As I was driving back to DeLand, I passed through Payne’s Prairie, and while I know that I have featured it before, I was again struck by its beauty. Today, the sky was that unutterably beautiful bright blue of autumn, and the prairie was abloom with hyacinths and other flowers. There are other places along the way that I am drawn to, but the prairie overwhelmed me with its beauty, so this is where I stopped.
Almost as soon as I walked onto the overlook, I saw an alligator hiding among the blooms. Gators are pretty good at hiding, but if you look closely, you can often detect them. This one looked an awful lot like a truck tire print, but I knew what he really was. Perhaps he was just taking the time to smell the flowers.
By the side of the walkway, these mimosa-like fronds grow tall, with blossoms that look just past spent still clinging here and there. They are tall, several feet taller than I stand on the walkway, and look striking against the bright blue sky. Small pods are beginning to form, which will soon drop their seeds to repopulate the prairie for next year.
Water hyacinths are the most obvious of the flowers right now, blooming across the prairie with abandon. When they are just beginning to bud, they look much as land hyacinths do, with rows of small buds along a stalk, but as they unfurl their blooms, the flowers themselves look more like irises.
Even in the bluest skies lately there have been a few clouds, white and puffy, like a child’s drawing. They emphasize the flatness of the land, and make the sky look so big. This prairie is so small compared to the ones Laura Ingalls and her family crossed; can you imagine that achingly big sky, mile after mile, day after day, as you cross unfamiliar land in search of a place to live? I thought Montana’s nickname was ridiculous until I saw this prairie.
Out in the sea of grass, almost too far to capture, this hunter strutted across the blooms in search of dinner. His white feathers attract attention on this field of green, but he doesn’t worry about his camouflage, for his prey lives below the water and he knows few predators from which he has to hide.
These gangly birds rise into the sky with their great flapping wings, but once aloft, they glide smoothly across the sky, skimming above the surface of the grasses and flowers, seeking ripples in the water. It is amazing to witness their flight, for how can such large birds look so graceful in the air?