Saturday 31 January 2015. A Short Ride on East Main

It was 27 degrees F at 7:45 (yikes, a late start!) this morning, or so said my phone weather ap; it felt warmer. The sun, well up into the sky, was partly obscured by a thin layer of clouds, increasing the sun’s apparent, soft-edged diameter. The streets were mostly dry (i.e., relatively safe!)

Was a little frustrated that I’d stayed so long at the yoga studio. Sometimes it’s hard to get away from other life concerns and into the studio, but once you get going it’s almost always harder to stop and get out of there. This morning, in particular, I was working out how to set up props for a pose in the cancer recovery class. As I put the props away couldn’t help singing, “on the sixth week of yoga class, my teacher gave to me: six plump bolsters, five folded blankets, four knee rods, three wood blocks, two buckled belts, and a mat that they call a sticky….” No mistake, it’s Iyengar.

But by gosh, I was going to have a bike ride!

Liked the look of the prostrate ornamental plant leaves tinged with frost in front of the yoga studio and stopped for a photo

before heading east on Main Street, on the lovely bike lane, to the little grove of oak trees (Big Grove survivors?) across fom the Dart plant, (where I believe they make to-go cup lids. At one time it was a Solo Cup plant, where, I guess, they made red plastic cups.)

Anyway, stopped at the ditch along Main that curved northward at the train tracks and got a shot of the trees with the ditch included.

A pair of mallard ducks broke into hurried flight as I approached, long gone by the time my IPhone was ready for a shot.

Then turned back and went on with the mostly less-carefully observed part of the day….


Sunday 25 January 2015. Light Winter Rain

This morning at 6:50 it was, according to my weather ap, 34 degrees F. The sky was a pretty uniform light grey, and light rain was falling. This winter has been characterized by ice. A lot of freeze-thaw-freeze.

Headed for Meadowbrook Park a little reluctant to get the camera out in the rain, but early on it seemed necessary to do so: spotted a dark, shrunken apple on “my” tree.

Made it all the way to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek without stopping, though was almost caught by the “wonky Christmas tree.

The water was high in McCullough and flowing from Davis Creek.

Liked how the rain ruffled the reflection of the walnut tree near the bridge.

The rain and clouds seemed to keep animal activity to a minimum; saw no deer and few birds. Today this chilly, damp weather felt like a blanket, a source of calm even protection. It had a pleasant muting effect. Sometimes what’s need is commotion and activity; sometimes calm and quiet. Even before anything is resolved.

Mostly was able to resist photographing the muted landscape, though did like the clinging, curled burr oak leaves.

Farther along, the pale yellow-brown, dry prairie grass was punctuated by Baptisia pods and bush clover seed heads, which I mostly did not stop for. But one old Baptisia plant stood so upright and intact I gave in to the urge to record it.

Stopped at the Windsor/Vine Bridge and saw a pair of mallard ducks scurrying away. Wondered whether there were a lot of duck predators (coyotes?) around, they were so skittish.

Turned left to take part of the “small loop” and check the alder trees the beavers used to chew on along the creek.

Remembered this site from when beavers felled lots of these trees and in winter chewed the bark to reveal the bright orange cambium. (Here is a photo from January 2013 for comparison.)

No beavers seemed to be chewing on the alders this winter. Noticed the growth of shoots around the stump of a beaver-felled tree as well as an apparent increase in diameter of the remaining trunks.

So often we seem to miss the process, the details of change. There is wonder and joy on catching the in-between stages.

The light rain continued as I took the turn to the north, between the prairie within the “small loop” and the encroaching Clark-Lindsay Village.

We nature-lovers abhor the loss of habitat, or even of buffer zones between habitat and human activity. But I will be glad that some people, maybe some with limited mobility, will be able to look out their window and see the seasons change in Meadowbrook Park. Hope they’ll know what a privilege it will be.

Sunday 18 January 2015. Lightly Passing the Edge of Meadowbrook.

Today at 7:30 am it was, like yesterday, 34 degrees F. The sky was even clearer than yesterday, and the less assertive but still noticeable breeze seemed to shift from north to south to west.

Got a reasonable start this morning and had a relaxed but focused yoga practice (yes!) Twists cure a thousand ills!
Destination again was Meadowbrook Park (it was so lovely and inviting yesterday!). On the way, stopped on Race Street for a shot of a building in the process of being demolished.

Not sure why they left this part standing.

Stopped for a shot of “my” apple tree, without a single dried rotten apple, but with buds!

Rode on to Meadowbrook, but today resolved to make it to Philo Road (Cafe Zojo) and to look across the small loop of prairie from the path along Windsor Road. Somehow that stretch has ended up as my least favorite, or maybe just most neglected, segment of my trips to Meadowbrook. Usually it’s toward the end of the ride, where my hands get cold, and/or where I realize I’m out of time and have to get back. Also, it’s getting harder to frame the photo without including part of Clark-Lindsay Villlage.

But today decided to stop here to look at the various winter remains of the prairie plants.

The unblocked sun glared strongly over the southeastern horizon and made it hard to get a wide shot. So turned to the west a bit and caught some dry but standing tall Coreopsis stalks, with a stalk of shiny Baptisia pods in the background.


Also got a photo of purple coneflower seed heads.

Saturday 17 January 2015. Winter Landscape: Sky, Beautiful Dead Things, and Signs of Life

It was 34 degrees F this morning at 7 am, the sky clear enough to see the thin paring of moon, but with enough clouds to light it up with streaks of pink–glad to be there for it!

The southerly wind brought relativey warmer temperatures but reduced the velocity of downhill coasting.

Took Vine Street to Meadowbrook Park, just for something different, and also because there was a good view of the sky over the Middle School ball fields.

