I had been painting alone in the Tallgrass Prairie of the Flint Hills in Kansas for two days; for a time, humanity didn’t exist. There was only an awareness of birds flitting about in search of insects, the mooing of distant cattle, and the sound of the wind as it gracefully danced across the tallgrass, creating continuously beautiful, rhythmic, hypnotizing waves, not unlike the ocean. Then it happened…
In an instant, in just a matter of seconds, an incredible roar of two low flying military jets streaked by and out of sight in a flash, leaving in their wake an unmistakable sonic boom that shook me to the core. Standing in awe, I realized I had dropped all my brushes. Obviously, it’s an experience I haven’t forgotten, or ever will. (Click images to enlarge)
I’ve painted in the Flint Hills several times, there’s nothing quite like it. It’s very difficult to paint well.
In a wonderful April 2007 National Geographic article, titled, “Tallgrass Prairie Preserve”, author Verlyn Klinkenborg writes…”When you climb to the highest hill and stand into the wind that’s trying to pry your ears apart, what do you see? Open sky, open land, unending horizon, and the limitless and lonesome prairie. But the word that also springs to mind may be “nothing”…a glorious nothing, but nothing nonetheless”.
At certain times of the year, the prairie of tough big bluestem grass appears as an endless sea of fully alive dancers gliding across the floor in wave after wave of beautifully orchestrated graceful motion, driven on by the music of the wind.
From Google: “The Tallgrass prairie once covered 170 million acres of North America, but within a generation most of it had been transformed into farmland. Today less than 4% remains intact, mostly in the Kansas Flint Hills. Established on November 12, 1996, the preserve protects a nationally significant remnant of the once vast tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Here the tallgrass makes its last stand. This tallgrass prairie is set among low rolling hills of limestone strata that cover layers of sandstone, flint and chert rock.”
“The preserve contains healthy populations of big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass and other plants typical of the tallgrass prairie. Grassland birds, like the greater prairie-chicken and Henslow sparrow, flourish here because they require a large and diverse area of healthy prairie for habitat. Coyotes, deer and bobcats also roam the prairie.”
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