Friday 24 December 2015. The Sky and a Glimpse of Phinney Branch

This morning at 7:30 it was 34 degrees F, and basically clear but with thin clouds spread across the sky.  

 The morning was off the usual schedule: Christmas Eve, that combination of ordinary work day and major holiday. 

Couldn’t easily decide how to make use of this bonus time, especially in regard to this blog: LOVE the riding part but also LOVE the writing part, and considered just catching up on that. But the sky beckoned, and also I craved the aerobic exercise, that particular way of breathing while watching the landscape that really brings the world outside within and makes me feel one with it. So Discovery II and I were off!

This morning it was about the sky, and about going enough distance to keep the breath-across-the-landscape groove going a little while. And a good route to optimize that is west on Windsor Road. 

Stopped for a sky shot on Windsor between Race and Lincoln
 And a little farther down, approaching First Street.   

 
These views of the sky make me grateful to live where I do and grateful that in winter when the land has not much going on, the sky still can come up with something varied and interesting. 

Looked for evidence of the presence of lead plant around the sign for the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, but a casual inspection did  not reveal any. 

  
Did, however, love the sky above it. 

Rode and rode, enjoying the breath and the landscape, made a stop at the bakery on the way for a  contribution to my family’s Christmas celebration and headed toward Robeson Park, the origin of the “Phinney Branch Trail.” 

Passed a crossing of what I believe was Phinney Branch and noticed how high it was.  

 Wondered whether it would be passible at the various tiny low bridges starting at Robeson Park.

The answer was no. Here is the first would-be crossing. 

 
So turned around and went back, meandering through the neighborhoods of southwest Champaign toward the home stretch of Christmas. This year I feel remarkably calm and caught up, though as always did have to let go of some over-ambitious (for me!) plans.

May you have a Merry Christmas (or any special time you observe or recently already observed)!

Peace, love, good will, to all who breathe under the sky!

 

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Sunday 20 December 2015. On the Banks of McCullough Creek

At 7 this morning it was 34 degrees F under a fiery red sky–just enough clouds to catch the light and put some drama in the sunrise– 

 as I rolled out Discovery II to head for Meadowbrook Park.  Took Vine Street to catch the view of the open sky over the high school/ middle school athletic fields. 

Then rode on in comfort, thanks to good socks, mittens, etc., and to the relatively calm air. 

Thought about the “tests” of life and how good, even great performance on one does not guarantee squat on another (especially when the other involves, say, parenting). 

Rode on gently meandering Vine Street to  Meadowbrook and cut over the Windsor/ Vine bridge on the path that follows McCullough Creek for a stretch.  Stopped a little way down and walked Discovery II toward the edge of the water. 

  

It was was quiet and rather grey–no waterfowl nor aquatic life were readily observable.

Did, however, hear and then see, too quickly for a photo, a number of deer across the creek, running in an upstream direction. 

The features of interest were kind of grim: cup plant leaves that looked like rags 

  

and an old stump, the cutting of the tree from which it originated having been started by a beaver and finished by a human tool. A good five or six years ago, I’d guess. 

Came back to the path, looked toward the west, and headed back.    

Was glad that there had been color in the sky and that the briefest encounter with nature can fill one’s heart for the rest of the day. 

Saturday 19 December 2015. A Glimpse of Japan Garden

It was 19 degrees F under clear skies at 7:40 this morning as I headed out toward the Japan House garden on Discovery II.  Stayed up too late, untangling a skein of lace-weight baby alpaca yarn. What better reason to lose sleep? But the 400- yard ball is all rolled!  Clung to the metaphor of it. 

Got in a yoga practice to prepare for this afternoon’s class, thinking about how to gently help knees to straighten and to introduce the first steps to backbending. 

Then set my mind on enjoying a short ride to the Japan House Garden and on being content with just a few images. Yes, there can be eternity in each moment!