The street had patches of ice and frozen slush but felt confident.

Decided on the spur of the moment to do the big loop around the Meadowbrook prairie in the (my) less-taken clockwise direction, ready to embrace this “other” way of seeing it.

Stopped first to check out the lichens on the large deep-barked cottonwood tree near the Windsor-Vine bridge.

They seemed not so abundant or full as in the past.

Rode past the playground and around the prairie. Immediately was drawn to the bush clover seed heads

and then to the curled compass plant leaves.

Then the Baptisia pods clacking in the wind caught my ear.

Near them stood seed heads of purple coneflowers and those of mountain mint.

Felt so glad to be out in it! Have been here so many times in all kinds of weather, but it’s never quite the same twice. Was grateful to witness today’s unique manifestation.

The snow among the dried up plants made me think of my son who was now skiing in Colorado. Was filled with joy that we let him go! At first it had seemed like a negative no-brainer, but danger and unresolved teen behavior issues be damned! He’ll remember this the rest of his life! And he’s outside in nature, getting exercise! What could be better for a 16-year-old?

Proceeded clockwise, away from the rising sun but toward the landscape it illuminated, in high spirits, not maxed on endorphins but generally joyful (interesting to observe the range of intensity) around the big loop.

Stopped to photograph a couple of antler-less deer standing close to the path, just on the other side of Davis Creek.


Noticed that among the browns, greys, and pale ochers of the dry vegetation were also thorny red blackberry brambles, on which live buds were visible, a promise that the prairie would come to life again.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge for a shot of the water, which was flowing and just edged with ice, and trees bordering McCullough and Davis creeks.

Saw another couple of antler-less deer at the side of Race Street.

I think they were discouraged from leaping in front of the few passing cars at least partly because I was standing in the please toward which they would have leaped.

Farther north on Race Street (the southerly tailwind made the ride quiet, counteracting the “biker’s breeze”) was amazed to see gathered on the snow under a large red oak tree at the very least twenty squirrels!

Of course, they mostly dispersed as soon as I stopped and got out the iphone, which is why you don’t see twenty of them in the photo, but trust me, they were there. Recalled that even in warm weather, this had been a place with a large concentration of squirrels. Funny how squirrels are everywhere, but it took a huge number of them in one place to get me to stop and look at them. Made me think again that even though Urbana is not exactly the wilderness, there are wild animals (and, of course, plants) here, part of our experience of nature.

Saturday 10 January 2015. Cold Ride

At 6:18 this morning, as the clear sky was getting light but before the sun had actually cleared the horizon, the temperature was an even zero. Put on the necessary layers of clothing and slipped toe-warmers into the shoes and hand-warmers into the the double layer of home-made mittens.

The garage door was reluctant to open, but I would not be put off this morning!
Took a little persuasion, but was able to get the door open far enough to be able to take good old Rhododendron out for a ride.

Felt toasty warm, if a bit constrained, especially in the neck area. But rolled steadily southward toward Meadowbrook Park on the largely cleared the middle of the road (not the bike lane, which was half snow-covered) Race Street.


The “wonky Christmas tree” caught my eye from a distance,

but couldn’t quite get the effect in a photo. It looked like a prowling creature. Really.

Looked forward to seeing ice below the rabbit-statue bridge, but stopped before that to photograph a nest-filled crab-apple tree with the new morning light behind it.

With a little caution and a little abandon negotiated the downhill, slightly icy curves toward the rabbit-statue bridge. Got a shot of the statue capped by a bit of snow, bridge behind.

The ice on McCullough Creek was not a smooth, uniform layer.

There was snow over the ice, a lot of animal footprints, and an open, unfrozen place.

The downstream side of the bridge was even more interesting. Small animals had been doing something there.

The overhanging roots near the unfrozen spot upstream sheltered ice crystals.

Could have spent a long time walking up the creek-bank but wanted to save some warmth for the end of the trip.

Saw (but did not hear!) those waving white dish-towel tails of the eponymous deer, frolicking, it seemed, then receding away from me. Did not see any antlers. My, those deer are quiet.

And it was beautifully quiet as the sun broke free of the horizon. The sun was too brash, already, to photograph directly, but the western sky “blushed” with its new light.

Was extra glad for the hand-warmers; the big toes were good, that’s where the toe-warmers were positioned, though the outer toes could have been warmer. Forgot that it’s actually better to position the foot-warmers perpendicular to the way they were intended.

Had to remind myself to breathe through the nose, which has a specially designed place to warm the incoming air and just feels better when you
persist in doing it. Another example of defaulting to the less beneficial choice, of needing to apply awareness.

Was happy and proud to connect with this winter morning.

1 January 2015. New Day, New Year

At 6:30 this morning it was 18 degrees F, the sky mostly clear and the eastern horizon just starting to glow.

New Year’s Day!

It was too late to do much before sunrise (this holiday partying can wreak havoc on one’s physical/spiritual practice!) so decided to hit the road on Rhododendron, the road bike, and greet the sun as it rose for the first time over Meadowbrook Park in 2015.

It was still pretty dark as I rolled across the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek, then turned back for a dark photo.

Saw shadows and heard minimal twittering of a few birds, and heard the rustle of the ubiquitous squirrels.
As I tried to get a good shot of the blazing New Year’s sunrise, discovered I was in the pretty close company of two or three deer.

However, made it all the way around the big loop without seeing a single human (not counting the cars starting to appear on Windsor Road). The night before had really enjoyed the company of family and friends as the old year concluded and the new year began, but it was sweet and luxuriant to be alone on the prairie with the deer and the year’s first sunrise.


Heading home, was amazed and grateful that neither fingers nor toes were freezing!

To any and all who may see this, have a warm and happy New Year!