Sunday 29 March 2015. All the Way to To Yankee Ridge

It was 28 degrees at 6:45 this morning, the sky mostly clear and a mostly steady (but not exactly warm) wind blowing from the south.

Wore the long down coat, the slightly awkward mounting of Davy’s Grey notwithstanding. It was the right decision.

After a short yoga practice (slowly learning to tease apart the benefits from the dangers of the bent-knee standing poses–a good thing for cycling) this morning to ride to Yankee Ridge at Old Church Road.

Noted the continued presence of the lone one-time apple on “my” tree but did not stop to photograph it.

Rode to Windsor Road and turned east.
Did not stop until I got to the prairie area inside the “small loop,” which recently had been burned.

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It smelled very strongly of smoke and looked so flat, with a few small shrubby trees punctuating the expanse of charred plants, which now also had a coat of frost.

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Rode up the Windsor/Vine bridge and got a shot of alders, full of drapey catkins and old fruits.

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Rode on Windsor to Philo Road and south, into the wind and uphill. Some resistance! Nevertheless it was lovely to be out in the sun, on the road! Once again thought of exertion and difficulty not having to be disturbing. But did not stop for a lot of pictures.

Maintained the mostly pleasant effort but noticed it was a longer ride (I know, it’s not that far) than I’ve gotten used to. Did look forward to the way back and the tailwind.

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At the corner of Philo and Old Church got a shot to the west. Noticed the Barnhart prairie restoration had recently been burned.

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Rode just to the crest of Yankee Ridge and got a view of the land below,

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but the sun was up to high go get a decent photo.

The way back was much easier and quite enjoyable for the combination of the tailwind and the road being downhill. So did stop this time to get a shot of the private orchard on Philo Road, with its still-bare and quite trimmed (unlike the one in Race Street) branches.

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Was eager to come back to Yankee Ridge and beyond!.

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Saturday 28 March 2015. Way Back to Winter

Was amazed to discover at 6:15 this morning that it was 19 degrees F! How is this possible? The path to spring rarely is straightforward in central Illinois, but this was more of a regression than I expected.

Nevertheless, did not wear my trusty provider of winter comfort, the long down coat, in favor of something in which I could more easily swing my leg over the newly purchased/traded replacement for Discovery: “Davy’s Grey.” Which proved to be a mistake.

Was a little sad to let go of Discovery, but it was proving not to fit me so well, and I was getting tired, so to speak, of the back tire continually going flat, even after repairs by me and even by the bike shop. So after riding the loaner while Rhododendron’s brakes were being repaired, decided that the Trek hybrid was the ticket, and the bike shop kindly let me do the trade, with a little charge for the upgrade.

Still dream about a new (only because it will be the most likely way to get a perfect fit) road bike, but am still not sure whether it will work for my fussy shoulder. Meanwhile, with minimal financial investment, I have a very well-functioning bike. We’ll see how it does with summer distances.

So headed off on Davy’s Grey to Meadowbrook Park in the cold. Gave in to the urge to get another shot of “my” mummified apple.

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Noticed with some relief that there didn’t yet seem to be any swelling buds, which would have been ravaged by today’s cold.

Rode quickly to Meadowbrook, and stopped to get a shot of the sunrise over the frosted lawn and the sculpture of the “twin suns of Tattooine.”

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At the rabbit-statue bridge, noticed some ice along the shore of McCullough Creek, but the algal bloom of last week was not quite so apparent.

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Around the corner from the bridge, the prairie plant remains, like these Monarda, I believe, were tipped with frost.

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Noticed that the arching blackberry canes were not so red as when I saw them recently in warmer temperatures.

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Noticed the frosty remains of a cup plant, which looked particularly skeletal.

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But the red-winged blackbirds and song sparrows did not seem to notice the cold, judging by the way they were singing.

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Stopped to get a shot of the Marker statue with frost. A chilling image, so to speak.

