Still Waters


When my family moved to Lake County, Illinois back in 1974, the roads were narrow, the fields were wide.  Wetlands and pothole lakes left over from the last glacier stretched to the horizon.  The weather here was, um, dramatic, compared with what I was accustomed to.  Being a kid, I thought snow drifts taller than I am were extremely cool.  The old country roads frequently drifted over in the winter.  Hard to imagine what a bucolic place this used to be, now that I think about it.  Back then, though,  deer, eagles, hawks, canadian geese and cranes were all pretty much gone.  The land felt empty…

People being the restless creatures that we are, by the time I was done with college things had begun to change.  I won’t express, here, my feelings about greedy contractors who buy up huge tracts of land, rape it of its trees and very topsoil and crowd it with boring beige mcmansions, nor for the short-sighted idiot village boards who agree to this….(ahem)….Suffice it to say, this is now one sprawling bedroom community of Chicago.  There are a lot of downsides to this, but this isn’t what I want to focus on.  No.  Although I do resent all of the above, that is what it is.  There is another side to the coin and this is where I find my happiness.

All along, the Lake County Forest Preserve District has been quietly negotiating with land owners to purchase tracts of land.  The plan is brilliant; we have public golf courses and preserves designed for varied use, and we have wonderful parcels set aside for the preservation of nature.  You can walk into these places and feel your chest expand, your shoulders drop, your breath deepen.

One of these special places was once a farm.  It had been drained, but otherwise much of its character was intact.  Since it became the Rollins Savanna, the drain tiles were broken.  In short order water returned, along with several ground nesting birds.

All the while, too, people have been working to restore habitats, stop the use of persistent pesticides, clean polluted air and water.  Now, all of those creatures I mentioned are back, re-weaving the fabric of their ecosystems.  The land is no longer empty.  There isn’t as much of it, but what has been saved is cherished.  This makes me happy.  The next time you hear anyone bashing our species, remind them of the good we also do.

Still Waters, Rollins Savanna

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13 thoughts on “Still Waters

  1. I was so surprised years ago to discover the hidden wetlands on the great plains. I had no idea that migrating birds depended on those areas during their travels, and how much water had been drained when the pioneer settlers turned the plains into farmland. I would love to have seen it back in the early 19th century, when grasses grew taller than a man and abundant wildlife made their home on the prairie.

    • Yes, I was surprised to learn that, too. Fortunately bird lovers are a vocal bunch, and have accomplished much in the way of preserving habitat. Many species are rebounding, thank heaven.

  2. Marianne says:

    This is a beautiful post, Melissa. Beautiful painting as well. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Thanks Marianne :0 ! It is so rewarding to get to experience nature close to home, paint it, and then share it. When I get kind comments from my readers it feels like a very welcome hug.

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  3. Just lovely all the way around.

  4. In looking at the small view of this painting, I thought the background was dense skyscrapers in the distance. Maybe my mind was conditioned by having been in New York last week.

    Steve Schwartzman
    http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com

    • Haha..it’s funny how our experiences color what we see, isn’t it? Actually, on a clear day you can see the skyscrapers of Chicago from this spot. Thank you for the input.

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  5. What an encouraging post to read, I stumbled on your blog via the Human Picture (Shimon) and wanted to say hi and thank you for the encouraging post! And now I read you are an artist I want I’m off to have a potter around some older posts 🙂

  6. jordan Clary says:

    How nice to read a piece about the environment with a positive slant! Your place in Illinois reminds of the town where I grew up in Ohio. I’m on the high desert of northeastern California now and sometimes I miss all the green!

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