Sunday 28 July 2013. Blankets of Monarda, and Other Sweet Bits of Summer

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At least for the week of my birthday, I am determined to ride and keep up with Velo du Jour! When time passes between rides, must remember and keep remembering that this beautiful world is stuffed full of treasures I will miss, in time and in space, and that it’s ok, each little point of wonder I don’t miss is vast and eternal, and the only appropriate response is gratitude!

So off to Meadowbrook Park I went (after considering so many other routes I also haven’t ridden of late) this morning. Also planned to see what was happening at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration on Windsor near Neil street. The temperature was 50 degrees F (July?!?) at about 5:45, sky clear (a bit of cloud on the western horizon) air mostly calm.

The clear sunrise made me think of a line from a more obscure James Taylor song, “Daddy’s Baby”: “…Silently as the dawn was breaking, soft and clear, and my tears were dry, and my fears had flown…” It felt like I was being shown a path leading from difficulty to contentment and hope. What a great beginning to the ride, the day, the week!

Didn’t really mind the 50 degrees (at first!), though last night the poor katydids could barely get their song, usually so vigorous and urgent this time of year), out to their katydid listeners.

Took the standard clockwise big loop of Meadowbrook from Race Street.

Here is how McCullough/Davis creeks above the rabbit bridge looked today. What a good place to observe change!20130728-084340.jpg
Have to say I came with some anxiety about what to expect, and how to take it in. Even was a bit overwhelmed by memories of past enchantment and enjoyment–could it ever be so good again? Have I “already done it?” On top of that, haven’t been around as much this year to register the details of the landscape, the composition of the plants and their stages of development. And passing the wet area of willows, arrowhead plants, and swamp milkweeds, 20130728-165508.jpg
wondered whether the cardinal flowers would bloom again after not appearing there last summer. But did walk in a little way, carefully, through the sawgrass to get close to the swamp milkweed to check whether the flowers actually smelled like cinnamon. They didn’t, though maybe they were just too wet and cold.
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The patch of Liatris between and around the two close-together small trees near the wet area was in glorious bloom, more extensive than last year, it seemed.

Tried to take in the net effect of the burgeoning summer prairie flowers that were all coming at me: was struck most by the lush Monarda, which were joined in close color harmony by the bunches of purple coneflowers and more occasionally by the taller, lace-like prairie tick trefoil. In counterpoint were yellow flowers: the masses of yellow coneflowers with their downward-streaming petals, the Sylphium “sisters” with their prominent, robust, rough and characteristically sculpted foliage (S. perfoliatum, cup plant; S. lacineatum; compass plant, S. terebinthinaceum, prairie dock, and S. integrifolium, rosinweed), all of which had big yellow flowers in various stages of bloom.

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Then, here and there Culver’s root, mountain mint, rattlesnake master, and Baptisia added notes of faint pink and white.

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Did not see a soul until close to the Freyfogel Overlook. Felt the exquisite edge between the sweetness of solitude and the bitterness of lonliness.

Stopped at the overlook to check for the patch of royal catchfly I’d seen for several summers past, but did not detect it. Which doesn’t mean it’s not there. Usually it takes several attempts, including walking a ways in, which I wasn’t prepared to do on this cold, dewy morning, to locate this patch. But had already seen it a few days previously from the soft path, so the chances are good that it’s here, too.

Proceeded north toward Windsor Road, when the sun on the dense masses of pink-purple and yellow was arresting! Here was a unified portrait of Meadowbrook Park on Sunday, 28 July 2013.

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And finally saw some more characteristically tall compass plants. There seem to be more in bud coming along.

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Even though I didn’t walk far into the plants, my sandaled feet still got wet, and I was cold. My fingers were getting numb. Thought, “people get hypothermia at unexpected times in unexpected places.”

Stopped at the Windsor/Vine bridge: McCullough Creek was very clear and the banks were full of flowers; so different from last year.

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Almost let go of the second part of the trip, but pressed on through the westerly breeze along Windsor. Stopped and stood in the sun at Lincoln and felt some warmth come.

Was glad I did. Rhododendron is not a performance bike, but I so loved just rolling along the open, green-flanked road on my two smooth, balanced, 27-inch wheels.

The City of Champaign Prairie Restoration had many of the same species as Meadowbrook but with far smaller populations. It did, however, also have some pink Hibiscus, and also a quite a stand of past-bloom lead plant.

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On the way home, the sky was clear blue, the air so pleasantly cool. Again felt the sheer joy of rolling on two wheels. Don’t know whether the road bike leaning-forward position is really good for my aging body; it may actually be undoing the alignment I work so hard in yoga to attain. And it could be that my more recent aches and pains are from Rhododendron. But, oh, the joy of riding this morning! Even the worry about a low balance of grown-up accomplishment points was rendered meaningless.

Felt safe and contented, like a Daddy’s baby.

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