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At which place decided to wait for a warmer day to take Davy’s Grey to Old Church Road over Yankee Ridge. Just wasn’t able to get warm.

Saw tree swallows on the Freyfogel overlook, where they’ve hung out every year I’ve been observing at Meadowbrook .

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Close to Windsor Road smelled a strong burnt odor and wondered if there had been management-burning of the prairie near-by. Almost immediately noticed that the area inside the “small loop,” right adjacent to the new construction at Clark-Lindsey Village, was flat and charred. Wondered what the composition of plants would be like after the purge. Could imagine that burning might destroy plant pathogens as well as invasive non-prairie species

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Hard to imagine, between the charred ground and the frost, but knew that soon this place would be thick with prairie plants.

Sunday 22 March 2015. The Earth Begins to Awaken

It was 36 degrees F at about 7:10 this morning under mostly clear skies.

Got in a brief but happily focused yoga practice, including seated poses that often get neglected and two helpful variations of Salamba Sirsasa (supported headstand).

Did not see the sun rise, except indirectly, as I pedaled (grateful for the restored Rhododendron!) toward Meadowbrook Park. Was temped but resisted the urge to stop for another photo of the dried and now rather pale apple that still clung to “my” tree.

The official first day of spring was a day or two ago, and evidence that the pace of photosynthesis and its results was beginning to quicken was visible. In general I prefer native plants, but after so much brown and grey, who can resist the early purple of garden crocuses?

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Was aware at this location on Race Street that I’ve observed for years that the almost-bare ground

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soon would be full of growth and color.
Also noted that the robins and cardinals had started singing at the very first hint of light, which they don’t do in mid-winter.

Decided that on this morning of change would take a different route through Meadowbrook. Which is hard to do, because I love my “big loop.” Did succeed, though, in turning toward the garden plots from the Race Street parking lot, and dismounted Rhododendron to walk to the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek.

Noticed a fair amount of algae (“algal bloom”) in and along the sides of the stream, including the grey “scum” that comprised (in the correct, I’m pretty sure, usage of the word) those gorgeous, lace-like glass-skeletoned algal cells: diatoms.

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I seem to recall from my days as a biologist that spring was a time when algae tended to bloom. Could have been the rain and snow-melt washing in nutrients from the winter-exposed soil. It was not distractingly unsightly. Liked all the water running from the nearby ground seep and also the persistent evidence of the past work of beavers.

Walked Rhododendron along the soft, muddy path, which was full of deer and other footprints, close to the creek.

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The path was quite soft, but least not not covered with standing water. And the surface of the mud showed evidence of green growth.

Looked up among the still-bare trees as I proceeded down the path to discover blooming tree-flowers at the tops.

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More subtle growth.

Almost to Windsor Road, met up with this morning’s representatives of the Meadowbrook deer population.

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The deer are so abundant here that it might not seem worth noting, though one doesn’t see them on every visit. They are handsome and graceful, even if numerous. And no doubt eager for the continued greening of Meadowbrook.

Saturday 21 March 2015. A Spin to Meadowbrook on a Loaner Bike

At 7:18 this morning it was 37 degrees F and clear except for some light fog close to the ground.

Headed out toward Meadowbrook Park after yoga practice–preparation for this afternoon’s class. Today wanted not to forget to convey the idea of Santosha to my students. There is so much to learn in Iyengar (the method I know) yoga, it can seem impossible ever to “get it right.” Yes, there can always be improvement, refinement (divine discontent!), but after each sincere effort, a little time of grateful satisfaction is, I believe, appropriate.

Today’s bike (literally, le velo du jour) was a loaner from the shop where Rhododendron’s brakes were being fixed. It was a rebuild of an aluninum-framed Trek mountain bike, with smooth, medium-width tires and shock absorbers. It was nothing to look at, the frame in shades of grey, tan and green, roughy a camo effect. If I had to give it a name it would be Davy’s Grey. But it seemed to fit well, and it rode smoothly. Am planning to get a new bike(!) this summer. Always liked the idea of a Bianchi, but maybe Trek will have what I need.

