A week-long mid-winter respite marked by balmy 60˚F temperatures ends with an overnight incursion of arctic air. Once again, the Llano Estacado echoes with struggles of survival. The stories are brutal and beautiful. One constant remains, the short-grass prairie endures volleys of wind, blizzards, drought, torrential rains, and blistering summer heat well. Perennial patterns of light, color, and exotic shapes project her resilience. In death as in life she’s a kaleidoscope of aesthetic delight.
Cooper and I scramble into the Llano Estacado by mid-morning. I hunt elusive treasure troves of light playing dramatically across dried up flowers and grasses. Light has a way of turning arid tragedies into theatrical hits. The scene before me rivals spring and summer splendor. Cooper has games on his docket. He cruises the prairie in search of playmates. For the most part, the fauna on the High Plains of Eastern New Mexico still slumbers. Even prairie dogs fail to voice their objections to his presence. In the chilled morning air, discretion is the better part of valor. He settles for stalking pocket gophers in the prairie straw and finding skeletal reminders of struggles for survival.
As I amble across the frost-bound landscape, fearsome colmillos de dragón, ruffled pappi bursts, golden snakeweed choruses, star spangled ragwort domes, and burnt orange marigold husks join in a concerto of defiance--let there be light.
© Ilija Lukić 2012
|Let There Be Light (cholla, yucca, and snakeweed)|
|Colmillos De Dragón ("Dragon's Fangs" solanum rostratum, aka Buffalo Bur)|
|Death On The Llano (rabbit skull)|
|Broom Snakeweed Chorus (gutierrezia sarothrae)|
|Short-Grass Prairie In Winter (Arrow Feather Three-awn)|
|Prairie Cruisin' (Cooper)|
|Thistle Winter Treasure|
|Marigold Husk Concerto|
|Star Spangled Ragwort (senecio flaccidus var douglasii)|