On Point

Six a.m. Four teams. Maps in hand. GPS units operational. Our mission: conduct the annual grassland bird point count at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie before the predicted thunderstorms roll in.

grant creekMidewin is a haven for grassland birds. It is, by an order of magnitude, the largest preserve in northeastern Illinois for a family of birds that is among the most imperiled on the planet. A primary reason for the sharp population decline for grasshopper sparrows, boblinks, and the like, is the loss of habitat. Only about 20 percent of Midewin is thus far restored to native prairie habitat. But the balance of the land – mostly pastureland, soybean fields and fallow farm fields – is managed in such a way to provide birds the habitat structure they need to nest and feed.

Monitoring bird populations lets Midewin staff know how they’re doing and helps inform management strategies.

three monitorsThis morning, Christopher Whelan, Grassland Bird Ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, is our team leader. Rounding out the rest of team is Rachel, a seasonal Midewin staffer; Dave, an intern sponsored through the Student Conservation Association, and me, using a vacation day from my job as Director – Chicago Program for the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.

point count mapOur monitoring begins in Tract 104, a tract I know well from having monitored it throughout the course of a couple of breeding seasons. During my solo counts, I would simply hike through the site for about an hour and a half counting every bird I see. Unlike these general counts, point counts are a more strategic means to estimate bird densities and population trends across entire large-scale areas, such as the 19,000 acres of Midewin. Point counts involve returning to the same point every year – that’s what the maps and GPS units are for – and then counting all the birds you see or hear within 100 metres, within five minutes.

bobolinkMonitoring Tract 104 requires wading through grasses already thigh high. As usual, all the points within Tract 104 are teeming with bobolinks, dickcissels and grasshopper sparrows. Even more thrilling was the siting of a pair of sandhill cranes flying over head.

osage orangeImmediately to the west, our next points are located in a field of former munitions storage bunkers. It takes a little more work to get to these points, as some of these areas have become shrubby with Osage orange sprouts and multiflora rose – both of which are riddled with stickers that snag and scratch. But even these scrubby areas have value for shrubland birds such as common yellowthroats, yellow warblers, brown thrashers and catbirds.

Further to the northwest, our assignment finally takes us into a restored area. Over the past few years, The Wetlands Initiative has returned an old, drained pastureland into a rich complex of prairie and wetland. The wet areas make for some difficult slogging, but the effort is worth it as our tally includes another pair of sandhill cranes, half a dozen great egrets, four American woodcocks, as well as a full complement of grassland birds.

three monitors in wetlandBeyond the wading through high grasses, thorny patches and boot-sucking wetlands, the day was all the more challenging for the high winds of the approaching rains. This lessened the number of birds on the wing and made it more difficult to hear the subtler calls of, for instance, Hensolw’s sparrows.

Nonetheless, by my unofficial tally, our team saw 37 bird species before the rain put an early end to our morning. And then it was off to breakfast at the local diner in Wilmington – just about the time most folks would have been sitting down at their desks to start their day.

A dickcissel - one of the most abundant grassland birds at Midewin

A dickcissel – one of the most abundant grassland birds at Midewin

 

Imagine

A field sparrow in full voice.

A field sparrow in full voice with its telltale “bouncing ping pong ball” trill.

I gave up religion a long time ago. Yet, here I am hiking through the restored woodlands and prairies of Midewin on Easter Sunday with strains of “Jesus Christ is risen today…” wafting through my head. Does this mark a relapse, a return to the religious roots of my childhood?

Perhaps. In a way. The resurrection of Christ, the return of songbirds, the re-emergence of woodland ephemerals, the recovery of the prairie following a spring burn? I’m thinking perhaps, maybe, imagine, it’s all one.

IMG_0672I was raised in the United Church of Christ and attended Sunday school and eventually Sunday services, well, religiously through my high school years. I was a frequent soloist with the adult choir and directed the children’s choir. Graduating from college with a music degree, I was hired by Holy Name Cathedral – seat of the archdiocese of Chicago – to sing in its professional choir. Although I am not Catholic, it is there that I fell in love with the pageantry of the Mass, the sacred grandeur of the sanctuary, the chant that transported me and the entire congregation to an otherworldly place.

