When the River City Wild Ones (www.rivercitywildones.orgasked to come for a prairie tour in September, I hesitated.  The fields of wildflowers had already shed their blooms as the tall grasses began to tower over them.   Early morning sights are best, with sun over the dew-covered plants, all going to seed.  As far as mid-day, eye-catching beauty is concerned—there was not much.  In the same way as I had done in early spring (See "Only a Snapshot, 7/5/10) I hoped that visitors could see the land I love—dressed in its Sunday best. We set the date but several times before the appointed time, I resisted my husband’s pleas to “call this off; there is nothing to see.”

The tour evening came with more unpredictability: the sky overcast, gusty winds pushing the tall stalks back and forth, and light rain.  I doubted anyone would come.  I should not have doubted the Wild Ones! Almost 30 strong arrive right on time eager to explore.  They brought a little roving microphone, which allowed everyone to hear whatever we could add to their observations.  They brought abundant knowledge of native plants and enthusiasm for the wild things at Flat Iron Lake.  We were blessed by their presence.

The evening concluded with eats on the deck overlooking the lake, while folks meandered back from the beehives, the vegetable garden and the fields.  We should not have worried about presentation.  Part of nature lore is the natural progression from birth to death of all growing things.  It is easy to identify wildflowers by their blooms, but much harder from new, budding growth or from drying stalks.

I began All Nature Sings in November—the hardest month to be stirred by thoughts of love.  But seeing the cycle of months and seasons is vital to getting the whole story—not just the most exciting part.  As I walk down the drive today, watching the milkweed pods burst with silver seeds and seeing the bronze glow on the Indian grass, an old song runs through my mind: “Darling, I am growing old—silver threads among the gold…”  True lovers know that old age has a purposeful loveliness all its own.
While I am wandering around this land surrounding Flat Iron Lake—exuding over swans, snapping turtles and baby robins—many people are suffering.  Folks, who share my sense of place albeit along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, must now watch helplessly as oil washes ashore covering living creatures with brown goo. While I’m picking asparagus, lettuce and strawberries there are people with whom I share a common humanity, who are starving.  Even the act of writing this blog comes into question as I view this link, sent by one of my kids: http://www.starvedforattention.org/take-action.php#blog from Doctors Without Borders.  I feel guilty in such plentitude.  Seeing the strewn crack eggs of turtles along our soft paths is a fitting visual to remind me that beauty as well as life itself is fleeting and can slip away at any time. 

This morning I glance out on Flat Iron Lake at the swan pair that has called this place home for many years.  I recall that our initial delight at seeing the swan ten years ago, was tempered when a friend said that swan would scare away other waterfowl.  So far many duck, including the mallard, bufflehead and wood duck thrive and thankfully only the Canadian geese are frightened away.

I watch the swan pair glide by but I know something is terribly wrong.  Until now only one parent has left the nest at a time.  Now they are together—but alone.  No cygnets follow closely behind. Nesting season is past—there will be no babies this year.  We are left to wonder what went wrong.

Swan eggs and newly hatched cygnets have always been vulnerable.  Over the years we have watched a clutch shrink from five to two, likely snatched by a snapping turtle.  We’ve discovered the white feather remains of babies far away in the woods, prey to fox or hawk.  Once we watched a baby swimming on his side and learned later that he had eaten too much alga that he could not digest.

We’ll miss watching the youngsters grow this year: learning to dive for water plants, growing and changing from grey to white.  We’ll miss the amazing early fall spectacle of the parents patiently teaching their young to fly.  But mostly there will be this pang of sadness each time the stately white pair swims by, knowing that grief from loss will mark this season for them and also for us.
All Nature Sings