A Sunday Walk in Thomson Prairie

Fluff Ball

Prairie Fluff © 2013 Bo Mackison

…the joy of prairie lies in its subtlety.  It is so easy—too easy—to be swept away by mountain and ocean vistas.  A prairie, on the other hand, requests the favor of your closer attention.  It does not divulge itself to mere passersby.
~ Suzanne Winckler, Prairie: A North American Guide (2004)

For this week’s hike, I walked the Thomson Prairie. One does not “hike” in a prairie, especially if it is a wild prairie –  no paths, no guided signs describing the view or the habitat or the inhabitants. This is how a prairie should be, it appears from afar to be a landscape of emptiness, but instead it is a land of thick, twisting plants, stretching tall.

Wading through these tangles of thick grasses and flowers in this mostly native prairie is pure delight, but it is not a casual stroll by any means. More a picking your way through a maze of vertical growth, choosing the way that appears to have an opening, though truly, in a wild prairie, there are no openings. Every space filled with that which grows tall, reaching towards the sun.

Thompson Prairie

Prairie in June © 2013 Bo Mackison

The land is not the setting for the work but a part of the work. ~ Walter de Maria

This is prairie in mid-June. In another month or so, the view won’t be of the far away farms and the gently rolling landscape of the non-glaciated western half of Wisconsin. It will be of grasses that stand taller than most humans, flowers that bloom high over our heads.

I’ve never walked through a wilderness prairie fully grown, one untamed by the hands of humans, but I am looking forward to the experience in another month.

Thompson Prairie Prairie in June

How High is the Prairie Grass in June? © 2013 Bo Mackison

It seems to be a constant contradiction of itself.  It is delicate, yet resilient; it appears to be simple, but closer inspection indicates that it is extremely complex; it may appear monotonous, but it is diverse and ever-changing throughout the seasons. ~ James Stubbendieck

Thompson Prairie

Daisies in the Prairie © 2013 Bo Mackison

Without a complex knowledge of one’s place, and without the faithfulness to one’s place on which such knowledge depends, it is inevitable that the place will be used carelessly and eventually destroyed.
~ Wendell Berry

Thompson Prairie

Weighed Down Thistle © 2013 Bo Mackison

That was my country—Terrible winds and a wonderful emptiness. ~ Georgia O’Keefe

Thompson Prairie

High Winds and Yellow Hawkweed © 2013 Bo Mackison

On the prairie, what you are left with is the bare truth, the land pared down to the bone, the basic dirt and grass and sky that shape the lives that play out upon it. ~ Tom Groneberg

A prairie walk is a fine way to explore the earth. Grasses shine like flickering lights, waxing and waning as the sun slides in and out of the scattered clouds.

With so little prairie remaining — Wisconsin’s original 10 million acres has been whittled to  a mere 12,000 acres by farming and other land uses — it is a rare enough experience. Pure prairie pleasure!


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  Bo is creating a deck  of Wisdom Cards. The first set, the Desert Wisdom Cards, feature a Sonoran Desert theme. Now she is getting re-acquainted with the prairie and grasslands in preparation for the next featured habitat.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. You are so right about the subtlety of the prairie. I especially like the first two images–showing a close up of fluff, and then a view of prairie and sky.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thanks. Those first photos are quintessential prairie. I’d like to bring my wide angle and see what I can photograph next time.

  2. Absolutely gorgeous. I’m really enjoying all the summer grasses just now – so much to see! and the way the grasses and flowers fall together and move in the light – surely something to treasure forever, and defend, if you had to. Nothing as tall as this of course… look forward to hearing how it goes when you’re right in over your head!

  3. Beautiful, Bo. I love all the flowers that pop up in the grasses.
    On an unrelated note, somehow my subscription to your blog dropped so I resubscribed today. It’s good to be back. 🙂

    • Bo Mackison says:

      GLAD you are back! And I love the flowers, too. It will a veritable masterpiece in another month, bursting with all manner of flowers and colors.

  4. I would love to see that!

  5. It was indeed a great walk and a very nice Father’s Day. Handsome and rugged dude in the Pix also. 🙂

  6. Incredible. Love the pic of Sherpa in the grasses!

Leave a Reply