An Unexpected, But Welcome Gift of Light

The kids didn’t have school for a couple days at the end of last week, so we had a pleasant four day weekend together. I did a little work, but also hung out with the boys quite a bit and was generally distracted from the world. This morning, everyone went back to school (including Kim, who was teaching) and I was left to deal with reality by myself. I didn’t like it.

It had snowed lightly overnight and was generally cold and dreary outside. As I sat at my computer, trying to focus on some annual training videos, it started to snow fairly heavily. I was having a hard time focusing on the training, distracted by a low level drone of anxiety over the general state of the world. I needed a break, but couldn’t think of anything to fit the bill. I stared bleakly out the window in a kind of trance, just watching the snow fall.

I went back to the training, but just a few minutes later, I glanced up again. The snow had stopped and the day was becoming considerably brighter. Going over to the window, I looked to the south and saw that the clouds were thinning quickly and there was blue sky appearing in the cracks. I didn’t need any bigger push than that. I put the laptop down, grabbed my camera gear, and went outside.

A very late blossom of false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) in our backyard prairie garden.

I started by wandering around our backyard prairie garden and a few smaller native wildflower plantings, enjoying the snow caps on seed heads and other plant parts. There were even some late blossoms on some wildflowers, whose vibrant color contrasted nicely with the fresh snow. Since the sun looked like it was going to stay out for a while, I eventually jumped in the truck and headed over to Lincoln Creek Prairie on the other side of town, where I walked around a little more.

A prairie violet (Viola pedatifida) pod that didn’t quite have time to open before freezing temperatures hit.
The purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) on the corner of our lot put out a few late flowers, which drooped to the ground and were partly covered by today’s light snow.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).
Pitcher sage (Salvia azurea).
More false sunflower.
And more purple prairie clover, nestled near the ground in prairie violet leaves.
Seeds of prairie violet, which haven’t yet been explosively thrown from the pod (but will be, as it dries and contracts).

By the time I got back, the world seemed a little brighter, and not just because of the sunlight and (now melting) snow. I thought about how fortunate I am to live where I have easy access to the kind of natural beauty I have around me. I was also very grateful – as always – to have my particular job, which allows me the flexibility to run off to the prairie for an hour or so when the mood strikes me.

I was granted distraction and solace when I needed it today. Whatever brings relief to each of you, I hope you’re all able to tap into what you need in the coming days.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

3 thoughts on “An Unexpected, But Welcome Gift of Light

  1. Chris – your title for today’s post would be a good sub-title for the enire series. Each new post is a gift of light and inspiration.

  2. As always, I’m grateful for the ways you share your thoughts and feelings with us. I too am often consoled by the amazing beauty and diversity of the created world. Thank you.


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