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Lessons in Survival

Prairie Notes:
August 8, 2009

1) Celebration of the Lizard Queen
2) Madonna's of the Prairie
3) Fort Worth Prairie Park in the News
4) Urgent Request for Special Prairie Fest Volunteer
5) PF Report in Pagan News
6) Flower of the Moment: Gay-feather

1) Remember this gal from last June? Now we know why she was smiling.

Texas Spiny Lizard
6/09, THNA, DY

By chance, I was eye-witness to the laying of 15 perfect eggs by this, Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus). I was lucky to get this one photo before she covered the eggs and vanished into the thicket. It's hard to believe that so many eggs came out of so tiny a spiny. She's no bigger than a small bird. Ma Nature worked overtime to insure the survival of these handsome and beneficial creatures.

Texas Spiny Lizard
7/18/09, THNA, DY

Texas Spiny Lizard
7/18/09, THNA, DY

As the overall health of the north Texas ecosystem declines due to rapid growth, unwise land-use and, especially, gas drilling, events like this one should be celebrated often and never be taken for granted.

The 15 eggs were laid on July 18 and are due to hatch in early September. I'll keep you posted. Read more about these fascinating links in the chain of life, here:

"Oh, do you remember Sweet Betsy from Pike, Who crossed the wide prairie with her lover Ike?"

This is about survival of a different color. The concept of, Madonna of the Prairie, and the images it inspired came about in the mid-nineteenth century during the westward expansion of the North American frontier by settlers from the east.

These Madonna's were sometimes metaphors for the virgin wilderness that was "conquered" by the settlers. Other times they symbolized the sacrifices and heroism of the frontier women and of course the Catholic ideals associated with Mother Mary, herself.

Some of the images were inspired by Renaissance art and others by real women of the American west. In any case, they are a mostly idealized views of pioneer women that also included the likes of Calamity Jane and Miss Kitty.

Here's an excerpt from the book, Westering Women and the Frontier Experience, 1800 - 1915:

and Pioneer Women, by Linda S. Peavey:

Below, is an example of a Renaissance/Catholic-inspired Madonna of the Prairie. Buy a copy for your prairie garden, here:

Madonna of the Prairie

Here's a more Earthy, Madonna of the Prairie sculpture by, Christian Petersen, dating from 1940 and installed on the Iowa State University campus:

Madonna of the Prairie

Here's a different sort of, "Madonna of the Prairie", as painted for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post when the popular novel, The Covered Wagon, by W.H.D Koerner, was serialized in 1922. The artist depicted the young heroine of the novel, Molly Wingate, with a prairie schooner halo around her head.

Buffalo Bill Historical Center
Buffalo Bill Historical Center

In 1928, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) commissioned no less than twelve "Madonna of the Trail" sculptures to recognize the courage and contributions of pioneer women. They are scattered across the Santa Fe Trail from coast to coast. Read thier story here:

Memorial Statue

Below, a contemporary twist on the Prairie Madonna by Dutch artist, Bert Menco:

Prairie Madonna
Prairie Madonna - Bert Menco

...and a lovely, contemporary work by fiber artist, Janet Ghio:

Janet Ghio

The story of westward expansion is one of contradiction. Many of the white settlers saw it manifest destiny. For the native peoples it meant death, disease and destruction of their way of life. The great American prairie ecosystem in all its breathtaking diversity would, tragically, never be the same.

This allegorical image titled, American Progress, painted by John Gast in 1872, illustrating a heroic, Madonna-like figure floating over the plains, sums up what happened to the prairie and its inhabitants from the invaders point of view.

Museum of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles.
Museum of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles.

3) Efforts to save the 2,000 acre Fort Worth Prairie "Rainforest" Park from development is featured in the current issue of the Fort Worth Weekly. Read about the trials, tribulations and successes endured by Jarid Manos and company:

The survival of Fort Worth Prairie Park depends on YOU. Click here to learn how you can help:

4) The 5th annual Fort Worth Prairie Fest is still nine months away but plans are already under way to make it THE spring green festival in north Texas. Our survival depends on the people behind the scenes who volunteer their time and talents to make it happen. Right now, we are a few people short of what we need.

At the top of that list is a Media/Marketing Committee Leader, someone with skills in all media who can help us get the word out and manage all publicity. If you have such skills, a passion for protecting the environment and lots of free time, please contact me ASAP.

Cyberspace reports on Prairie Fest '09 keep surfacing, months after the event concluded. This excellent report in (of all places) just came over the wire. It will make a believer out of you:

6) There is a touch of Fall in the air at THNA today, just a touch, as a steady wind blows across the grassy hills of THE Best Place to Stand in North Texas. The shorter days can fool one into briefly dreaming of sweaters and bonfires, especially since several Fall plant species have showed up, including Snow on the Prairie (Euphorbia bicolor), Eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii) and False Gaura (Stenosiphon linifolius).

But Ma Nature is only teasing us. Several summer bloomers are still vigorous, such as Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum), Mock Pennyroyal (Hedeoma reverchonii) and especially, Gay-feather (Liatris sp.). Young Gay-feather plants resemble green paintbrushes with dabs of purple paint on their slender stem tips. As they mature, the flowers tend to grow in asymmetrical shapes with no two alike. Right now they are scattered across THNA in selected locations.

Gay-feather (Liatris sp.), THNA, 7/08/09, DY

Gay-feather (Liatris sp.), THNA, 7/08/09, DY

Come to the meadow where the wild things are and celebrate your own connection with the wild and natural world as if your survival depended on it.