As Old Man Winter eases onto New Mexico’s Southern Great Plains, weather spotters rush to make note of his flowing, frosted beard casually flung over the left shoulder. “Have goose bumps, will travel,” he chuckles, then puffs his cheeks and trumpets nippy flourishes to proclaim the imminent return of wintry mayhem. His coup de grâce is a large bag of polar air weighing down his right shoulder. He readies icicles and hoar frost in his left hip pocket. While he slides southward, hints of airborne moisture turn into tentative snowflakes. They dance briefly in the brisk morning air and disappear.
Our hamlet prepares for the gelid pace of winter. Remnants of marigolds in back yard flower beds survive, albeit with crystalline decorations of hoarfrost. Consecutive three dog nights test the resilience of prairie flora and fauna. As Cooper and I head into the Llano Estacado, vaporous trails of my breath rouse memories of frosty childhood mornings and magical hoar frost caresses upon autumn landscapes.
The prairie takes the icy punch in stride and emphasizes its rusty autumn regalia in outright defiance of the Old Man’s onslaught. Swatches of Fetid Marigold skeletons highlight dried grasses with copper hues. Rabbit Tobacco with its sweet everlasting blooms and scattered crowns of ragwort pappi glow in the backlight of the morning sun. A shadow of its former self, a grasshopper sits motionless and awaits the warmth of the afternoon. In contrast, my canine alter ego Cooper makes nimble forays through cactus spikes and yucca daggers in pursuit of scent trails to burrows and hiding places of cottontails and jack rabbits. He insists on exercising his prairie buddies on frigid mornings. I opt for tranquility and take a breather in a thicket of Siberian Elms. Their last hurrahs of autumn color quicken my heart and stir my soul.
© Ilija Lukić 2012
© Ilija Lukić 2012
|Fire And Ice|
|Catfoot Among Marigolds (Fragrant Cudweed)|
|Late Autumn Prairie|
|The Five Musketeers (Sand Yucca)|
|Shadow Of Its Former Self|
|Autumn Bouquet (Yucca, Snakeweed, Ragwort)|
|Prairie Rust Belt (Fetid Marigolds)|
|Last Hurrah (Siberian Elm)|
|Late Autumn Lane|
|Rabbit Tobacco (aka Sweet Everlasting, Old Field Balsam)|
|Lonesome Beauty (Ragwort pappi in Broom Snakeweed)|
|Fragrant Cudweed Pillow (pseudognafalium obtusifolium)|
|Witchgrass And Trompillo (panicum capillare, aka Ticklegrass)|
|Fetid Marigolds In Early Winter Regalia (Cooper)|