I have had the opportunity to lead several adult groups on tours of Nachusa and the Tellabs Unit. There is always an abundance of questions and some of the questions asked are the same on each trip. "How many bison are there?", "How big is Nachusa Grasslands", "What is the name of that plant?", "What does 'Nachusa' mean?" On a warm, Sunday evening I accompanied two guests on a romp around the grasslands and the forest. There were no questions, just adventure and play; I even learned a little bit.
A child born near the coast in Washington and a child born in Colorado enjoy the grassland together.
Among the tall oaks and the green herbs broken sticks and sand in the two-track are brushes and easels for young imaginations.
"As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees." —Valerie Andrews
What I thought could be a lesson on nutrient recycling and fertilization was interrupted so I could be informed that an apatosaurus had accidentally stomped on the egg of a T. Rex.
"We must remain as close to the flowers, the grass, and the butterflies as the child is who is not yet so much taller than they are. We adults, on the other hand, have outgrown them and have to lower ourselves to stoop down to them. It seems to me that the grass hates us when we confess our love for it. Whoever would partake of all good things must understand how to be small at times." —Friedrich Nietzsche
It was a great tour. No scientific names were uttered. No numbers were shared. No ecological concepts were described. Sticks became swords, rocks were thrown, the grass cushioned multiple falls, laughter muted the birds, and a bull bison grazed unconcerned. I encourage you to visit Nachusa and perhaps bring a child instead of a field guide.
"We could have never loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it."
Text and photography by Tellabs Steward, Mark Jordan.
Eugene Jones Baldwin
He is a journalist, fiction writer and blogger. He writes history pieces for the Alton Telegraph and is the author of "The Genehouse Chronicles," a collection of essays on nature, people and places along the Mississippi River.