So off on Race Street we rode, but not without checking “my” apple tree for its last desiccated remainder of fruit.

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Which still was there, illuminated nicely by the climbing sunlight.

At Meadowbrook, the low rays of sunlight caught the edges of frosted grass just north of the rabbit-statue bridge and lit up the ground.

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McCullough and Davis creeks were still well-full of water.

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At the south end of the bridge, noticed some thin but woody stems of a noticeable shade of green, among a fair number of red stems. It seemed like growth was starting to happen.

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Around the corner of the path heard lots of red-winged blackbirds and also a song sparrow. The birds were engaged full-on in bird life.

Got a shot of the sun coming up over the misty prairie.

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Would like to have gone on around the big loop of the prairie, but had to turn back, after catching this bit of green moss and tiny plants.

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Not exactly full-grown prairie vegetation, but it’s a beginning.

Did like the feel of “Davy’s Grey“, especially I think the higher, wider (than Rhododendron’s), handlebars were kinder to my shoulders. In any event, as the days grow longer am looking forward to more and longer rides on well-fitting bikes!

Saturday 14 March 2015. Winter-Spring

This morning at 7:20 am it was 43 degrees F, the sky packed with contiguous clouds in shades of grey and a fairly stiff north wind blowing.

Have been fighting a cold, and really did start to feel better during yoga practice. Included was the 5-minute Pascimottanasana prescribed by my teacher as this week’s “homework,” which started a little like “herding cats” (all those wandering thoughts!) but ended with a better relationship between the upper and lower halves of my body.

But still felt like I was not firing on all cylinders as I rode south on Race Street toward Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped to note that the lone shriveled apple still clung to “my” tree.

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Passed the grove of spruce trees under which there had been an explosion of white-spotted orange mushrooms in the fall

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and wondered what might be coming up in the spring.

Did not completely relax into the rhythm of pedaling, my cold was a barrier, but eventually did smooth out some and enjoy the increased volume of breath that one gets from moderate exercise. The tail-wind (which I didn’t notice except in retrospect as a lack of resistance) helped.

At Meadowbrook the ice of last week was gone, making the path much less troublesome to navigate.

The water at the rabbit-statue bridge was quite high, and Davis Creek flowed in with certainty.

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Heard and saw red-winged blackbirds, (with their several song variations), for the first time this year. Stopped for a shot of the wet area where they were abundant, where soon, if the past several springs were an indication, there would be blue flag irises, and, later in the season, rose mallows.

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It was a place where cardinal flowers had bloomed in late summers past but not for the previous three or four years.
Would this be the year when they reappeared?

When the path turned north was greeted by head-wind. It was hard going. Felt colder today and more wintry than last week when there still was snow and ice around. So that’s what wind chill is about. Would not say I felt content, exactly: the discomfort limited my ability to connect with my surroundings. Still, there was satisfaction in being there, observing what was, discomfort notwithstanding. Hoped I could call up this state when I found myself in other kinds of difficulty.

Did not see a single deer. They must have been keeping out of the wind somewhere.

Farther on in the the dormant prairie, among the faded remains of last year’s growth of prairie plants, were a few standing Baptisia stalks, pods waving and clacking in the wind.

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Winter does not always yield readily.

Sunday 8 March 2015. Spring Forward with Ice and Deer

At 6:50 this morning it was 27 degrees F and mostly clear, the sun just starting to assert itself on this day when it suddenly is an hour later than it was yesterday at this time. Spring forward!

As I walked out the front door was greeted by the song of an insistent cardinal, repeating what could have been interpreted as my first name. “I’m here! I’m coming!” I replied while readying Discovery for the long-anticipated ride to Meadowbrook Park.

There still was plenty of snow and ice around, but yesterday it was well above freezing, and after last week’s heavy snow and cold temperatures, the streets were mostly clear. And even though the temperature was now below freezing, it felt mild.

