After a brief spell of cool weather posing as autumn, late summer has made a return, with its characteristic heat and humidity. At this time of year, I love to slip away to a small stretch of restored prairie a few miles distant. It’s another world, this little wilderness, a place where I retreat from civilization to lose myself in the timelessness of tall grass and nodding prairie wildflowers.
This nearby acreage beckons to a variety of butterflies; there are skippers and swallowtails, emperors and fritillaries, the occasional monarch, and sometimes, rarely, an Eastern-tailed blue. The air pulsates with music; there’s the incessant chatter of finches and sparrows, the stridulatory shriek of cicadas, the high lonesome sound of crickets. If the day’s thermometer is on the rise, I fail to notice, oblivious to a punishing sun. I wander about, mentally gathering armload upon armload of purple asters, frothy white boneset, sweet evening primrose, tall goldenrod.
The luminous petals of a prairie sunflower leap like flame from a conical seed head crowned with minuscule stars. This comely native wildflower artfully illustrates these resonant words:
When we look deeply
at a flower, we can see
the whole cosmos
is contained in it.
~Thich Nhat Hanh
Not merely in this flower, but all around me, the dazzling cosmos unfurls. This small patch of prairie is a universe dotted with constellations of sunflowers; here, butterfly wings are etched with tiny planets and moons; pollen cascades like stardust from the shaken blossom. My feet are planted on prairie soil, yet I move with ease among living galaxies, worlds cradled within worlds.
Whether upon prairie or plateau, meadow or mountain, wherever we happen to stand on Earth’s vast topography, the cosmos ceaselessly unfolds. There is no need to reach up to clasp far-off heavens; the heavens reach down to embrace us. They’re here with us in miniature, in loveliness, paths sprinkled with stars.