Saturday 29 November 2014. Signs of Winter at Meadowbrook.

It was 37 degrees F and mostly clear, except right near the horizon this morning at 7:15 after yoga practice–going over demonstrations of twists using a chair, which I think my students will enjoy. There was a pretty continuous breeze (though not an especially warm one) coming from the south, into which Rhododendron and I rode toward Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped at “my” apple tree to get a view of the further effects of cold weather on it.

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It was pretty much winter-bare, the only apples still clinging very dark and shrunken.

The velo has gotten pushed down my do-list lately, alas; been missing it! Could tell by the effort of riding into the wind that I was a little less “in shape” as a result of the absence.

Nevertheless, cruised down Race Street in post-yoga inward-focused mode remembering the abundant ginkgo fruit in a tree at Race and Windsor. Found that the sidewalk under it was pretty much cleaned up, though the smell was distinctive, and assertive. Shortly thereafter noticed plenty of fruit in the grass (mulch?) next to the sidewalk, and, unlike with the apple tree, plenty of ginkgo fruit remained on the tree.

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Stopped for a visit and photo of the “wonky Christmas tree,”

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which has always made me think about the symbolism of images and the power of interpretation. Seems to me that the appeal and “Christmas-ness” of a fir or similar tree is in its upright, upward-pointing “posture.” E.g., when one selects a Christmas tree one looks for this posture, and for symmetry. My “wonky” tree seems to deny the wish for this upright, symmetrical posture. Rather than hope and aspiration it seems to convey a sense of laboring under a burden, or that life does not always confirm to our designs. Or it could suggest humor and mischief–“I’m tired of standing straight and need to change position!” The same image can produce such different emotions! It all depends on interpretation.

The branches of a non-native looking tree (bet it had a label but didn’t think to look for it) near the wonky Christmas tree caught my eye: they were smooth and shiny in the rising sun like bronze-skinned dancers.

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McCullough and Davis creeks were high, the surface of the water still and glassy.

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Made the big loop and saw quite a few fresh piles of coyote scat on the path: their “calling cards.” Assumed it was not dog because they were quite dark and lumpy, as from an opportunistic diet. I have yet to see a coyote here, though apparently they are not uncommon.

The prairie was golden.

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Saw lots of seed heads to photo another time but couldn’t resist stopping to catch a few lovely Baptisia pods.

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Slowly getting used to this reminder of Pratyahara, this subdued, subtle time of year.

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Tuesday 25 November 2014. The Thanksgiving Trees of Ambucs Park

This morning at 8:50 it was cloudy and 27 degrees F, the wind blowing fairly briskly from the west. Loaded Rhododendron in the family minivan, rode to drop off the van at the auto repair shop, and then biked toward home.

Rode west on University Avenue, and soon came to Ambucks Park, a place with some interesting trees (hickories, for example)

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and a nice playground where my kids met many a friend (and I met many of those friends’ parents) for play-dates.

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When I first came to Urbana, the name of the park was “Woodland,” which to me evokes a much nicer image than than does “Ambucs.” (Because it sounds like slang for “money”– “bucks?”) But I guess the Ambucs (a local service organization) deserve credit for sustaining the park, whatever it’s called.

Another less-than-lovely feature of the park is its location near our local sewage treatment facility. The facility is pretty much discretely located in the background, though, and the vanilla-masked slight sewage smell is only sometimes, e.g., not today, noticeable.

Stopped for a photo at a little drainage area on the edge of the park because there were cattails,

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which don’t seem to be quite so common as I remember them in the past, growing around its edge.

On the west end of the park were some large trees that caught my eye, especially the slightly leaning oak (I’ll guess red–or is it white?) with the slightly gnarly top trunk and limbs.

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Was glad to be on the road, but frankly was still trying to adjust to the increasingly somber landscape. Amazing how the blast of cold air we had last week just pulled so much of the remaining color (and I took it for granted after most of the brightly colored leaves had fallen!) out of of view. Time to let color step back and allow shape, value, line, etc., have their time on stage. And give thanks for what was, and what is.

Temperature was not a big problem today; was wearing my new (at last!) long down coat and double mittens. Overkill? I think not. I’m serious about staying outside in whatever weather, without harming myself any more than necessary.

Adjust, and give thanks!

Sunday 16 November 2014. Nests Revealed

This morning at 7:20 it was 28 degrees F and cloudy after yoga practice, which was all good, especially the neck and shoulder work, but once again did not get to seated forward bends, alas. No wonder they’re not the strongest part of my practice.

Did not expect to get gorgeous photos on this trip; a lot of cold weather and withdrawal of color from the landscape has happened since my last posted velo. But have been so eager to get out and especially to see what’s happening at Meadowbrook Park. Just wanted a few documentary photos.

On the way stopped at “my” apple tree; many leaves had fallen and the remaining apples were getting dark.

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Passed the stand of spruces under which hundreds of amazing mushrooms had recently appeared. Stopped to see whether any evidence at all of their presence remained; was surprised to find some.

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But not much, considering what had been here.

