As I mapped soils throughout eastern Iowa back in the early 70’s, it was interesting for me to put together a picture of what the original landscape looked like. In eastern Cedar County, I came upon some soils that did not fit the general description of prairie or savanna soils in that they were somewhere in between the two. I pondered this as I walked day after day over the land and began to see the picture in my mind. Savannas are transitions from prairie to a micro climate that favors some tree growth. There must be all grades of transition but what are they called? When does a prairie become a prairie as we walk westward out of the timber into the savanna into the “prairie”? When does a prairie become a savanna? What is your definition of a savanna? I don’t think there is a definition or name that can be placed on this “la la land of the past”. One way to look at these ecosystems is to imagine an interaction not individual influences, although they may be critical. If we back away in time and peer down from above, we can see a constant winning and waning of movement much like the tides that come and go.
What footprint is left in the soil to give us clues to the past? Certainly visual imprints are evident even though the land is now covered with corn and beans.
John Madson, who wrote Where the Sky Began, so beautifully described his vision of coming out of the timber and seeing, looming in front of him, an open sky and a sea of grass as far as the eye could see. He made mention of the front line soldiers sent out by the savanna or timber which allowed the advancement of the savanna and timber upon the prairie. Wild plumb trees were sent out as a front line defense or offense depending upon which the environment favored. Sometimes the battle would be won by the prairie and other times by the savanna and eventually a total overthrow of one over the other but the soldiers of the front line are always forgotten for they are in this “la la land of transition”. I was reminded of them that day in Cedar County, Iowa as I observed the grainy grey coats of the now vanished front line soldiers of the savanna who left their mark upon the prairie soil profile. Were they lost in battle as they succumbed to the forces of the prairie or were they stopped dead in their tracks by the ever- advancing moldboard plow?
I am reminded of my life and how it is much like this ever- changing world that we know as Prairie and Savanna but not a struggle or battle but the ebb and flow with the tides of life. Just as every component of the prairie and savanna are a part of the total wonderment of creation so are we. Are we on the frontline of change? Do we have the courage to move forward regardless of the elements that we face? The lessons of the land are there for all of us if we just open our eyes and hearts and breathe in the intuitive powers of this great planet.
Howard Bright, President
Ion Exchange, Inc.
“Helping you create your own natural beauty”