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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cherished Light

It's nearly night, oh cherished light.
Your sojourn ends in much delight.
Warm hues and moonlight, now allies,
cradle your starlight until sunrise. 

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Cherished Light

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Painted Lady's Last Dance

Baby blue skies, wispy clouds, and sunshine belie the razor sharp bite of late autumn winds. Bone-chilling night temperatures cede their grip upon our Southern Great Plains hamlet at a glacial pace. Mother Nature’s kaleidoscopic autumn reign has nearly run its course. But she will not slip quietly into winter slumber. She insists on a grand finale of splashy regalia, frolic, and cutting a rug. The painted lady embarks on her last dance.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Born To Dance

Danseurs Automne

Painted Lady's Last Dance

Last Tango

Shadow Ballet

The Choreographer (Cooper)

Shadow Hoofers

Fantôme De La Danse

Wall Flower

Paso Doble

Amorous Waltz

Samba Mama

Savor The Mood (Cooper)

Danse Exotique

Someone Light My Fire

Prima Ballerina

Watch The Coryphée Fly (Cooper)


Joyous Rhumba

Chorus Girls

Tap Dancers

Pear Ablaze Minuet

Monday, November 14, 2011

Barred Tiger Salamander

High plains thunderstorms tend to move in quickly and spawn heavy rains. They inundate the prairie ecosystem. In the wake of last night’s gully washer temperatures drop into the 40s with an expectant daytime high in the upper 60s. At first light Cooper and I head into the Llano Estacado greeted by brisk 50s and clear, azure New Mexico skies.

Cooper stretches last remnants of sleep out of his sinewed limbs with lively dashes into the grasslands. A dripping wet coat and muddy paws are his rewards. On one of his helter-skelter streaks across the damp landscape, he comes to a screeching halt. His demeanor is one of caution. I beat feet to his location expecting a tense confrontation with a prairie denizen. To my surprise I find a secretive, rarely seen creature. It is a very sluggish ten-inch amphibian--a Barred Tiger Salamander. Although a nocturnal hunter, the moist prairie environment has stirred it to daylight activity. I surmise it is on the move to a known spring mating location, where it will overwinter.

I am blessed to see one of these creatures in the wild. Barred Tiger Salamander’s range from the Northern Great Plains down to Mexico. They spend most of the summer and winter in burrows of other animals or a similar humid environment, where they can keep their skin moist. A daytime appearance is rare. To Cooper's delight, I soon find myself on all fours and angling for a closer look. The joy in my heart makes photography a secondary concern. But, I manage a few rewarding images.

Here are a few fun factoids about Barred Tiger Salamanders. They are the Kansas "State Amphibian"; may live to be 20 years old; seem to have a perpetual grin on their face; have four toes on the front and five on their back feet; are the largest terrestrial salamanders in the world--up to 14 inches long; prefer earthworms and insects, but will eat small frogs and baby mice.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Barred Tiger Salamander

Sluggish Amphibian

Prairie Tiger

Big Smile For The Camera

Salamander After Heavy Rains

Thursday, November 10, 2011

You Light Up My Life

The prospect of free-spirited travel down a ranch road off the beaten path lures Cooper and me into the early winter prairie. Brisk northerly winds indulge sensations I longed for in the heat of summer sojourns. Goosebumps rush down my spine. I purposely keep hands exposed to the biting cold. Mountaineering lore encourages several days of such exposure to help reset my body thermostat to better cope with the penetrating chills of Llano Estacado winters.  

Brief introspection grabs a hold of my soul. I muse, “farewell, summer prairie...your songs have ended, but your melodies remain etched upon my heart. We shall dance again. You light up my life. Your resilient denizens will weather the numbing onslaughts and chaos of winter. You and they will persevere. Your secret is patience.”

The song of a Western Meadowlark nudges me back into the here and now. We press ahead. Before long Cooper’s confidant lope through ruts and down ranch road hardpan turns into awkward three-legged hops. He stops and chews at his left front paw and dislodges a wicked Goat Head burr. The painful scene repeats several times, until we depart the thorny gauntlet at a game trail. Nose to the wind, Cooper sights along airborne scent paths and slips into the shoulder high prairie straw. Catlike, he stalks an unknown creature, one careful step at a time. I surmise he pursues a Western Harvest Mouse or Pocket Gopher. The latter have been particularly active excavating and pushing crescent-shaped dirt mounds into the autumn landscape.

In defiance of cold nights and cool days, life on the High Plains of Eastern New Mexico continues. Overnight freezes sap life out of flora, yet a lone Western Pygmy-Blue butterfly finds repast among the nectar of a late-flowering ragwort. Patches of False Boneset pappi resemble night sky galaxies and star clusters. They light up the prairie.  A bronze autumn cast now covers the golden petals of Rocky Mountain Zinnia. Feisty prairie royalty such as Yellow-Spined Thistles sport gray heads as they take final, albeit regal bows. Amber bowels of empty Plains Yucca seed caches reminisce of their glory days as Lámparas De Dios. Spine-chocked Cane Cholla candelabras, adorned by the warm hues of sunrise, compete for the attention of precious autumn daylight. And, the freeze-dried glow of Fetid Marigold lanterns punctuates the cool serenity with a crescendo of warm, liquid copper hues.  

The door to summer closes reluctantly.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

You Light Up My Life
(dyssodia papposa aka Fetid Marigold)

Basking In The Morning Light

Cholla Candelabras
(cylindropuntia imbricata aka Cane Cholla)

Strong Verticals

Snakeweed Gauntlet - Cooper
(gutierezzia sarothrae aka Broom Snakeweed)

Prairie Lanterns
(dyssodia papposa aka Fetid Marigold)

Fading Glory
(zinnia grandiflora aka Prairie Zinnia

Western Pygmy-Blue Butterfly
(brephidium exile)

Pappi And Sepal Galaxy
(brickellia eupatorioides aka False Boneset)

Lámparas De Dios

Farewell Sweet Prince

Yucca Flats Star Clusters

Witchgrass Epilog
(panicum capillare)