Are you aging like the prairie?

By Carol / September 2, 2014 /

As I walk my prairie this year, I’m struck by how it’s maturing. I was aware that flowers predominate in a newly established prairie while grasses take over in later years. This year, I’m seeing that reality. The contrast between new and mature prairie is clear and dramatic because this spring I let the prairie expand to another section of lawn.

The flashy exuberance of youth.

The flashy exuberance of youth.

The new section is awash in yellow – delicate partridge peas, profuse sweet black-eyed Susans, gangly maxmilian sunflowers, The young plants could hardly wait for me to stop mowing the lawn so they could take over. Their exuberance exciting, the brilliant colors irresistible.

Meanwhile, in the mature prairie, the brilliant flowers of youth have been replaced by graceful fronts of prairie grass. These grasses are strong and tall, able to withstand the winds of summer and winter blizzards. It took longer for grasses to appear in the prairie because they sent down deep roots that nurture them and provide a foundation for the future.

Subtle color in a mature prairie.

Subtle color in a mature prairie.

The mature prairie has not given up on color though you have to look more closely to see it. Mixed in with the grasses are spots of blue and purple: wild bergamot, blue vervain, a few purple coneflowers.

As I move into the second half of my sixth decade, I think how the maturing I see in the prairie is similar to the maturing I see in my own life.

I long ago eschewed the bright colors of the psychedelic 60s for the grays, blues and browns of the business world. These days I’m still more comfortable in muted tones but I augment those muted hues with brighter colors in smaller doses. They brighten my attitude as well as my look.

Though not so flashy, the mature prairie is still capable of surprises and trying something new. This prairie put forth the first butterfly milkweed this year, the orange blossoms a bold statement that though it may take time, it’s never too late to bring out something new.

I felt bold as I ventured into writing and publishing my first novel. Do I say I took this up “late in life”? No. I prefer to say I took up novel writing when the time was right, when my roots were deep and my life experience ready to tackle this new adventure.

Things happen in their own time – in the prairie and in life. The prairie is aging gracefully. I hope to do likewise.

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  1. Shirley Hershey Showalter on September 2, 2014 at 10:14 am

    “I’m too old to die young,” I heard a friend say today. And I smiled.

    But I like your approach, and the prairie’s approach, even better.

    Yes, things happen in their own time. Thanks for this reminder today.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 2, 2014 at 10:19 am

      I smiled when I read your friend’s comment, too, Shirley. Might we try for “young at heart”?

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m so looking forward to your visit to Iowa in October.

  2. Joan Z. Rough on September 2, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Carol, This is lovely. I’ve always been fascinated by the prairie and its ability to stay wild and filled with surprises if we allow it to.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      The prairie is a fascinating place, Joan. I look at my little prairie and try to imagine thousands of acres stretching beyond the horizon. A wild and wonderful place indeed.

  3. Mary Maddox on September 2, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    What a beautiful essay, Carol. And what a great idea to convert your lawn to prairie. Less mowing!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 2, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Thank you, Mary. Yes, less mowing is a definite advantage. The prairie is also a great conversation starter with our neighbors.

  4. Diane Glass on September 3, 2014 at 8:47 am

    The comparison between grasses that set down deep roots and the stability and resilience of “old” age spoke to me. Thanks, Carol.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 3, 2014 at 9:04 am

      I’m delighted I can explore some of these benefits that accrue to our senior years with you, my friend.

  5. Elfrieda Schroeder on September 3, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Even our little back yard in the city has its surprises. Just yesterday I saw a humming bird lingering at my bird feeder and enjoying the sweet treat. I’ve been waiting for humming birds to do that ever since we moved here six years ago! I think he was on his way south and just stopped to say good-bye to me!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 3, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      You waited as long for that little bird as I did for the butterfly milkweed in my prairie, Elfrieda. What a gift your hummingbird gave you. He fulfilled a long-held dream and gave you the hope you can look forward to his return in the spring.

    • Athanasia on September 3, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Elfrieda, I fad a great aunt Elfrieda, but she was called Elffi by all.

      Your hummingbird will probably return next year, now that he or she discovered your feeder, and bring others along. Did you see a male or female? Put it back out as soon as starts to warm up. You may know all this already …they are drawn to the color red so try and plant red flowers or have hanging baskets with red flowers, especially tubular blossoms. It is funny that they put multiple perches on the hummingbird feeders as they are very territorial and they spend half their time chasing each other away. Do you also have any nearby trees they can perch in? They will flit back and forth between perching and feeding. They will leave here soon…I have filled the feeder for the last time, one for the road, so to say. They are so fun to watch…my feeder hangs from the eave over the kitchen window…I can stand at the window and watch them, barely a foot and a half away. Enjoy, enjoy!

      • Carol Bodensteiner on September 4, 2014 at 8:36 am

        Thanks for adding these tips for attracting hummingbirds, Athanasia. I always plant red flowers in my patio pots, just for the benefit of the hummingbirds, and I can attest to how the attract these lovely little birds. We have many that spend the summer with us.

  6. Sharon Lippincott on September 3, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Great metaphor, clear and strong. It shows developmental process so clearly. Hooray for the attitude that you took up fiction when the time was right.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 3, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks, Sharon. Metaphors are a writing skill about which I have much to learn, even though I’ve benefited from the coaching of good teachers. Someone said to me once that “when something is ready to be written, it will be written.” I’ve taken much encouragement from that.

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