Prairie Pasque Flowers
is an odd time on the prairie. We may find three feet of snow and
wind-swept eight-foot drifts, or a tawny, dry, and seemingly barren
landscape, such as this year in central North Dakota. While March
weather and conditions are impossible to predict, a dusty fall and
deficit of mid-winter precipitation left little doubt a dry new year
was in queue.
are hints of spring here, the dark geese, in pairs and wavering
flocks, are here now. And just today we saw our first waves of white
geese, true “snowbirds” which winter on the Texas Gulf. The
naturalist Aldo Leopold said geese are spring. “One swallow does
not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a
March thaw, is the spring.”
the geese are here, having spent the winter in warmer climes, the
whitetail doe on our south 80 knows better, knows we may still be two
blizzards shy of spring. She was here for the duration, surviving
30-below nights and short rations, so a happy honk or two is mere
noise in her book. She’s waiting for proof.
the sharp-tailed grouse know, having survived on blackened,
freeze-dried, wolf berries and crinkled hawthorn fruits these many
weeks—it may be weeks more before anything green, succulent, and
fit for a meal makes an appearance.
made our own search today, while on our prairie walk, looking for
that singular sign of spring on native prairie: pasque flowers.
Whether the plant is anti-winter or pro-spring is a distinction known
only to the bison of long ago, but we know hoary leaves and shoots
will push and pull and claw through frigid ground in a tenacious bid
to bask in the spring sun’s weak rays. A pale bloom of
blushed-violet quickly follows. And we know spring has arrived.
we wander the prairie in our quest, our arms are sore from
inoculations and heads sore from months of worry and an inordinate
focus on events we can’t control. Geese want a puddle of open
water, the pasque flower a patch of sun. We just want another spring,
and the promise of a fresh, new year.