I remember the first time I visited the prairie at Natchusa, paper pie plates guided the way. I don’t remember if I parked on the road or in the grass. It was a beautiful September day, warm and sunny. Standing on a hill I saw grasses waving in the breeze, taller than me. The view extended for miles. I don’t remember very much about the day except I went on a guided walk and had a GREAT time. I also don’t remember what year it was, only that I was much younger.
Natchusa has grown — regular printed signs guide the wanderer to the prairie. The festival is still held the 3rd Saturday of September. The day before, rain washed the landscape — thankfully Saturday was dry and sunny. Walking through the prairie after a rain when everything is wet was not something that I wanted to do. Now there are buffalo and tours were provided. One year vehicles took visitors out to various parts of the prairie — this year the emphasis was on the buffalo. They arrived in November of last year, and roam a 500 acre area north of the festival. The buffalo came from South Dakota, they are pure, their stock hasn’t been mixed with cattle.
My husband and I took turns standing in line to wait for the tour. It was time well spent. During the waiting time, I bought a pork sandwich for lunch. I don’t know if I was planning to sit down to eat it but when I stopped at a table to add BBQ sauce. I lost my footing and almost fell. I decided the best option was to sit and join the group at the table. Three photographers with huge professional cameras were enjoying their lunch. I had my camera, which takes GREAT pictures but is much lighter and easier for me to carry. When they left, three artists who were painting at the festival took their place. They each painted in a different medium: oil, acrylic and watercolor.
I stopped to not only admire their work but to investigate the easels they were using. I have painted in the open, on site at the Botanical Gardens. I remember well the task of getting my easel, paints, chair and painting to and from the site. I was painting in oil which doesn’t dry quickly. I only put in the background of the waterfall, planning to finish it at home. Carrying the WET painting to my car, I left my fingerprints on the canvas. They are still on the canvas — I decided to leave the painting as is and remember the day. Having an easier way to carry supplies might make it possible for me to paint on location again. I don’t know if I NEED another easel, or would use it. I haven’t actually painted in a few years but nudges have started again.
Before we left, I walked up a narrow trail into the prairie. Camera in hand I searched my memory trying to remember names of plants that I used to know. Thankfully, many had signs naming the plant. I would have loved to walk further and explore but even though I was wearing jeans, my shoes weren’t the best.
We will just have to return!