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.


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