For reasons that are the subject of another story, I fell away from church and singing both. And for many years, I searched, I wandered. Quietly.

My backyard garden, brimming with native plants.

My backyard garden, brimming with native plants.

I’m not quite sure how I got bit by the nature bug, other than it took precisely an extended time of wandering and quietude in places ranging from backyard garden to national parks to allow what latent affinity there was to blossom.

A recent controlled burn at Midewin removes invasives and replenishes the soils, setting the stage for the return of more than a hundred native prairie species.

A recent controlled burn at Midewin removes invasives and replenishes the soils, setting the stage for the return of more than a hundred native prairie species.

However, my love for nature came into full flower in discovering Midewin. For here is the living embodiment of the resurrection. Throughout Illinois, there remains less than one-tenth of one percent of natural land; and of that tiny fraction, an even smaller fraction remains of native tallgrass prairie. Once fully restored, Midewin’s 19,000 acres will encompass more prairie in one single place than exists collectively among all the scattered remnant prairie patches across the entire Prairie State.

 

Midewin in ecstatic summer bloom

Midewin in ecstatic summer bloom

At Midewin, staff, nonprofit partners and legions of volunteers clear invasives, sow seed, recycle nutrients to the earth through the controlled use of fire. As a result of our collective labor, an abundance of beautiful flowers and grasses are refilling the landscape. Rare and endangered birds find safe harbor in an increasingly uninhabitable world. Calling frogs fill the spring air with song that would grace any cathedral.

Spring beauties - an early woodland ephemeral - in Prairie Creek Woods.

Spring beauties – an early woodland ephemeral – in Prairie Creek Woods.

The return, the very survival, of these plants and animals, these kinds of entire ecosystems, depends entirely on us. This restoration work we do, therefore, is among the most charitable things we, as a species, can do. The most Christian, the most Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Humanist (the list goes on) thing we can do.

Imagine.

Midewin-Dunes Connection

Along the Miller Beach Trail at Indiana Dunes National Park

“The woods are lovely dark and deep/But I have promises to keep…” The Miller Beach Trail at Indiana Dunes National Park

Last week, the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission voted in support of the Illiana Tollroad. To assuage my frustration and grief, I head to Midewin, which lies in the path of the proposed tollroad. But part way there, I turn the car around and make my way to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Why? In many ways, the Dunes are to Northwestern Indiana what Midewin is to Northeastern Illinois. Both are large, landscape-scale conservation areas. The Dunes National Lakeshore – along with its sister site, the Indiana Dunes State Park – measures nearly 18,000 acres. Midewin is a bit bigger at 19,000. (A lot bigger at 40,000 acres if you factor in its sister sites – the DesPlaines Conservation Area and Goose Lake Prairie.)

Over the (Grand Cal) River and through the (Miller Beach) Woods...

Over the (Grand Cal) River and through the (Miller Beach) Woods…

Both are ecological gems. The Dunes boasts over 1,100 flowering plants and ferns, making it one of the most biologically diverse of all our national parks. Even as Midewin is being fully restored to its original prairie state, it is a major refuge for all species of grassland birds.

In addition to being havens for native plants and animals, the Dunes and Midewin provide people something they can’t get anywhere else in our highly urbanized area: a chance to get away from it all for a little peace, quiet and introspection. In fact, the home page for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is titled “Sand and Solitude.” And the very word Midewin is a Potawatomi word for “healing.”

Sand and Solitude (and clouds and lake) at the Dunes

Sand and Solitude (and clouds and lake) at the Dunes

Living nearly equidistant between the Dunes and Midewin, it’s frequently a toss-up which one to visit for hiking and birding. Loving them equally, I go to both. A lot. The last thing in the world I would want to happen is for anyone even to suggest running a major tollroad alongside the Dunes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that doing so would be devastating. For plants and animals. For the people who visit. All the noise, congestion, pollution. Blech.

Along the Indiana stretch of the Illiana Tollroad – which NIRPC just voted to approve – it would run far to the south of the Dunes, mostly through farmland. But on the Illinois side of the state line, the Illiana would run along the entire southern border of Midewin. Again, it doesn’t take a genius to understand what a terrible effect that would have on any natural area.

