Note: The following is a blog I wrote for the farm two years ago. It seemed fitting for my nature blog too.
It had been awhile since I looked at the area we had burned this spring. The first thing that hit me was the stunning colors, red, maroon, deep purple, orange, yellow, gold, at least three shades of green, gray, silver, a few shades of brown from really light to very dark, white, plus the brilliant blue of the sky. The artist could have used less color, perhaps only one shade of each color and it still would have been beautiful. Instead the artist chose to lavish us with multiple layers of color. Beyond just color, there were small intricacies, so incredibly detailed. So many different shapes, textures, and lines; this was not the painting of an amateur. There were distinct patterns, and definite edges to create many individual plants of different types, yet a unique blending to bring it all together to make a complete, and whole habitat. It was designed with special care and thought, with both beauty and functionality. A viewer can’t just glance at it and walk away, at least I can’t. It’s one of those paintings you are about to walk away from and then something grabs you and holds you in place and then slowly draws you in until you really see it.
When viewing any piece of art, each person can see slightly different things or in some cases drastically different. They can interpret the message of the painting differently. Some people are moved more than others. As it captures my attention and sucks me in, I begin to see the level of detail that is there, many individual species that are each important to make up a whole interconnected world. And as I’m pulled in even further, I see the fragility and vulnerability of this world. Remove one small piece of it, even something as tiny as a beetle species and the whole thing begins to unravel and fall apart. It collapses. Although it still exists, it becomes altered and in its broken state, it is a far cry from the original painting.
That is where we are at, a damaged painting in desperate need of repair. We can try to fix it, and perhaps we will be successful with a few patches here and there, however we will never be able to restore it to its former splendor. After all, we are not the painter. That however does not give us an excuse not to try. We should try to fix it wherever we can, though it will only ever be an imperfect replica. We were appointed curators and therefore have a responsibility to do our best to protect it.
At Prairie Hollow Farm, we are trying to make amends for the damage caused by past generations. The prescribed burn we did this spring is a part of that. We are trying to restore a prairie ecosystem. There is a huge difference in the health of our small prairie this autumn. Next year, Pam will plant native prairie grasses and wild flowers after we burn those few acres. Bethany hopes to begin monitoring for snakes next spring to see if they’re making the move back into the area. We have noted an increase in both the numbers and variety of wildlife returning to the area so we plan to monitor that as well.