Saturday 17 October 2015. The Gentians Persist!

It was 34 degrees F at 7:10 this morning as the sun came up in a clear sky, with a little northerly wind to accentuate the coldest morning of the season so far. Brrrr! Mittens today for sure!

Made use of this cold-season pre-dawn time with yoga practice. On one hand I miss the daylight that bestows early-morning bike rides, on the other, an early-morning practice is so welcome, even necessary .  

The morning continued to unfold smoothly as I went to see the mushrooms, which, as expected, were in decline. 


And there was evidence of attack by weed whackers, alas. Who would be so barbarous? 


Well, this kind of thing had happened last year, and the Amanita muscaria mushrooms had come back in full glory.  Was glad that at least they had again been so abundant and that I’d been able to enjoy them. 

Directly rode to Meadowbrook and made a quick stop in the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek,  

where aready much of the streameside vegetation had died back and tree leaves had fallen, leaving a clear view of the prairie that had seemed so distant when the view had been blocked. 
Went on directly to look for bottle gentians, not completely expecting to see them.  

But there they were!

And there were many (more than I remember from last year) of them  

and though some were past bloom and fading 



here were plenty of azure blooms.   
It was the very opposite of disappointment!  What a lovely consolation for the end of this year’s flowers, a sweet image to carry into the approaching winter!


Sunday 11 October 2015. The Prairie Flowers Fade

It was 46, or so, degrees F at 7 this morning as the sun came up in a partly cloudy sky. Destination on Rhododendron was very specifically to see whether there were any bottle gentians in the middle of the Meadowbrook Park prairie, near the “soft” path. 

But did stop for white iris, 

 apples,  with a spider strung in front of “my” tree,

and of course mushrooms (Amanita muscaria

 which still included young  and large individuals. 


But also, quite a few were getting on in maturity  
and succumbing to disturbance. 

 But at this point still there were plenty of them. 

Then proceeded to Meadowbrook directly to the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie,  

walking Rhododendron across the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek and stopping to see how still the water was now.  

 No babbling today. 

Moved along at a brisk pace on the path, glad that the grass leaning into the middle was not so dense as it was the last time I tried to look for bottle gentians here.  Seemed like the spent flower-tops of the grasses were weathering down. 

 And the goldenrod flowers were moving from yellow toward ochre.  Was surprised  that the  fragrance of mint was so strong here. Have seen mountain mint around here before, but didn’t realize the scent persists long after the flowers are done  blooming.  

Was surprised that the prairie was so brown and seemingly pretty much done with the bloom for the year. 


It made me sad, less that it had reached this stage, more that I had missed a lot of the process (and isn’t it just about always about the process?).  Yet here I was, with wonders of a more subtle kind in front of me: the task was to refocus. 

Looked carefully for bottle gentians but found none, unless this one counts.  

  Thought maybe it was just cream gentian blooms that got a little purple as they aged.  The leaves seemed narrow like  bottle gentians, but couldn’t be sure.  Looked like I was way late for it; tells me I need to check earlier next year.  

Did also find a couple of straggling  but definitive cream gentian flowers.  

 Noticed so many stalks of gentian leaves with their tips cropped off. Deer food, presumably. Maybe the deer had gotten to all the bottle gentian flowers here. 

Had only a small window of time and now had to get back, a bit sad and regretful, but ever glad and grateful to have been here at all. Makes me think, in life it would be so nice to have the equivalent of scarlet cardinal flowers, golden compass plant blooms, and azure-blue bottle gentians around all year, when what happens is that they may visit only briefly. Still, their very existence, ever, like sweet times, even moments, of harmony and balance is cause for gratitude.

Wednesday 7 October 2015. The Latest from Mushroom Land

It was 50 degrees F and thinly cloudy this morning at 7:30 when I squeezed in a little ride on Discovery II to check on the amazing Amanita muscaria mushrooms. 

And on the way looked at the fall-blooming white iris  

and the apples from “my” tree. 

The mushrooms, which I wasn’t sure had not been ravaged by some unfriendly or even indifferent source, were indeed there!  Was encouraged as soon as I got close to see large, fresh individuals at the very north end of the stand of spruces.  

   The Amanitas were in fact numerous and exhibiting many sizes and states of development. It was not a solid, uniform fruiting of fresh fungus, but it was extensive and amazing!

For example, there were clusters of small and medium-sized mushrooms whose caps had split into flower-like shapes before they could form the inverted-umbrella that larger specimens often make. 