The moon was bright but looked slightly deflated–recently full–as it moved closer to the western horizon.

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On the way to Meadowbrook Park got yet another shot of the still-clinging erstwhile apple on “my” tree.

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Rode Discovery along Race Street, missing the efficiency and greater knee-friendliness of temporarily brake-less Rhododendron but enjoying the greater ease of turning around to see the sights (as well as cars behind me).

At Meadowbrook, the paths around and through the park were punctuated with flat icy stretches, the result of yesterday’s extensive snow melt and subsequent re-freezing.

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They merited caution, especially where the path curved and slanted downward, as just ahead of the rabbit-statue bridge, but the evenness of the surface made for mostly relaxed riding.

The sun was coming up, and with just enough clouds close to the horizon to give the sunrise some color.

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The water remained high under the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek, Davis Creek continuing to bring more water, most recently from the snow melt.

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Heard a tiny woodpecker hammering overhead, almost like a buzz.

Proceeding over the bridge, was a bit startled by the depth of the frozen-over puddle through which I plowed, the ice cracking.

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But the crossing was safely accomplished.

A little farther down the path, picked out some Culver root seed-heads to photograph as an example of the surviving forms on the late-winter prairie

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and noticed a couple of deer in the background.

Farther along, saw an amazing number of them, dark-coated and antler-less. It seemed at least two or three, up to six deer, at least, were posted at every location where I ever saw deer on past visits. The local population seemed to be converging on Meadowbrook.

But saw no humans at all on the path, which can be lovely, especially in the morning of the lost hour.

In this sweet solitude, just before the path curved and crossed Davis Creek on Meadowbrook’s southern edge, stopped to notice the sunlight coming up on the still-dormant landscape and the air warming and had a clear, strong sensation of nature full of God, of eternity in a moment.

Felt uplifted, better than “sober.” Not quite euphoria, maybe something better, more sustainable. Contentment. Could feel the new life of the coming spring stirring under the ice and the faded grass, a break with the preceding winter, something to which to look forward.

Even so, was not through with the ice on the path. There was an especially long passage around the southeastern corner,

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But it was shallow enough to pass over smoothly, albeit with concentration.

Noticed that the remaining Baptisia pods were starting to lighten with age and weather. Caught one with the sun coming up behind it.

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The temperature was not exactly balmy, but felt completely comfortable.
It still was winter, when the prairie doesn’t change so dramatically from day to day or even week to week, the way it does when new flowers are blooming and old ones fading. Still there are features, like the light, the distribution and extent of the snow and ice, or even how many deer show up, that are never the same twice and make every visit unique.

Sunday 1 March 2015. Snow-Grounded Again

This morning at 6:25 it was 23 degrees F and snowing. The tall piles on the railing of our mini-balcony suggested an accumulation of several inches, and that a bike ride this morning was not likely.

So did not expect to get far. But was not about to miss the loveliness of the snow! At the very least I could go out and shovel.

And when I did, was met with even more snow than anticipated. Even getting from the door to the front sidewalk was a project.

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But at least the snow was fairly light and not trodden, so it was reasonably easy to shovel. The hard part was clearing wider paved areas; had to carry each shovel-full a little ways away rather than just dump it to one side.

But the task was pleasant! Enjoyed the digging, especially as the snow still was coming down rather heavily, freshly, beautifully.

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While I dug, entertained various possibilities of how to go out and experience this snowy morning. Cycling was out.

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Considered driving to Meadowbrook, but couldn’t see fighting the snow to get there. Even walking through the neighborhood seemed daunting if it meant slogging through deep (I’d say it was a good 8-10 inches) snow.

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But then a plow came by and there was a path!

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So off I went, into the snow that made my residential block look like the woods!

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Loved how the blanket of snow turned
the most un-natural human structures into another part of nature.

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Could tell from the whimsical stacks of snow on the smallest horizontal surfaces

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that the air had been calm during the snow-fall. It still was calm. I savored it, confident of bike rides in other days.