disappears forthwith. We are alone once more on a vast sea of grass. The solitude embraces and rejuvenates my spirit. I pray our good fortune also smiles on our Texas neighbors ravaged by drought.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Muddy Invitation (Cooper)

Overture In Mud C Major

Challenging Passage (Cooper)

Boundless Llano Spaces

Autumn Harmony (Cooper)

U-Turns Allowed (Cooper)

Sawtooth Daisy Loop

Let's Go Muddin'

Llano Scout Master (Cooper)

Jack Rabbit Alert (Cooper)

Prairie Berries

Milkweed Surprise

Ripe Milkweed Follicle

Long Road Home

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Seeing Red - Terrapene Ornata Ornata

Lingering effects of rainstorms two days ago still oblige Llano Estacado reptilians to traverse the prairie in search of sustenance. It’s been a thrill to share several mornings with an unexpectedly fleet-footed and feisty Ornate Box Turtle. I’ve dubbed him The Hulk. This twelve to thirteen-year-old mature male has a greenish head and claws. The moderate early autumn temperatures suit this ectotherm’s foraging activities. He is an omnivore.

Cooper and I cannot resist interrupting the terrapin’s daylight forays. We have the same inquisitive nature. The Hulk’s first reaction is to slip back into the safety of his armored mobile home--his fortified castle--and raise the hinged plastron (lower shell). He is as curious as we are and plays peek-a-boo to gauge the threat level. I persist in coaxing him into action. I scratch at his carapace (upper shell) and he emerges. Forget the image of a short-legged, lumbering land turtle. The Hulk displays astonishing agility in navigating the matted prairie straw. He responds with short hisses and snaps his rigid beak in defiance of every attempt to lift him off the ground. His red eyes glare with irritation and annoyance at our unwelcome intrusion--he sees red.

I snap a few images and we part ways.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

The Hulk

Seeing Red

Surfing The Sea Of Straw

Welcome To My World

Defensive Tuck

Ornate Peek-A-Boo

Let's Rock-N-Roll

Terrapene Ornata Ornata

Life In The Fast Lane

Combat Crawl

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

We enter the prairie without grand purpose. I thirst for introspection, sharing innermost thoughts and feelings with God. While I amble along, Cooper my canine abettor on today’s endeavor cannot resist long bounding strides across the dried-out shortgrass prairie. I treasure his zest for life. A splash of yellow color in the dreary landscape jolts my solemn mood. I’m drawn to the joyous rays of life in the vast sea of withering flora. My mind admires the physical attributes. My heart sees moonlight from the heavens caressing the prairie straw; and, beautiful eyes of fair maidens beguiling lovelorn suitors. In a prairie on the verge of succumbing to a drought of biblical impacts, hope springs eternal.

Zinnia grandiflora, aka Rocky Mountain Zinnia, Plains Zinnia, and Prairie Zinnia thrives in the dry, rugged terrain of the Llano Estacado. The papery, yellow flowers cover the plant from summer until frost. This flowering herb has therapeutic properties well-known throughout Native American folk medicine lore. Healers apply infusions of the plant to treat kidney ailments, stomach aches, and heart burn. The liquid is also useful as an eye wash. Some tribes make a yellow dye out of the flowers and grind it into a paste to make red body paint.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Moonrise In The Straw

Hope Springs Eternal

Moonlight Serenade

Eyes Of Fair Maidens

Llano Insectarium II - Late Summer

The shortgrass prairie has a thriving invertebrate population. Here is a sampling of winged and crawling critters I typically encounter on my treks across the tablelands of the Llano Estacado.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

White And Black-Striped Blister Beetle

Raising A Stink (eleodes beetle)

Monarch Nectar

Big Robber
(promachus albifacies)

Hold On Tight (hyles lineata)

Harvester Ant Huddle At Dawn (pogonomyrmex rugosus)

Face Paint (Colorado Soldier Beetle)

White-Lined Sphynx Moth Munchkin

Minimalist Architecture (Wolf Spider nest)

Blue Margined Ground Beetle