Rode in the reasonable comfort provided by mohair socks, Malabrigo mittens, and a “performance” under-layer top. Well, it was not much distance, but did get to enjoy a bit of aerobic breathing before stopping for a seasonal image at the north end of Illini grove.   

Then proceeded to the U of I Arboretum and the path to Japan house and stopped to look in the general direction of the rising sun, through the bald cypresses and toward the pond.

  In this carefully designed and maintained space are a number of markers, designating special plantings the donors that made them possible, including the one nearby identifying the currently dormant and otherwise unapparent surrounding hosta garden.  
 

Then turned around and went back, glad for this bit of intimacy with the morning. 

Saturday 12 December 2015. ┬áDesolation (or Mystery) in Fog

This morning, by the time I found the right tools to adjust Discovery II’s brakes (now they were too tight and bound the back wheel) and made trip back home for the forgotten phone, it was 7:15, 57 degrees F, and foggy. 
Stopped at “my ” bare apple tree, just to note the location of the squirrel nests.  

  Stopped at the “mushroom ” spruce grove, which made a nice seasonal picture.  
It was nice to ride in the mild air, with safe but not binding brakes, through a blanket of fog that softened the edges of everything. Made me think of my doubts and difficulties being softened by some virtual, buffering fog-why not?

Still, color, and the energy it brings, did not abound. 

Rode to Meadowbrook Park to see how the late fall was becoming winter on the prairie. 

The new stoplights were blinking red. Color!   

Color or no, I don’t actually like these lights. They disrupt my beloved little patterns.  Wow–how much emotion they trigger!  Laughed at myself over this consternation. 

At Meadowbrook Park, the “wonky Christmas tree” seemed to slouch through the fog. 

  Found a hawthorn tree with some remaining red fruit

  

–a little more color–and remains of goldenrod seed heads bent before fog-shrouded bare trees. 

  

McCullough and Davis creeks were high and the banks quite clear of  growth and brown. 

  

Farther along the path, a young oak tree stood over the brown prairie, against the fog. 
  

Rode through the fog without stopping until I saw (at last!) Baptisia pods, which have been so scarce this year. 

  

And these were a modest example. 

Nearby were seed heads of mountain mint, each a cluster of contrasting light-grey dots. 
 

Again thought of the concept of Pratyahara, and of resting from activity, from active growth. This time of outward desolation can be one of inner rebuilding, of as yet unrealized possibility. 

And no matter how “dreary ” it may be, I think it’s always nicer (and am glad I did) to go out and meet the weather than to stay in and avoid it. 

Sunday 6 December 2015. A Few Winter Miles to the North

Did not do the yoga practice I planned because just as I was about to do that saw that the dawn was breaking, with color, and didn’t want to miss it. 

Rode out Main Street and got the sky view from the courthouse  

 as well as farther down, behind the little grove of oaks across from the Dart plant. 
  

Wondered whether I’d see the fox that seems to be there every time I pass by that field on a Sunday morning, and there it was. 

  

Honestly, it was there, walking in a westward direction. 

Rode on to High Cross Road, and noticed this frosted furry thing on the south side of the I-74 bridge. 
  A small raccoon, I think. 

On the other side of the bridge was the place where I had tracked the gradual de-composition and dispersal of a possum road kill. Ther was nothing visible of that once-animal  

 but there was quite a bit of trash.  

Watched the sun come up over the lightly frosted cleared crop field. 
  

It was nice to be there to witness it.  

Stopped at the side of Brownfield Woods to catch the border of bare trees and the frosted cemetery. 
  

Soon reached Olympian Drive and turned west, then south on Willow and west again on Oaks. Was amazed by how close the edge of the fields came to the road.

    

It was good to ride some miles in the open spaces, though feet (but not hands, HOORAAAY!) were cold, and that was something of a distraction. 

Turned east onto Bradley from Lincoln then flew down the hill between Woodlawn Cemetery and Busey Woods, but not at full speed, because the road had a thin layer of frost, and could not quite abandon myself to both the relative free-fall and the possibility of slipping on the ice.  Still exhilarating with the remaining 

Rode south on Broadway and noticed that the construction had been completed. 
  

