Hoping that the cold weather (don’t laugh – it wasn’t even 50 at noon today!) would bring out the bison in their woolly coats, I headed back down to Payne’s Prairie today. The sky was perfect for a prairie view, seeming to go on forever. Before I got to the state park, I pulled off on one of the overlooks, where there wasn’t much wildlife, I love the way these palms rise from the prairie at the side of the road. There is something about these palms by the side of the road that is both compelling and lonely. These are not planted to make a pretty tunnel to lead you to the beach or Rodeo Drive, they are natural palms that grow unaided. This is what Florida looks like when nobody is looking.
There are many of these plants out on the prairie, which I think are grasses, tall and fascinating with their shaggy heads. A field of these is beautiful, waving in the wind, looking all the world like a golden ocean, but a singular stalk is something else again. Seeing the head cut across the bright blue of the sky, with each seed in clear focus, just takes my breath away with its beauty. Most grass heads are more orderly, but I love how wild this one is, with tendrils snaking away from the stalk.
Something in this makes me ache for the spring, when this will be green again, and when the buffalo will roam these flatlands, eating to their hearts content. This is an unusual mood for me, because spring is normally my least favorite season, a time of year I feel too restless to enjoy the beauty everyone else speaks of. I prefer the cold of a real winter, or the crispness of fall, or even the heat of summer to the restlessness of spring.
Much of Gainesville is rather jungle-like, with trees and vines and limited views of the sky. But on the prairie you can see the vast expanse of blue sky and rolling cloud formations. The sun hits the clouds and breaks through in spots, making the white shimmer against the blue. It is days like this that give me some slight understanding of what people mean when they speak of “Big Sky Country” up in Montana. The sky really does somehow look bigger than usual.
I apologize for the dust I’ve managed to get into my camera again. One of these days I will figure out how to change a lens without letting dust get into the camera.
The birds of prey that fly through the air, seeking a mouse or a rabbit, are easier to see and focus on in the prairie than they are throughout most of Gainesville. There were many hawks flying around today, along with some vultures, and I was busily trying to capture their pictures when I realized that I had something much more exciting in my viewfinder. It is hard to see from a distance, but this is actually a bald eagle!
I followed him until he landed on a power pole, hoping to get a bit closer. I never really did get close enough to capture him as clearly as I would like to, but I was thrilled to get even this. Look at how beautiful he is perched on his lookout point!
Although there are many trails and places to stop in Payne’s Prairie, I chose to go back to the observation tower I went to last time, hoping to see the bison. When I saw brown lumps moving around out on the prairie, I thought that I had finally found them, but when I got closer I realized that these were actually wild horses. They stayed pretty far out on the prairie, never coming in for a close up.
This deer, however, was just standing by the side of the road. She did not seem to like the camera clicking, but wasn’t frightened enough to run away. She just turned and walked away into the woods.