In approving the Illiana, it’s obvious that NIRPC doesn’t much care what happens on the Illinois side. Unfortunately, neither does the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council’s MPO Committee, in its approval of the Illiana.

no illianaBut others care. Deeply. This tollroad ain’t built yet.

Midewin in Chicago

IMG_1395Through early January, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie can be found in Chicago at the corner of Montrose and Ravenswood. Inside, on the second floor, of Lill Street Gallery.

Nature has been inspiring artists since time immemorial. Think of the unamed artists who inscribed animals on the cave walls of Lascaux. Thomas Cole and the many other landscape artists who comprised the Hudson River School in the mid-19th century. Lorado Taft and his Eagle’s Nest Art Colony along the Rock River in northwest Illinois. Even a certain Midewin blogger who makes original stained glassworks inspired by his award winning garden. IMG_6487

IMG_1399Late this past summer, Artists Nora Renick Rinehart and Liz Ann Kozik spent a 24-hour period at the actual Midewin, located about 20 minutes south of Joliet. According to signage at the exhibit, “Liz drew from that which grows in the earth, the plant life that filled the landscape: prairie restoration, crops, grass, and weeds. These paintings became the wallpaper that now fills the gallery.”

“Nora turned her gaze upward to the sky, photographing the sky every two hours. Using household paint swatches, she captured the exact color of the sky in each particular moment. These photographs hang around the gallery.”

IMG_1406

I’ve been out to Midewin proper more times than I can count. I’ve written about it extensively and taken thousands of pictures. But I also love seeing Midewin through the eyes of others. Nora and Liz are gifted artists, whose talents and perspectives beautifully complement each other in this exhibition that runs at Lill Street through January 5, 2014.

I love how Liz has captured the exceptional diversity of plant life at Midewin with minimal use of color. And how her subtle palette shift from green to gold mirrors the overall progression of prairie color from spring to fall.

IMG_1405And I find it both playful and inspired how Nora helps familiarize the viewer to the prairie landscape by holding up color swatches to match the sky. Whereas many may be unfamiliar with the prairie, virtually everyone has seen color swatches at Menards or Home Depot with such nature evoking names as “blue willow.” Placing the familiar alongside the unfamiliar provides a reference point to help us really see something new. And, if we think about it, to remind us that so much of the man-made color in the world comes directly from nature.

I was further drawn into Nora’s photgraphs in the act of photographing them myself. If you look closely, you will see in the reflection in the glass, me taking a photograph of a photograph of someone taking a photograph of themselves (or at least their hand) in the prairie. Cool.

IMG_1393

Illiana is (not) for the Birds

no illianaAs if we needed another reason to oppose the Illiana tollroad, here’s one more - it would be disastrous for birds.

Roads are bad for all wildlife for the the reasons you’d expect: habitat fragmentation, pollution and collisions. Just this week, a second rare and radio-collared ocelet was killed by a motorist along a state highway in Texas. And today’s NY Times pins the population collapse of monarch butterflies on the loss of native habitat.

But it turns out that roads are “overwhelmingly negative” for birds for these usual reasons plus the simple fact that they are noisy. In a recent, first-of-its-kind study reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, researchers set up speakers in a remote, roadless stretch of Idaho wilderness during fall bird migration season. Every four days, they played traffic noise, followed by four days of no traffic noise. Not surprisingly, there was a 25 percent decrease in the number of bird species along the “phantom road” while the traffic noise was playing, with some species avoiding the area almost completely.

South Patrol Road Prairie

South Patrol Road Prairie

As proposed, the Illiana tollroad would run immediately adjacent to the Midewin complex along its entire southern border – a distance of about seven miles. Midewin already is bordered on the west by I-55 and bisected by Route 53, both of which boast heavy truck traffic. In my experience – as a volunteer bird monitor and one who spends quite a bit of time birdwatching out at Midewin – birds are scarce near these noise corridors. Adding Illiana into the mix would further shrink Midewin’s footprint as a refuge for some of the most imperiled birds on the earth.

