“Last year you’d point somewhere and ask me if I see the tuft of Indian Grass,” said my friend Doug as we walked the prairie last week. “But this year? Just look at it.” And borrowing his breathless awe, I did look. Feathery plumes, raised head high on their slender stems, waving in the prairie breeze. Not just one or two, but acre upon rolling acre. And to think that four years ago this November, each plume was but a seed, embraced by the earth, an earth we hoped still remembered what it meant to be a prairie. And by prairie, I don’t mean just grass or even wildflowers. The Land had that already.
By prairie I mean the community of fire. Or more specifically---since all landscapes are defined by how often they burn---the community of frequent fire. 150 years ago our prairie vanished, along with all the others, not only under the screeching plow but under the silence of misunderstanding. With fires extinguished, the trees, brush and fire-averse European grasses rolled across the landscape. The prairie grasses, the fire’s fuel, suffocated. And with the grass so went the community of fire. The wildflowers, unashamed to show their colors. The writhing horde of soil creatures (outweighing everything aboveground they say). The hoofed migration, rumbling herds of elk and bison matching the loudest of the African savanna. Some say that 2% of the prairie remains. I’m afraid they’re referring to a mere collection of plants. No, the community of fire is gone. And I’ll never be able to convey my grief at its loss.
But I do hope to convey my gratitude for emerging Indian Grass. How brave! Yes, we planted some seeds of hope. We returned the community’s spark of life: fire. And though the plow could return or the fires extinguished, still the Indian Grass dares rise to the sun and dance in the wind. “You inspire me Indian Grass!” And why not?
We have so much in common. Within our solar-powered Home the Land Built, I’m beginning to glimpse what the sun---the source of power for nearly everything---really is. We too harvest the rain. We too return our humanure to the soil. Less obvious but even deeper, I wonder if our spirits share a similar past. Like Indian Grass, mine too had withered somewhat under the screeching plow of monetary pursuit and the silence of life-postponed. “I’ll start really living one of these days.” Then grace planted within me a single seed. A spark was lit. And when the flames roared skyward, scorching the dry remains of my stagnant and withered ways, a new and courageous spirit rose from the ashes. Perhaps I too am a member of the community of fire.
Now, as I gaze out the bank of south-facing windows---swallows zigzagging between sunset-lit Indian Grass---I can feel it: the pulsing life in the floor of the sky. This is the life I’ve dreamed of. This is the life here for me now; all I need do is reach skyward. This is the life of the community of fire.