Saturday 30 November 2013. Still More Down-Shifting

It was already almost 6:45 by the time I got out this morning, the temperature 30 degrees F, the sky clear, the air mostly calm. The very thin, almost new moon shone delicately in the southeastern sky,

visible from the back yard as I eagerly brought Rhododendron out for a ride to Meadowbrook Park.

Was well-prepared, with two layers of mittens and hand- as well as foot-warmers. Maybe overkill, but better to have and not need than need and not have. Really want to take care of the equipment (e.g., fingers and toes) for longer use.

The recent cold temperatures had done a number on more of the surviving plant material, like this apple tree.

20131130-080611.jpg The color-meter continues to drop deeper into the neutral range.

Rode along the northern edge of Meadowbrook as the sun was rising. Got some shots of the remains of mountain mint, Baptisia, prairie dock, compass plants.

Stopped by the Windsor/Vine bridge, which still was roped off with caution tape, waiting for the art work to be finished. Wished they’d hurry with it, but it made me realize how spoiled I am to automatically expect someone else to hurry up and make things pleasant for me.

So locked Rhododendron and walked along McCullough Creek near the bridge. Noticed the sprigs of Bradford pear along the banks, still with leaves but not so bright as last week.

Walked down a little way past the bridge, noticing old beaver work, remembering when I saw beavers swim under the bridge.

There was some ice on the water’s surface, even places where it was broken and refrozen. It was very, very quiet. Looked down the creek knowing there was more to see but was content with this little glimpse of eternity.

Hooray for this morning at Meadowbrook, this last day of November!


Sunday 24 November 2013. Cold!

In another vivid example of change, today it was way COLD–10 degrees F at 6:30 AM, more than 50 degrees less than last week at this time. Who knew that the spirit-lifting warm air last week was a harbinger of nearby town-destroying tornadoes?

Cold weather presents challenges to cycling, especially as one gets older, but it’s yet another kind of experience to observe for Velo du Jour. So dressed as intelligently as I could, including having two hand-warmers in each mitten, and set off for Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.

More green things had turned brown, and more leaves had fallen, but
the Bradford pear trees in the neighborhood now were providing a red-golden coda to the autumnal march toward neutral.
Funny how early in the season I talk about loss and dying, but months later color, a sign of life, still asserts itself.

Loved the sight of apples still clinging to a leafless tree, and the little half-moon (which Walt Whitman might have described at 10 last night, as “late-risen and swollen, as if with tears”) visible among its branches.

Resolved not to stop for photos unless the scene grabbed me with force, because I think it’s more the stopping than the uninterrupted cycling that causes heat loss.

Noticed an unusual, beautiful quiet, even for early Sunday morning. Figured it may have had something to do with the cold, and/or the beginning of Thanksgiving break. The sky was clear and the air, fortunately calm.

Missed the actual crowning of the bright, though relatively large-appearing sun-disc over Meadowbrook, but did get a dawn shot of McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge, a lattice of ice crystals forming on its surface.

Then rode with resolve past early- lighted expanses of grass and dark Baptisia pods without stopping, to stay warm. Felt a need to stop, though, to document the intermediate stage of the goldenrod losing their seed-fluff.

The cold bore down. Ten degrees really is something with which to contend. Made me think that so much of life is like weather, even in situations that result from our decisons (can recent intense weather fit into that category?), there is not much to be done in the moment except to dress appropriately.

Was tempted to stop at the Windsor/Vine bridge, but it was roped off: the art project was sill in progress.

Ended up staying for more photos, though, because a number of seedling Bradford pears waved bright flags of red leaves.

On the way home my feet were really cold! Cold, cold, cold! Even so, there was plenty of enjoyment in being out in the morning on the bike, even with the discomfort. People do often endure discomfort (even life-threatening conditions!) for the sake of enjoyment. I’m trying to apply that principle to other parts of my life, like the transition of my children to adulthood.

Really want to keep going out to investigate the world, in whatever weather, so need to work on strategies to stay warm.