And the extra noise, pollution and congestion would, well, simply suck for the human element at Midewin, as well. Part of the joy of Midewin is the fact that it is one of the very few places in the entire state where you can experience something akin to the wide open prairie landscape of pre-settlement times. Most prairie remnants are virtual postage stamps, some measuring less than an acre in size.

Upland sandpiper

Upland sandpiper

At 19,000 acres, Midewin affords the peace and solitude that were as much hallmarks of primeval prairies as was their fabled abundance of wildflowers, grasses and birds. The Illiana would permanently shatter that experience for everyone. Gone or greatly diminished would be the joys of listening to the subtle buzz of grasshopper sparrows, the sotto voce hiccup of Henslow’s sparrows or the burbling cries of state-endangered upland sandpipers.

American Woodcock

American Woodcock

There is nothing quite like standing in the midst of South Patrol Road Prairie at dusk,the early spring air thin and crisp, basking in the twittering mating calls of  woodcocks. Or shushing through this same prairie in mid-winter, sowing native wetland seeds, while the carillon from the adjacent Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery pierces the thin winter air to tickle your ear with its melancholy peal.

The route of the Illiana would run right alongside South Patrol Road Prairie, rendering these and inummerable other experiences as rare as the state-endangered loggerhead shrike. Or northern harrier. Or any number of threatened and endangered bird species who are just barely hanging onto existence because of places like Midewin.

Northern Harrier hunting in South Patrol Road Prairie

Northern Harrier hunting in South Patrol Road Prairie

 

 

Illiana Illin’

131020 sprpFollowing the recent vote by the MPO Planning Committee to approve running a major tollroad through the heart of the Midewin complex, I simply had to come out to Midewin and relish the peace and quiet of the place before major road construction begins. In truth, there remains a slim chance that the tollroad won’t be built. It yet may prove too expensive for the much heralded (but still unidentified) private partners. The state yet may balk at having to backstop millions of dollars of profits for private interests.

But lost in all the raging debate about dollars and politics and legal challenges are the simple, unquantifiable joys of Midewin. And a late-autumn afternoon provides the perfect lens through which to relish them.

131020 aster131020 godenrodFor many, I would imagine, this time of the year the restored prairie lands of Midewin appear little more than fallow fields. Of weeds. Dead weeds. Of course, just below the surface, the roots of some 250 different species of native grasses and flowers are very much alive. And to the patient observer, there remain last, lovely snatches of life and color to be observed above ground.

131020 compass plant husk 2But even as their life energy recedes into the soil for a long, winter slumber, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to view the husks of towering prairie plants – some reaching more than ten feet tall – as sculptural works of art, set against scrims of scudding clouds.

Among the many joys of strolling through the 750-acre prairie husk gallery of South Patrol Road Prairie is listening to the subtle sounds of the prairie. Juncos and American tree sparrows delicately chirp their return for the winter. Crickets sing from hidden caches in the grasses. Grasshoppers, as you walk along the path, leap frog out your way, throwing their hard bodies against the dry, sandpaper paper leaves of compass plants.

Occasionally, a semi-truck will wend its way along River Road, that runs along the edge of South Patrol Road Prairie – just as the Illiana is proposed to do along nearly the entire southern boundary of Midewin. Just that one truck, its whining wheels like nails on a chalkboard in the otherwise serene soundscape of the place, is enough to drown out the prairie, to shatter the sanctuary that it is.

Mercifully, the truck passes. Your ears and eyes reatune themselves to the prairie. And you love it all the more in light of its potential loss.

131020 compass plant husk 3131020 big bluestem husks131020 compass plant husks

An open letter to Governor Quinn following the MPO Policy Committee’s vote regarding the Illiana Expressway

Dear Governor Quinn,

nighstand piece 2Less than one-tenth of one percent of quality natural land remains anywhere in Illinois. That’s roughly the equivalent of a small bedside nightstand in a 2,500 square foot home; provided you chop that nightstand into a thousand pieces and scatter them throughout theplace.

Less than one-tenth of onnighstand piece 1e percent. Chopped up into a thousand pieces.

One of the biggest and best remaining pieces is Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and its sister sites – Goose Lake Prairie and DesPlaines Conservation Area.

Yesterday’s vote by the MPO Policy Committee paves the way for the Illiana Expressway to be built right through the middle of this last best stand of nature in all of Northern Illinois.

