The playa lake that I’ve been watching up close for the past year or so has gone dormant. The innermost plants have turned rusty-burgundy red, and the grasses are winter tan. Teasels and a few old sunflowers rattle in the wind near the road, and tumbleweeds bounce past when the wind blows from that field where the guy won’t take care of his weed problem.* Monday the sun was ducking in and out of mackerel sky layers of cloud, and casting spots of light on the playa and the fields and pasture around it. Light brown turned almost golden, then faded again as the mottled clouds drifted past.
Aside from the rattle of the dried grasses and plants, very few sounds disturbed the late morning. The calls of hundreds of geese came down, blown in from the west, where long skeins of dark shapes flapped their way south, chased by several cold fronts. The meadowlarks seemed to be sleeping, or had perhaps found warmer places to hide. A week ago Thursday I came out of the school to find a meadowlark on the fence by the track, and decided that he must have had the coldest feet in the Texas Panhandle – it was ten degrees F with a wind chill of “Yeee doggies!” The bird looked determined, but not happy. The wind didn’t whistle, but it still made its presence known.
For now, the playa is dormant. Fall turned dry and winter seems to be following suit this far. The playas outside of, oh, a 15 mile ring of Amarillo have more water than do those closer in, because storms have been going north and south of the city. We all still need rain, but the central section more than others. The playas to the south and east are doing well, unlike the playa I’ve been watching. But that’s normal for winter. The High Plains in winter tends to be crisp, cold, and dry, silver-white, light brown, and reddish-brown, with rattling yucca stalks in some places and frost-coated barbed-wire in others. Winter is the time for rest if you are a warm-season grass, a time to be dormant and quiet, sleeping until spring and rain.
*The first step to solving a weed problem is to admit that your field has a weed problem, not the neighbor, not the county road, but your field.