Sunday 28 December 2014. Winter Trees and Water

It was 27 degrees F this morning at 7:25, the sky with plenty of clouds but at least not uniformly grey.

Had a great, relatively lengthy yoga practice this morning, e.g., figuring out some good ways to observe the exact position of the knees in bent-leg standing poses. Even so, the time went quickly and there was more that would have to wait for a future practice. Hoped I could encourage my students to practice in whatever time they had and not get discouraged by time limits.

Headed to Meadowbrook Park, well-wrapped against the cold.

Was thinking that Race street this far south had not been made smooth with a layer of asphalt like elsewhere
In Urbana, and sure enough, there still were potholes, this one with fingers of ice crystals.
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At Meadowbrook, really did not intend to get another shot of the “wonky Christmas tree,” but a really different view of it seized my attention. Looked a little like a speed skater coming head on.
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Noticed another tree more typically seen as quite erect in a bending pose: bald cypress.
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Don’t really understand the urge to make (by selective breeding, I guess) an upright tree look floppy.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek in the customary spot to see the relatively high water. 20150108-113249.jpg
The water in Davis Creek, at least, was moving.
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Got a shot of the trees (walnut, I think, on the left and locust on the right) on either side of the south end of the bridge, which looked so tall and curving in their bare branches. It’s the time of year when the structure of the trees is visible and beautiful, when leaves, nice as they were and will be, seem like they’d only serve to obscure this beauty.

Around the corner and eastward around the big loop noticed that there had been clearing of brushy growth between the path and long-hidden Davis Creek, so walked to creek-side where it kinked slightly.
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Winter is a good time to get close to streams.

Crossed over McCullough Creek at the Windsor/Vine bridge but first stopped to get a shot of the twisting pods hanging (like ornaments!) from the locust (honey locust, I’m guessing) tree.

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Then quickly back.

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Saturday 27 December 2014. Post-Christmas Visit to Japan House Garden

This morning at 7:15 it was 46 degrees F and, yes, cloudy.

Yoga practice today focused on introducing standing poses to older beginners in a fun, non-intimidating way.

So again it would be a short ride. So it goes, any amount!

Actually, I confess there is getting to be rather a lag here between the ride and the post, so the text may be a little sparse….

Pond to the left, path to the right, two little trees in between.

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The stone sculpture (don’t know what the shape is called, please forgive my ignorance) on a pedestal in front of the pond told of stability and balance, as well as resting fluidity.

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In the Japan House garden are plenty of evergreens, which suggest Christmas, if you grew up with that association (“Oh, Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!). It was nice to find a setting in which to linger in a seasonal mood.

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On the way back stopped to look up at the mostly bare sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua, now there’s a poetic name) trees along Lincoln Avenue.

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The dry star-like fruits still clinging to the branches looked very ornamental. (Couldn’t think what the ornamental units were called so Googled “sweet gum trees” and came up with. Came up with “fruit”–of course–in an article that touted their medicinal properties, or “sweet gum balls,” in one that was positively hostile about how unsightly and dangerous they were. Also noticed one could but them online for $4.50 a dozen. Never realized how controversial they were.

Anyway, they looked seasonal to me and part of the pleasantly lingering mood.

Thursday, 25 December 2014. Christmas Morning at Meadowbrook, with Deer and Lichens

At 7:45 this Christmas morning it was 37 degrees F and cloudy, surprise, surprise.

No better place, at least under the circumstances, to experience Christmas morning–even a tiny slice of it–than Meadowbrook Park, by bike.

On the way, the stand of tall spruce trees along Race Street looked “Christmas-y” even though there was no snow.

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Closer to Meadowbrook, checked under the once-laden ginkgoes to get a shot of abundant fruit on the ground, protected from trampling (the would-be trampling feet protected also) between a hedge and the sidewalk.

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Their fragrance was not especially distracting today.

In the distance were “decorations” to indicate road construction, and a Christmas-looking tree.

At Meadowbrook was going to stop at the open area bordered by labelled shrubby trees and the “sunrise on Tattooine” sculpture to look up at the Christmas morning sky, but on the way noticed some incredible lichen (if lichen it was) growth on a dogwood

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that also held a small bird nest. A lot of nests are exposed in the winter, but I think probably more are destroyed by the elements, squirrels, etc. Kind of like fossils.