Top view. 

 And worm’s eye. 

Speaking of larger specimens, saw what must be the largest Amanita I’ve ever seen!  So far. Laid a quarter on top of it for scale. 


Noticed that the ground-cover plants under the spruces did not seem to inhibit the mushrooms at all, contrary to what I’d supposed a few weeks ago, when there were so many fewer of them. 

Loved seeing the bunches of round spiky  ones crowded together. 


And liked this large, rather mature one, the inverted top of which made the shape of a bowl. 

Seemed like the ones growing in the ground cover had the deepest orange color. 

Honestly could have stayed a very long time!

But practiced letting go and kept the rich display in my mind and heart to get me over the day’s inevitable humps.  

Sunday 4 October 2015. Early Fall to the East and North, with Sounds of Dogs and Guns

This morning at 6:50 it was 50 degrees F under cloudy skies. 

Really wanted to ride, even with the limited time the flowers would be out. So headed east on Main Street toward High Cross Road, with the idea of stopping as little as possible, into the north-northeast wind. Restrained myself successfuly until I got to the little grove of oaks across from the Solo Cup (Dart?) factory, which were nicely set off by goldenrod and asters. 

Remembered that last time I rode by this place on a Sunday morning there was a fox behind the trees, and sure enough, there it was again!  But too far away for a good photo.   

While I tried to get a photo of the fox could hear in the distance dogs barking, and they didn’t sound especially playful. In fact the sound seemed to be getting louder and wondered whether a pack of them might burst in my direction. Decided it was time to move on. 

Stopped also, after passing it by on many previous rides, at the giant hibiscus in front of the Quaker church.


There still were some giant pink blooms, even among the autumnal purple leaves.

But resisted the urge to stop at Weaver Park and rode to the end of Main through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road.

Did stop not far over the I-74 bridge to get a portrait of the day and the time of year: cloudy, cool, and breezy, the corn harvest underway. It was the beginning of the kind of weather that does not automatically grab you by the collar and pull you outside, the kind you have to prepare for and meet as it is. 


Stopped again to document the first fall colors at the beginning of the tunnel of tree leaves over the Saline Branch bridge.  


Rode on, passing Brownfield Woods, which was bordered by the pale, small-flowered asters I remembered here from previous years, toward Olympian Drive. 


Then turned west. 


As I stopped for a shot of the bit of roll in the half-harvested field, distinctly heard a rifle shot. Deer season already?? Hoped very much that the shooting person could see (and glad my jacket was bright magenta) that I wasn’t a deer. Reached back and turned on my blinking tail light for further evidence.  Wow.  Made me think about spending Thanksgiving with my sister in Wisconsin and she discouraging me from taking a walk in the beautiful woods around her place: deer hunters. 

Later, when I shared this story with friends, they suggested the shots could have meant pheasant season (but I’m pretty sure they were rifle and not shotgun shots) or a farmer shooting at “varmints.” Not the most welcome feature of being out in the country in the morning, but, like the sound of dogs on East Main, part of what’s there. 

Rode in the open space with just enough speed to feel a pleasant cardio-vascular exertion, with smooth, deep breathing. Aahh!  This is the point of cycling!

Came back to Willow, Oaks, and North Lincoln, down the best hill in Champaign-Urbana (next to Busey Woods) and then to Broadway, by the Anita Purvis Nature Center and the entrance to the now-empty Crystal Lake pool. Was amazed again by the patches of fresh yellow coneflowers in October. 

They are beautiful in July but even more welcome now in this time of general diminishment. 

Another good ride, glad to participate in the transition toward winter. 

Saturday 3 October 2015. Early Fall at Japan House Pond. And Mushrooms 

This morning at 6:35 a.m. it was 50 degrees F under cloudy skies. Was feeling the brevity of the growing season and wanted to see flowers while they still were out. 

Also really wanted to see the mushroom surge. Yesterday late afternoon took the dog for a walk to the place and stopped for a quick couple of shots  

And when I finished, realized that the slackened leash didn’t mean  he was  sitting obediently behind me; he’d slipped off the harness and was frolicking in a large area of grass.  Will let the story go at that, but was looking forward to coming back to get more pictures.

And sure enough there were lots and lots of mushrooms coming up. But it seemed that some force was battling against them or at least damaging some. 

Noticed that there were a lot of small ones. 

  Maybe there had been small ones all along, but of course, one tends to get drawn to the gigantic individuals when they’re there.

