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What Grows in the Cracks Oct 3 08

Last week I took a hike out at the Otto Sanctuary in northern Barry County. The day was as photogenically blue as it could possibly be. The westering sun played a drama of light and shadow on the hills, and, following a winding path through acres of tallgrass prairie and woodland, I found plenty to capture with my lens.

This week I drove out to the Maher Sanctuary west of Freeport. The day was very different from the previous week. Long bars of cloud rolled across the sky like iron-gray frowns, with barely a snatch of sunlight peeping through to enliven the landscape with momentary flashes of color.

The first day was filled with all the golden glory of early autumn. But the second day had a beauty of its own—a moody, subdued loveliness cloaked in ambient gray. The colors were still there, but days like this don’t reveal them easily. You have to search for them. It’s not so much a matter of trying harder to see the masterpieces of a cloudy day; you just have to look in different places and see in a different way.

Gray days make me think. They turn my attention from grand landscapes to smaller views, to the easily overlooked, to the beauty that grows in the cracks.

The pictures in this post celebrate the greatness of the small and the glory of the humble. Walk with me down this weather-beaten boardwalk, where the tall plants of summer encroach at the growing year’s end. Smell the sweetness of the newly fallen leaves, the smell of October.


Slow down—not just with your feet, but also inside yourself. This is not a time filled with deadlines and busy preoccupations. It is a time to see with all your senses. Pause and enjoy the artistry of these colored leaves. What artist painted them and arranged them in such a delightful pattern against the mottled background of the woods?

Have you observed the heads of thistles coming to ripeness, like silky explosions frozen in time? Soon their miniature parachutes will open, and the breeze will loft them high, high above the landscape, carrying them for miles over the farmlands and forests.

The best parts of life are not necessarily the big things or the clamorous. Look in the cracks of the moment to see what may be growing there, whether it’s the gift of a wildflower or the treasure of a loved one’s smile. The old adage about not being able to see the forest for the trees has its applications, but there is also a wisdom in getting close enough to a tree to marvel at the exquisite pattern of its bark.

It is much the same with a tallgrass prairie. You can certainly miss the field for the grass—but have you ever taken a good look at the grass?

When I say that Michigan is beautiful, I don’t mean it lightly. I love this state of ours. Every state has its grandeur, but this is the one that has taught me how to see.







Written by Dave.