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Got a decent close up of the dogwood buds, looking like little onion domes, or maybe like little onions.

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Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek but today photographed the less-photogenic downstream side of the bridge.

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There was a not especially attractive scum on the surface that I believe was a “bloom” of diatoms a kind of alga (plural: algae)
that has an intricately sculpted glass “skeleton” that someone somewhere some time must have used as a design for Christmas tree ornaments, or should, if they haven’t.

A little farther down the path, met up with a couple of (white-tailed) bucks,

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one of whose antlers seemed rather asymmetrical. Thought maybe, but couldn’t exactly tell, that one was missing. Was it from disease induced by overpopulation? Then thought, it must be the time of year when the antlers are just in the way and start falling off. It seems incredible that they grow and then shed them every year. But I imagine it must be nice not to have them in the way at least part of the time.

Stopped to behold and photo some lovely Baptisia pods.

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Their dark, solid shapes make such a lovely contrast of form with the pale, soft background of dry prairie grass and sky.

Also stopped for prairie clover,

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which also is dark against the winter prairie, but with a rough, textured outline.

Rode across the Windsor/Vine bridge over McCullough Creek and stopped to get a shot of the flower buds and old fruit hanging like ornaments from the alder trees.

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Headed back to be with my family to celebrate Christmas by staying home all day and not going anywhere! Would miss my extended family (later some would come down to visit!) but not the stress of holiday travel, and best of all, my son is home and well!

Hope you, whoever you are reading this, are well and enjoying the good will of the season!

Sunday 21 December 2014. Down the Hill on the Shortest Day of the Year

It was 33 degrees F and the sky back to its almost-uniformly grey state at 7:30 this morning as I departed on Rhododendron from Carle Hospital, where I hope soon not to spend so much time.

Remembered that today is the winter solstice, when, close to the North Pole, the sun will not appear all day and, near the South Pole, it will not set. And it will be the longest time of darkness in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest time of daylight in the Southern Hemisphere. Marveled at how people could have figured out what really was going on there. The senses certainly did not provide that information directly. Cognition and logic extend and expand the information of the senses. Perhaps other kinds of processes do, as well.

Stopped for a shot of the Crystal Lake Labyrinth,

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but did not stop to walk it. Headed past the county fairgrounds to “my” dear little hill at the northwest corner of Busey Woods and stopped (because it was pretty early on a Sunday morning and not busy) for a photo of the top.

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I’ve found that it’s difficult to capture the sense of incline of a hill (at least around here) because it requires the inclusion of the right points of reference.

Took another shot

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but don’t think this one told it quite, either. So just enjoyed (a little less because of being alert for the oncoming car) the ride down, between the woods and the cemetery. Thought of death (“where is thy victory?”) only briefly. Talk about the senses not giving the whole picture…. It came too close recently for me to devote much attention to it just then. There were more pressing matters of survival and health.

After riding around the corner onto Broadway, cut back into Crystal Lake Park at the pool entrance to follow the meandering of the Saline Branch before heading home.

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Discovered this path riding to the pool in the summer. For this little stretch you wouldn’t know you were in central Illinois.

Really liked the swaying path above the stream.

Stopped to look over the bank and there were ducks!

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They hurried along when they saw me observing them but did get a photo.

A little farther down spotted a really large, at least 18 inches in diameter, shelf fungus,

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which was hard to investigate more closely because of the dense undergrowth.

Was not so observant of things around me as I may have been on another morning, but it was as good as ever to be out in the world on the bike!

Saturday 20 December 2014. Frosty, Fleeting Meadowbrook Ride

It was 25 degrees F at 7:30 this morning, with some pale blue sky between sheets of cloud, at least not the solid mass of grey that the sky has been for days on end, up until yesterday.

Today’s velo was kind of cheating: drove the minivan with Rhododendron packed inside to Meadowbrook Park (at last!!) and rode once around the big loop of the prairie. It was a little odd to drive rather than bike the familiar route to
Meadowbrook; visually it was similar, but missed the tactile, olfactory, and auditory aspects.

