Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Trip to Spring Creek Prairie

Tons of photos to ensue. Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center is less than 30 minutes southwest of Lincoln, NE, and is also where my wife and I had our wedding reception two years ago. We visited it Tuesday, an overcast and warm / damp foggy morning.

The prairie sits on 800 acres of never-tilled land, and also hides the remnants of the Nebraska City to Ft. Kearney Oregon Trail cutoff (see pics below, but we didn't see any wagon ruts due to foliage, I'm guessing).

Lots of native plants, lots of Piet Oudolf looking vistas, and--unfortunately--lots of invasive weeds (which I'd assume will get less and less as the prairie ecosystem fully restores itself). Stop talking. Show me pictures. Ok. Click to expand if you'd like.

The welcome and education center, replete with shop.

One of many mown paths we found ouselves simply wandering on. We ignored the map.

Everything is beginning to die back. The grey is especially pronounced on this morning, but I still find the view breathtaking. Do you?

A comfy place to rest. There was so much thistle everywhere--likely invasive varieties--and so many insects on them, I put in a seed order when I got home for Cirsium discolor, the native pasture thistle.

Glad to see my ironweed isn't the only stand that looks like junk.

It's all about the linkages of shadows. I had an art teacher in high school who taught us to first draw the shadows of what we were trying to capture, then that object would more truthfully be rendered. A lot of metaphor in that idea--that shadows define us as much if not more than our actual selves. Shadows: memories, hopes, dreams, worries, fears, defeats, impressions, loves, beliefs. All that is left of us in the end is a shadow, much like the image of a photograph.

What cool texture of milkweed pods.

My wife insisted this looked like a nest of baby rodents.

I found this indentation added much character to such a relatively small area where we walked. We encountered a pond, a marsh, this gorge, tree lines... everything.

Prairie sculpture.

I'm really partial to this image. It's like sedimentary gradations. In the middle is, I believe, a stand of buckthorn--on the left still green, on the right already a warm bronze. Lovely texture.

I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes.... (name that annoying band)

Guess this is where the wagon trail is.

He stood still for me long enough to get a nice shot of both him and the thistle bloom.

Spotty patches of Salvia azurea where peeking through various grasses, and really stood out.

Quintessential plains view.

On a dark day these unknown grass / weed heads stood out like a halo. In fact, if you click on the image, it sure seems to me that each one does indeed have a halo.

As well as these. Gorgeous in the breeze.

What makes prairies so beautiful to me are how overlooked they can be--especially this time of year. It's easy to stop and gawk in July at the various blooms, but to stop and gawk at the subtle foliar forms, changes of color, the way each species naturally organizes itself and literally leans upon one another above and below the ground--well, there's something to be learned on a few metaphorical levels. To walk among the end of a season with hope and faith, to imagine what was and will be, is to live fully in the now; I think prairie vistas are especially instructive in this regard as they wear their changes on their sleeve, so to speak.


Kateri said...

Thanks for the photos. Very pretty. We have many of the same grasses here, and I love the subtle hues. This time of year really brings them out.

Susan Tomlinson said...

I always think my shadow looks better than I do.

Nice photos-felt like I was walking along with you.

James Golden said...

Beautiful colors and textures, groupings, really communities on many different scales, it appears. I realize I've never seen real mid-America prairie. And I'm surprised to see the hills. I expected utter flatness.

our friend Ben said...

Wow, Benjamin, thanks so much for sharing all this beauty with us! No wonder you chose it for your wedding! I loved the comments about shadows, too. What is light without shadow, or shadow without light? It's no coincidence that vampires are described as casting no shadows---truly the "living dead."

Victoria Summerley said...

Great post, Benjamin, and gorgeous pictures. Those grasses are so beautiful. And I love the iron hoops from the wagon wheels too. You are so lucky to have such a beautiful and atmospheric place so close to you.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kateri--If anything, this time of year tells me I need more grasses. I'm fond of little bluestem, but it might be too little for my small spread. Glad you stopped by.
Susan--I agree. Wait, that's mean. I'm sorry. I adore you, you know.
James--Why of course there are hills, even nowhere near streams or rivers. But these aren't big, you know. We got rolling plains, but if you poke your head up you can still see for a thousand miles.
OFB--Now how in the world did we get from musing on shadows in a praiie to gross and dark vampires? Huh?
Victoria--Yeah, I kind like the iron hoops too. I'd appreciate them more for sculpture, and a more blended, subtle feel if that big white sign wasn't next to them.

Christopher C. NC said...

I have always wanted to go for a walk on the prairie. This will do for now. Thank you much Benjamin. The halo grass in the third from the bottom picture looks very much like a common roadside grass here in NC that I always tell myself I need to find out what its name is. It literally glows in the right light.

Anonymous said...

I dearly love praries, meadows, and fields like that. I live in central Ohio, and those photos could have been taken right down the road from my house. Charming indeed! The beauty is often subtle, but I truly appreciate it, in all seasons. Thanks for the info on the caterpillars, I'll try to bring one in if I ever see them again!

Gail said...

It looks like home to me! This is why I keep adding more prairie plants to my garden...The fragrance, the look, the movement of's home. A wonderful post and delightful photos...thanks, gail

themanicgardener said...

Lovely grasses indeed. My husband and I drove home (west to Montana) across North Dakota several summers ago, and I was swept away by the grasslands--so green, so varied, so beautiful. I kept wishing I knew how to transfer what I saw to cloth.

I think your wife's got a point about the mouse's nest, by the way. Those milkweed pods make me nostalgic; there's almost no milkweed here.


Les said...

Enlarging is good! I really liked what you said about drawing shadows. It took me forever to figure out what my high school art teacher was saying about the importance of negative space. I have always liked meadows late in the season, but have never gotten to see a prairie until this summer. This was a very nice post.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Christopher--Well, I've always wanted to visit North Carolina, especially the west side, so ther you go. Glad I could oblige you! (That's prairie talk.)
MsRobin--I used to live in Columbus, do you mean central Ohio? I remember seeing some pretty, almost northeast areas along I-70 east of Columbus.
Gail--Yes! It is home! I used think I wanted mountains, forests, and lakes. Well, streams, ponds, and stands of trees with prairie is even better.
Kate--I bet milkweed isn't even native to MT, am I right? I might be up in ND next summer, a little concerned about that: when I think of the plains, THAT is what I think off--flat, open, desolate, cold.
Les--Thanks! I didn't really get negative space until I started trying to understand Japanese garden design, then it really clicked.

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