Easy and slow, able to walk within the tall grass, down with the fallen maples and last year’s life. Goldenrod, bluestem and other prairie flowers as this is really two separate hikes – one down in the forest and fallen, another in the prairie and Oak Savanna.
I come across an old maple that has fallen, its body stretching across a small ravine. I jump up, at first the trunk is about 18″ across and easy to walk. At its highest point over the ravine (now about 15-20 feet), the trunk is about eight inches. There I stand, balancing with nothing to hold, nothing to grab if I fell. A potential fall would certainly hurt, possibly injure with broken bones. I close my eyes, breathe slow, make deals with the wind.
Of all the things, Oak trees still remind me of our old home. We had Engelmanns in the backyard with their sharp leaves, but these are different and familiar at the same time. Above the oak, the sky is slowly clearing of birds, the thunder growls.
A Northern Cardinal calls to me from above. I slide closer and he stays for a second, and then flies off, non-trusting and non-adventurous – good for him. Northern Cardinal: Large, crested finch with vivid red body. Black mask and chin contrast with heavy, red bill. Forages on ground and in trees and bushes. Feeds on seeds, grains, fruits, insects and snails. Hops instead of walks on ground. Alternates rapid wing beats with wings pulled to sides.