Many mornings after I exercise and shower, I head to the Sun Prairie Library and put in some writing time. I get a cup of coffee from the used book store and settle with my laptop in what is called the study tower, a hexagonal room with a high ceiling and windows looking out onto small areas of restored prairie on two sides of the library. After the winter, the shoulder-high and taller prairie grasses are dried and yellowed, waving in the wind. Across the road in one direction is a city park, and beyond the tall grass in the other direction one can see the recently-tilled soil in the 146 rental plots in the town's community garden.
This morning because of where the sun came in the windows, I did not sit at my usual spot where I can look out on a small bit of prairie. Instead I sat at a table built into one of the angles of the tower, facing the wall but with light coming from my right side.
After I had been writing for about half an hour, I glanced over at the window and discovered that the library seemed to be surrounded by fire. I got up for a closer look, and indeed the dry grass was burning on both sides of the tower.
The fire created quite a stir among the children in the library and their parents. No need to panic, however. It turned out to be a controlled burn, a training session for several of the fire departments in our area. A controlled burn is not only part of the training of the firefighters. It is also one way of maintaining an approximation of the natural life cycle of prairie plant life.