Once there, was drawn again to the “wonky Christmas tree.”

Here it looks like it’s walking.

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Here it seems to be going into the yoga pose Ardha Chandrasana (half moon, one of my favorites),

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and here it looks like an expression of sadness and defeat,

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or maybe a parody thereof. A playful “Merry Christmas!” to you, dear reader, if the season speaks to you.

So it was a ridiculously short ride this morning; was ready to get very little (oh, but never nothing!) out if it. There was so much I’d missed recently! But of course the sun was coming up over the dry grasses that were touched with frost, and the air smelled good, would say “minty” if I had to name it. And there I was!

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The already decorative Baptisia pods were spiky with ice.

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And for just a little while got to savor the spread of cloud into the wide blue sky.

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Then on with the day.

Sunday 14 December 2014. Labyrinth Walk Before a Very Short Ride

At 8 this morning it was 45 degrees F (like yesterday at noon) and cloudy, also quite foggy. Would have been a great morning to ride to Meadowbrook, but just had time to get where I was going, i.e., home, with a stop to walk the Crystal lake Park labyrinth.

Have always thought it was a wonderful resource to have near a hospital,

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and this morning my point of departure was that very place. Had spent the night in my son’s room: he was very much improved and just being observed before going home. This walk would be one of relief and thanks.

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Tried to relax and expand into the little frame of time in which I took this walk, and, as usual, was partly successful. Got a little distracted by trying to decide whether I wanted a latte or a black pour-over at the coffee place later, if there was even time for that. Really?? Noticed that the image of intestines did not occur to me right away this time, that the loops were more precisely arranged than intestines would be.

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What I did notice was the unpredictable way the lengths of the loops of the labyrinth changed direction. Actually lost the sense of which directio I was facing from time to time. Made me think about how we sometimes think we’re moving toward some goal but end up going somewhere else–for good or ill. Mostly it made me think that good things can come of what looks like disaster, oh, yeah!

Saturday 13 December 2014. Big, Fancy Engineering Buildings and Urban Mushrooms

It was 45 degrees F and cloudy at noon today when I had a chance to leave the hospital (fortunately close to home!) where my son, whose life recently had been in danger, but now was doing well, and run an errand “au velo.”

Crossing from Urbana to downtown Champaign, my destination, one gets a good view of the many large, impressive buildings that constitute the U of I engineering campus.

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One in particular stood out as looking (I thought) more like a museum than a university research/office/classroom building.

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Knew that several new engineering buildings had been going up in the past 20 or so years, but did not remember this one. And looked but did not find a sign identifying it. In addition to its reddish color, metal and glass walls and doors, and open metal “framework”, the east

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and the west

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entrances were accented with large, impressive (yet whimsical) sculptures.
I thought its design was the most creative of any of the admittedly also impressive buildings around. And once the place was identified [which a Google search for “connector sculpture U of I” quickly revealed to to be the newly dedicated Electrical and Computer Engineering Building and the sculpture “Diss-Connections” by John Adduci) this a single photo of, e.g., the giant connectors, would tell you exactly where in the world you were. Also it made me think that for whatever reasons, a lot of money flows through the U of I College of Engineering, one other result of which is a building (yes, the new ECEB) that’s supposed to generate its own power.

Have to say I liked this gate at the west entrance to the Engineering “quad.”

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One can go right around, it and the gate is not locked. Guess it’s just to keep people from driving through.

Farther on toward downtown Champaign, stopped to photograph the stonework around the Boneyard Creek near Second and White streets.

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No geese, surprisingly. But a stream is always nice to look at.

Stopped to look at chairs at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, and while locking Rhododendron noticed a silver-grey fungal-looking growth on the tree next to the rack.

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After photographing the edge of the growth noticed that it was quite abundant and, in fact, a large cluster of actual mushrooms. It was a bit of urban “wildlife,” a pleasant surprise, though don’t know what it meant about the health of the ornamental (could not quite identify it without its leaves) tree.

It was not a long ride out on the open road, but it did feel really good to roll and watch even this much in the outdoors!