Sunday 17 November 2013. A Week of Change

At 6:45 this morning it was 64 degrees F (!) and windy, the sky thickly cloudy. Since last Sunday the season turned from the exuberant, colorful phase of autumn to that of the somber, muted colors. Especially striking were the tulip trees, their glorious raiment of last week discarded.

On Thursday, when it was cold on top of everything, couldn’t help pondering over this “season of death.” Every year, even when you can see winter coming, the joyful riot of fall color seems to be enough to sustain you through any possible future deprivation. Still, when it actually arrives, the loss of so many signs of life always hurts, at least at first.

And, sure, spring will be great when it comes again, but you can’t have resurrection without death, and death just hurts, at least for a while. There are no shortcuts.

But the warm temperatures this morning did lend a little lightness to the mood. Was able to think as I rode toward the U if I Idea Garden (a very short ride) of things like patience and generosity and how to extend them even with the demands of others and one’s own limitations.

Stopped on the way to get a shot of the prairie planting on Florida Avenue. Appreciated the shape, texture, values, and contrast in the landscape, but did miss the strong colors.

The Idea Garden was well-tended, which means, “put to bed” for the year, the annuals cleared out and the dead leaves raked away.

I know this is good practice for a small taste of nature (i.e., garden) but I do love to watch the plants respond to the weather without so much interference, as in the prairie at Meadowbrook Park (unless, of course, it’s time for a managed burn!)

There were still some (visibly) surviving plants, living low to the ground, conserving energy.

These were labeled “Houseleeks” (Sempervivum tectorum).

Also thought this little conifer was appropriate for the season.

Made me think of so many wonderful people I know with so much more energy than I have, like gardens at peak growth, my own productivity more like the garden at this time of year. Or more like Champaign-Urbana to their New York City or Paris. All of which, actually, in any season, as long as you’re there and alive with eyes open, are full of wonders.

Wednesday 13 November 2013. After the Big Leaf-Drop

At 1:23 this afternoon (the sun was low toward the south and already clearly in the western half of the sky) the temperature was 37 degrees F, the sky lightly spread with cirrus clouds and cross-crossed with con trails.

Are there usually so many of them (con trails)? Maybe I’m just not used to looking at the sky at this time of day. There was a fairly stiff breeze blowing, from the south, I think, though seemed like I was headed into it going east(?).

Was eager just to get out and document the latest fall event: a massive leaf drop. The night before last it rained, got cold, and then snowed, enough to make a light blanket that lasted, in places, at least a day. It made the leaves just plummet unceremoniously, en masse from a lot of trees, like the tulip trees that were so gorgeous only Sunday.

The ginkgoes, of course, all let go of all their leaves, the ones full of yellow ones and the ones whose still were green.

So made a quick trip southeast, toward Meadowbrook Park, to see how this autumn was advancing.

Along Race Street there still were some oaks and maples with clinging leaves, but on the ground was a golden carpet of leaves that had fallen.

Rode along the northern edge of Meadowbrook. Of course would have liked to go in exploring, but today’s mission was most importantly about the leaves.

Noticed with chagrin the cleared margin between Meadowbrook Park and the expanding Clark-Lindsay Village, preparing for the coming demand of my (g-g-g)generation.

Did get a few shots of the weathering remains of this year’s prairie growth, including a spotted, curled prairie dock leaf

20131115-125635.jpg and a hawthorn (crab?) with a lot of aging fruit.

Saw that the trees were not all entirely bare, but fall had made serious progress.

Sunday 10 November 2013. Muted Meadowbrook

This morning, at last, would get back to Meadowbrook Park! Knew I’d missed a lot during this time of seasonal transition, but felt ready for whatever it was like now.

It was 6:22, the temperature 34 degrees F, the sky clear, and the air calm when Rhododendron and I rolled over the recently fallen leaves in the street toward Meadowbrook.

There were some bare trees, already, and some still green, but the feature today was tulip (poplar) trees: dressed for this brief time to the nines in full, deep golden leaves. 20131110-080132.jpg
Stopped for photos, but wanted to get going in the limited November daylight to see what Meadowbrook was like. Besides, felt a need to warm up: was having a teary, slow, chilly start. See what happens when too many days go by “sans velo?”

