Friday, November 4, 2011

Yearning and Grasses

I MISS THE PRAIRIES SOMETHING AWFUL. When the unpleasantness in the equity markets hit the Kaplan Fund a couple of years ago, we had to curb spending on grants. One of the casualties was the grasslands program, an effort to protect prairies along the US/Canada and US/Mexico borders. Most of them ranchlands, all of them west of the 100th meridian. The Kaplan trustees were good enough to bid goodbye with some big farewell grants, and they're doing good work these days in ocean conservation. But still. I am sufficiently spoiled to regard it as a hardship that nobody wants to pay me money to plunk down in the foothills of the Mustang Mountains in Cochise County, Arizona.

Some balm arrived recently in the form of photographs from Matilda Essig of Elgin, Arizona. A wonderful, unusual portfolio. Essig takes extremely close-up photos of individual prairie grass plants. We're not used to seeing them so big, of course, but we're also not accustomed to seeing the individual components of the whole, all those scores of species that inhabit a square yard of prairie surface. Essig's isolation of the micro-splendor of the plant makes the macro-splendor of the grassland ever more wondrous and consoling.

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