IDOT engineers assure us that there will be no adverse effects on the natural areas through which the Illiana will course 43,000 vehicles per day. Pardon me, but I’m going trust the ecologists, botanists and avian experts who are not on the state payroll.

Midewin LogoExperts tell me – supported by data that I help collect as a volunteer bird monitor at Midewin – that Midewin is a critical refuge for grassland birds. Over the past few decades, suburban sprawl has gobbled up farmland and grasslands at an explosive rate. As a result, “grassland birds have experienced steeper, more consistent, and more widespread population declines than any other avian guild in North America.” Populations of the eastern meadowlark, for instance, whose image is emblazoned on Midewin’s logo, has declined by 72 percent. To put it another way, there are 17 million fewer meadowlarks today than there were in 1970.

17 million.

Building the Illiana will drive a stake through the heart of Midewin. It will gobble up thousands of acres of farmland. Tens of thousands. For once the road is built, unchecked suburban sprawl will follow as it has throughout our history; the very thing that the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and its Go To 2040 Plan was hoping to avoid in favor of smart, strategic, sustainable development for the entire region – not just the politically advantageous county of Will.

CMAP-GO-TO-2040If the Illiana is built – and I have no doubt that in the end the state, not the much heralded private partners, will undertake the lion’s share of financial risk in building it – Midewin will remain. But it will be decidedly less. It will be green, but comparatively devoid of the bird song that should fill it. This, too, will be your legacy. A perpetual Silent Spring save for the constant roar of cars and commerce. And so it seems fitting that I leave you with a quote from Rachel Carson:

“Why should we toleratrachel-carson-silent-springe a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?”

Oh, de Odanata at Midewin

All those years of birdwatching? Turns out birds may only have been a gateway drug. These days I can’t get enough of Odanata. Dragonflies and damseflies.

There are about 5,000 species of Odanata worldwide, approximately half the number of bird species. But dragonflies have been around for nearly twice as long as birds, dating back more than 250 million years.

In Illinois, there are 99 known species of dragonflies and damselflies; about one-third the total number found in North America. With the record-setting rainfall this spring, the air at Midewin is teeming with more species than I can count today. They are devilishly quick on the wing, but every once in a while they take a rest from their voracious feeding or territory defending, allowing my camera a taste of their rich colors and stained glass wings.

Most dragonfly names have quite the dramatic flair. This male widow skimmer is distinct for its white and dark wing patches, combined with a dusky, bluish-grey abdomen (or tail.)

Most dragonfly names have quite the dramatic flair. This male widow skimmer is distinct for its white and dark wing patches, combined with a dusky, bluish-grey abdomen (or tail.)

Emerald Jewelwing. The name says it all about this damselfly that flits like a butterfly.

Emerald Jewelwing. The name says it all about this damselfly that flits like a butterfly.

This eastern ringtail is notable for its blue eyes. green striped thorax, and rusty ovipositor (the tip of its tail.)

This eastern ringtail is notable for its blue eyes. green striped thorax, and rusty ovipositor (the tip of its tail.)

One of the smallest dragfonflies in North America, this eastern amberwing appears to have learned to smile for the camera.

One of the smallest dragfonflies in North America, this eastern amberwing appears to have learned to smile for the camera. (Click on the photo for a close up view.)

If you're going to hang out in wetlands, you might as well enjoy the pickerel frogs, as well.

If you’re going to hang out in wetlands, you might as well enjoy the pickerel frogs, as well.

And green frogs.

And green frogs.

Even tadpoles that will emerge into bullfrogs, which eat just about anything they can catch, including dragonflies.

Even monster tadpoles that will morph into bullfrogs, which eat just about anything they can catch, including dragonflies.

Bullfrogs are not the only threat to dragonflies. This eastern pondhawk is not above eating other dragonflies, even fellow pondhawks.

Bullfrogs are not the only threat to dragonflies. This eastern pondhawk is not above eating other dragonflies, even fellow pondhawks.

 

Female twelve-spotted skimmers lack the white wing patches that alternate between the dark patches. But the yellow side stripes on their bodies (thoraxes) tend to be more distinct.

