Fall Prairie


Photo by Roman, taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Having been an urban dweller all my life, I hadn’t realized that the prairie also turns color in the Fall. This was a delight to discover, and so the Chicago Botanic Garden’s restored prairie is a must see each time I visit.

It was a visit to Matthiessen State Park in Illinois one Fall that taught me the colors of the prairie. I was acquainted with the park by its older name, Deer Park, as it had been a regular summer visit during my childhood. At that time, it was mostly a smaller version of Starved Rock State Park, which it is very near though on a different river: all grotto, ravine and forest. Sometime later, it was expanded to include a neighboring farm that was restored to prairie. I first visited the prairie one Fall in the late 1970s with a girl friend and her near-kindergarten aged son.

Her son was none too keen on hiking, and when he became tired, like most kids his age, he began to lose control. We responded by telling him that whenever he needed to rest, we’d stop. He was as fascinated by this newly discovered power as I was by the prairie in all its Fall colors. We ended up hiking a long distance. It was win-win as he got a ride on my shoulders part of the way back.

Unfortunately, the relationship between his Mom and I did not default to friendship at the end, so my knowledge of their stories ends decades ago. I like to think they’ve done well, but I’m content with the memory and enriched by the colors of a prairie Fall.

Author: rmichaelroman

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