Got a shot of the elm (American?) that was showing only a few yellow leaves among many green a couple weeks ago.

At Meadowbrook got a shot of the “rabbit” (statue) bridge over McCullough Creek, under which there was faintly moving water.

The sun rose over the fluffy goldenrod seed heads. Was surprised to see it quite so far to the south. Takes a while of observing to know where the sun will be when.

Checked the” Marker” gentian site for any sign of bottle gentians, which I knew would be well past bloom, but did manage to find recognizable remains.

Also thought this shot of the statue was appropriate for this time of year, not morbid, just honest.

Honestly, was COLD from here to home–am I just not used to it?
The temperature was not even at freezing, for crying out loud.

Stopped, nevertheless, at the Freyfogel Overlook to get a view of the sunlight coming up on the prairie. Always, always I am glad to be on the prairie, but have to say that today it wasn’t a showcase of fall color but shifted solidly toward winter mode.

Out in front of the overlook heard aomething largish moving through the dry vegetation. Saw the tail of a deer and expected the rest of it to materialize, but it did not. They’re really good at hiding. br />
On the way back there was just enough of a northwesterly breeze to subtract a little more heat from the existing deficit. I so would not have made it on an Antarctic expedition with Ernest Shackleton or Douglas Mawson!

Was grateful for my winter vélos of last year and hopeful for some approximation of them in the winter ahead!

Sunday 3 November 2013. Fall Color on the Way to High Cross/Ford Harris and Back

Hooray for the fall (fall back!) time change! There was a extra hour of daylight in which to ride!

At 6 am it was 30 degrees F. The sky was clear and the air calm.

Oh, I have missed riding, especially out in the country!

So last night planned the route: High Cross to Ford Harris and back on Lincoln. The prairie is my first love, but today wanted to see trees. Prepared myself for limiting photos: fall colors tend to make one crazy with picture-lust!

And so Rhododendron and I went: east on Main. First stop was the little grove of oaks across from the Dart (formerly Solo Cup) plant,

Was very happy to see a new path along the Main Street edge of Weaver Park!

Stopped over the I-74 bridge to check on the possum bones (which first came to my attention as a whole, grimacing carcass in late May of 2012).

The bones do get fewer and farther between as time goes by. Also interesting is how the trash around them changes. I really wonder how it gets there–seems like not the most convenient place to dump things. The autumn leaves were a nice touch.

The light coming up on the yellow and red leaves was thrilling.

Heard clearly the song of a white-throated sparrow, resting in central Illinois on its way south.

Smelled leaves burning, which I don’t mind as long as it’s faint and distant.

In places the colors were too intense for a good photo.

Then amid being caught up in the fall colors was surprised to hear dogs barking and see them run toward me! 😦 Seriously considered turning back! But gathered courage to press on to Ford Harris. Really pumped those pedals; reminded me I haven’t been out as much as I used to. Fortunately the dogs did not join me on the road!

Turned south on Willow rather than Lincoln, as planned, but was glad thereby to see an old marker (a farm 100 years in the same family, as of 1972) in front of this barn. Not sure it was working but did see a cat in one of the windows. br />

All the primary colors (leaves and sky) about the landscape were downright exciting!

Knew, of course, that the trees would soon be bare and somber, but did strive to stay in the eternal moment as it was. Every year we get this lesson: loss is inevitable, but first, so much life! Bitter-sweet autumn!

Headed south on North Lincoln, where there are various kinds of recycling facilities and big piles of crushed concrete, and the Saline Ditch runs through it all.

Just seems like a place where unsavory things could easily be discarded or hidden. Made me think (ok, it’s a stretch) of Jimmy Hoffa, (the movie about whose life was shot very close to where I grew up in Chicago, and for which my dad was an extra). But old stuff has to be dealt with somewhere, and I’m glad some of it does go back into service in the world instead of just being landfill.

Was glad not to miss the peak of the fall colors north of town!