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Farther down Race Street passed fallen ginkgo leaves and fruit–a “fragrant” golden yellow mess below the bare branches. Was slightly tempted to stop for a pic but rode on. Really wanted to keep the hands warm by keeping the photography to a bare minimum.

Windsor Road at Vine was open!

Rode to the rabbit statue bridge and stopped for a photo. The convex curves of McCullough and Davis creeks were edged with ice.

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Rode a little farther down and did not intend to expose my fingers to the cold again, but saw several small bird nests, exposed in the recently-bared tree branches.

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They were not overwhelmingly attractive, like, say, flowers or a colorful sunrise or fall foliage, and could only guess what birds had made them.

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But they were a nice surprise, something once hidden now visible.

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Turned back without even completing the loop–that time thing again. Was grateful for the little window on mid-autumn Meadowbrook–early cold and all.

But man, it was COLD!! Hands weren’t frozen solid (Progress! Have been experimenting with two layers of mittens as well as a jacket with sleeves designed to cover the hands) but toes were past the cold side of comfortable. And missed those fleece pants! Observed the relationship between physical discomfort and mental/emotional disturbance (“suffering,” if you will). They are related but not strictly linearly; today the cold did not distract from the joy of being mobile in the Sunday morning calm. But resolved to figure out how to improve thermoregulation–want to minimize distraction and keep that health-giving circulation moving.

Sunday 9 November 2014. Japan House Garden, Early November

At 7 this morning it was 30 degrees F, the sky mostly cloudy. After yoga practice–focused on modifying the pose Virasana for people with compromised knees–headed out toward the Japan House garden.

It’s been hard to get miles on the bike (Rhododendron, remember? I say this to myself) lately. And then posting on the blog takes time. Both of which (riding and writing) I love in any quantity whatsoever available; glad for any amount of them. At least the distractions have included some wonderful activities. And here I am.

The wind blew from the south, and also the road was inclined upward–work! And, brrrr! Felt the chill! Welcome to the start of winter biking! Remember, it’s really, really good just to be rolling outside.

Went straight for Japan House and was not very tempted to stop for photos before I got there.

At the garden, stopped at the marker for the fifty cherry trees planted along the path to the house.

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These trees have produced a canopy gorgeous blossoms in the spring, though not this past spring, alas.

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And the fall foliage was not spectacular at this viewing, either.

But around the pond, the dry thistle remains, stems and seed heads, made an attractive pattern in front of the smooth surface of the water.

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And there was subtle color and shape around the edges of the pond.

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Looked close up among the fallen cherry leaves and saw some bright, flaming-red individuals.

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Seek beauty and it will be there to find.

Sunday 2 November 2014. Falling Gingko Leaves and Labyrinth

At 7 am on this day, on which the hour we lost in the spring has returned, it was 25 degrees F under mostly clear skies.

A ginkgo tree with yellow leaves was raining at least some of them to the ground.
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Once again made a shorter trip than I’d planned, but knew there would be plenty to see as I headed north toward Crystal Lake Park and the “big” hill along the north edge of Busey Woods.

At the Race Street crossing of the Boneyard Creek, stopped to document the glacial progress of the river walk construction. There must be a story behind it.
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Rode along the south edge of Crystal Lake Park and on to the labyrinth, which I haven’t walked for a while. Parked Rhododendron
and got a fall portrait of it before stepping on to the brick trail that wound around inside its circle.
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It was a reasonably calm walk, though did not escape the image of small intestines suggested by its looping. Walked for what felt like a longer than usual period. Must have accidentally crossed to an adjacent path because I never got to the middle; after a while the path led out. Alas, wanted to get back on the bike and did not correct my mistake.

Returned to an edge of the labyrinth to photograph the frost that lightly coated its surrounding garden.

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Proceeded on Coler Street past the Champaign County Fair Grounds and then on to and down the hill with the cemetery on one side of the road and Busey Woods on the other. Always a little thrill!

Closer to home, another ginkgo tree, this one with mostly green leaves, was starting to let go of its foliage.

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Friday 31 October 2014. Farewell, Mushrooms

At 2 pm yesterday it was 41 degrees F and windy!

Had just a few minutes to check and see whether any evidence remained of the great Amanita muscaria appearance I’ve been following since first spotting it at the end of September.

There was not much.
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But even now among the very few survivors there were two or three very early-stage individuals.
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Made me think of the strength of the “life-force,” asserting itself to the end.
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It’s another demonstration (there are so many!) of life’s power but still its impermanence.
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Even though every year in this part of the world the leaves turn colors–a last hurrah!—and then fall to the ground, leaving skeleton trees, (a pantomime of death!) the sudden appearance and relatively rapid and complete disappearance of mushrooms, these spectacular mushrooms in particular, reminds one that even for the vigorous and the beautiful, loss is inevitable.

And yet, there actually is a lot of life still happening, at the microscopic level, during the time between appearances of visible mushrooms. Here is an imaginative but quite factual animation of the mushroom’s life cycle. More than meets the eye!

So loss really is only a stage in the process of change. The challenge is to see, and keep going.