On the way to Japan House stopped at the little prairie planting at Florida a Avenue and Orchard Street, which still featured lots of goldenrod/aster

though many  were well on their way to seed.   
At Japan House some flowers remained, 


Like these great blue Lobelia 


But it was necessary to get pretty close to them  to get a colorful photo.  

Was happy to see so many bottle gentians, though it seemed to be past their peak bloom. 


Still, found some gorgeous flowers, and even a few buds. 

There was still a nice patch of lemon yellow evening primrose, a weedy species 

perhaps, but one that worked wonderfully well among the purple-blue flowers. 

Also caught another goldenrod-aster shot along the pond. 


Marveled again at the vision and care that goes into creating and maintaining this place of beauty and calm. 

Thursday 1 October 2015. The Time of Many Mushrooms and Gentians

It was 48 degrees F under partly cloudy skies at 6:35 this morning. The daylight is getting shorter and rides are squeezed in more tightly, alas. But such is the cycle of the year.  Funny that even after so many repetitions I still need to grieve the transition. 

Rode on Rhododendron right past the lovely white irises, the lovely pink cabbage roses, and the still many apples hanging from “my” apple tree to see how the “kingdom” of mushrooms under the spruce trees was doing. 

It seemed to be doing well!

Saw Amanita muscaria in many stages


with a preponderance of “new” ones, trails and rings of them!

There were mushrooms of various sizes. 


Was glad to see them going strong and hoping I wouldn’t get too used to seeing them so numerous. They are mushrooms, after all, never to be depended upon or taken for granted. 

Stopped for an early fall sky shot with ginkgo leaves just north of Windsor Road.   

Then went on through Meadowbrook Park directly to find bottle gentians 


which were quite numerous by the Marker statue, and apparently mostly in good condition!


Then wanted to see if I could find the other population along the “soft” path, and proceeded there. But the path was quite obstructed by overhanging grass and goldenrod. 


Briefly thought I could push through it, but then realized I wasn’t up to sustaining the effort and turned back. Alas. Another day!

On the way home snagged a goldenrod-and aster shot icon of this time go year. 


Even though I still didn’t know about the second bottle gentian population, was glad for the first, glad for the complementary goldenrod/asters, glad for the mushrooms. 

Saturday 26 September 2015. Early Fall on North Lincoln 

At 6:45 this morning, about the exact official time of sunrise, it was 59 degrees F with thin wisps of clouds spanning the sky. Got on Rhododendron knowing again that there wasn’t much time and headed north for another ride out North Lincoln. 

Wanted to stop  as little as possible but did at the Lincoln Bindery, where the little prairie was almost all brown. Still, liked how the stalk and seed heads of  a compass plant stood against the sky,  

and found a New England aster that still had purple flowers. 

Then continued from Bradley to North Lincoln, over I-74 and past Mack’s recycling and the UPS station to the “mysterious” pit, which had some nice wispy clouds above it. 


Someday, not far off, I’m thinking, it will be filled with a building or something. 

Rode up Lincoln just beyond the detour sign and stopped at the bridge over the Saline branch. 


Saw no herons wading there today; the water was too deep and fast. But the scene was lovely, with whimsical clouds, the light just coming up in the distance, and the sky’s reflection texturized in the fast water. 

Came back to the detour to catch a portrait of the place and the season: near the edge of town in goldenrod time, and while a nearby stretch of Lincoln Avenue was under construction. 


Came back to Bradley Avenue and took that marvelous little downhill spin between Busey Woods and Woodlawn Cemetery. Whee!

Remembered that a couple days ago I looked at the dark green leaves of the trees lining Washington Street and thought, “now they’re pretty much all green, but soon this will change.”

And sure enough, there was one of the first little patches of red, across the road from the large oak tree that last week, but not today, stood in a puddle of water. 


Then went on around the curves and over another crossing the Saline Branch: a lovey little morsel of vacation in the woods but not a good place to stop for photos. 

Stopped at the Anita Purvis Nature Center with the bag of cherry chocolate chip oatmeal cookies I’d made for the food pantry walk later this morning and even carrying along, hoping someone would already be there setting up and I could drop them off. Alas, no one was, and had to go to plan B. (Which did work.)

Stopped on Broadway to catch these amazing yellow coneflowers 


which apparently didn’t know how late the season was. 

Made my way through the construction zone on Broadway next to Crystal Lake Park  (no pictures) and on with the day.