Compared to the males, female twelve-spotted skimmers lack the white wing patches that alternate between the dark patches. But the yellow side stripes on their bodies (thoraxes) tend to be more distinct.

Are you looking at me? Are you looking at me?

Are you looking at me? Are you looking at me? (Click on the photo for a close up view.)

OK. Full disclosure. I've long had a jones for dragonflies. This window skimmer lives year round in my home.

OK. Full disclosure. I’ve long had a jones for dragonflies. This window skimmer lives year round in my home.

If dragonfly wings are, perhaps, the true inspiration for stained glass, why not have stained glass dragonflies gracing your home?

After all, if dragonfly wings are nature’s stained glass, it only makes sense to honor them by incorporating dragonflies into some of the stained glass artworks I’ve crafted for my home.

 

 

 

Fire and Rain

“Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.” More than a refrain from a classic James Taylor hit, fire and rain are two fundamental life forces in ample evidence this summer at Midewin. One of which we have control over. The other, not so much.

photoBack in April, a controlled burn was conducted in South Patrol Road Prairie. Prior to European settlement, the prairies of Illinois burned regularly, perhaps once every one to five years. Set by lightning or, later, by Native Americans to drive game to slaughter, fires kept trees and shrubs from cropping up on the prairie, cleared away thatch, and returned nutrients to the soil without damaging native prairie plants, whose roots run deep and well protected.

The fire that was good for maintaining the health of the prairies, however, rightly filled early pioneers with “a terror easier imagined than described…at many times a prairie miles long and on fire with a strong wind was in a dense flame for hundreds of yards wide…while the prairie is in a general conflagration, a terrible roaring, something similar to thunder, is heard…the flame often rose many feet high and would destroy any animal, man or other that was caught in in it.”

Small wonder, then, that those who settled the prairie quickly strove to eliminate fires from the landscape. But with the advent of ecological restoration over the past few decades, the use of controlled burns has become one of the primary tools for maintaining the health of prairies, wetlands and even some woodland types.

Burn area is to the left of the red arrow.

Burn area is to the left of the red arrow.

I am  certified by Chicago Wilderness to serve on burn crews, but this is one job neither I nor any other volunteer are permitted do at Midewin. At Midewin, controlled burns are the  exclusive domain of the Midewin Interagency Hot Shot Crew. And what a great job they did, safely burning most of the 460-acre site in a single day. Within a week, like green phoenixes, the tender shoots of prairie plants were pushing up out of the ash.

controlled burn resproutsLast year, record drought conditions stunted the growth of most prairie plants in South Patrol Road Prairie. This year, with record rainfall following the burn, South Patrol Road Prairie has exploded in lush herbaceous greens and the full range of pinks, whites, purples and yellows of native wildflowers.

“Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain…”

The veins of a prairie dock leaf

The veins of a prairie dock leaf

Blue flag iris

 

Cream white indigo

Cream white indigo

Spiderwort

Spiderwort

 

Easter Blessing

IMG_0555Oh, good people. Let’s to the fields of Midewin. Spring is springing.

At first blush, the landscape may look rather grey and uninviting, but look first with your ears. The meadowlarks have returned and are among the earliest songbirds to fill the air with their melodies: sol-ti-do-mi-do. (For those of you who know solfege, feel free to sing along.)

Not to be outdone, song sparrows throw back their heads and let loose with a tuneful blend of whistles, chirps and buzzes.

If songbirds are today’s featured soloists, downy woodpeckers peep piccolo-like descants, the wing beats of wood ducks are fluttering flutes, red-winged blackbirds ratchet out a rhythm, and chorus frogs comprise the back-up band.

With its wings spread wide as it glides low over the prairie, a northern harrier seems less hunter than conductor. A coyote cocks its head and listens intently. For a mouse? A vole? Or, might she, too, be taking a moment out of her day to delight in the sounds, sights and smells of early spring?

For me, this moment, this clear, warming morning, this natural symphony is underscored by a leitmotif that runs involuntarily through my mind; the opening line of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac: “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” Like Leopold, I cannot. And for that, on this day before Easter,  I give thanks for Midewin and the return, the recovery, the resurrection of my native prairie state. Amen.