All the quaint, earth-colored bricks were gone; the street was smooth and no longer likely to shake the bolts off of passing vehicles. Something’s lost and something’s gained. 

Got close to some Crystal Lake geese. 

 

Wondered how successful the park district’s efforts to control the population had been. I think geese are fairly long-lived, so it will take a while to see whether the announced program to limit the hatch proves effective. The geese are a nuisance in their huge numbers, but I still like to see some fraction of them. 

Was happy with my 13 miles and hoped I could overcome the discomforts of winter to keep going out to meet the road. 

Saturday 5 December 2015. Fog and Plain Ice

This morning at 7:30 it was 28 degrees and foggy.  Was thinking since last night when the tv weather report predicted it, that Meadowbrook Park might be full of images of delicate hoarfrost. 

Before that, though, was yoga, preparing for a class that might include one or two newer students over age 80 along with the younger, more experienced ones. Never hurts to review the basics!

Rode through the “mid-weight” fog without stopping, thinking about whether deception is ever justified when trying to protect another from serious harm, to Windsor Road, where workers were installing traffic lights. 

 

It made me a little sad, or annoyed; seemed to me like a four-way stop was plenty adequate for the traffic at that corner. And it seems like the latest traffic lights tend to micro-dictate each permutation of passage in each direction (though this one probably won’t be as strange as the ones on the U of I campus that make all the cars stop as pedestrians cross in every direction). They may enhance safety, but I still am not used to them. 

Caught the “wonky Christmas tree” (in its “speed skating ” angle) in the fog.    

Also caught a bit of color in this oh so grey landscape, some remaining red crab apples (or were they haws?) over a bit of green grass. 

  

The water was high and the vegetation faded below the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough  Creek. 
  

 Farther down, could see frost on the dry remains of the past season’s growth of prairie plants.    
It wasn’t the hoarfrost I was anticipating–it was thicker and mostly without the delicate haze of tiny crystals. Still, the thin coat of ice on the grasses was a different kind of delicate. 

Spotted a red leaf above the faded grasses and against the fog. 

  

It evoked the world “singular.” That little bit of color emphasized how much is was lacking all around. 

And here was the view from the Freyfogel Overlook. 

  

Pretty stark. 

Looked for Baptisia pods but didn’t see any. 

There was a ryegrass flower head, each little “bristle” of which was coated with a fine layer of ice. 
 

Not hoarfrost but still quite delicate and lovely. 

Once again am reminded to stay in and appreciate the present as it is and not get pulled away by exacting desires and expectations of something “better.”

Sunday 29 November 2015. More and More Grey

It was 37 degrees F under thinly cloudy skies (not actually clear, as reported by the phone ap) this morning. 

Again took advantage of the time before sunrise for a bit of yoga practice, and was on Rhododendron heading for Meadowbrook Park by 7:15. 

Stopped to get a pic of “my” apple tree, which was completely bare.  

 
Made me think of how different is every turn of the seasons from one year to the next: last year at this time the tree still bore a few clinging apples. 

Then rode on without stopping to Meadowbrook, thinking about love with detachment and about how past experiences, perhaps especially positive ones, can cloud one’s receptivity to the present.  Really was not inclined to stop and capture images. Again today felt a little impatient to be sitting in a warm place with coffee, words, and pictures. 

Did stop at the rabbit-statue bridge to get a photo of the (probably) diatomaceous foam on McCullough Creek  

 
as well as a view of Davis and McCullough creeks from the bridge  

 
Which were high and running, McCullough actually “babbling” over some recently fallen logs, etc. The landscape was becoming ever lower an more grey. 

Not far along was surprised by deer, also more grey at this time of year.   

  Saw the largest one first, then the middle one, and was most surprised by the smallest. Seemed like a bad time of year to be so small. 

They were apparently fearless, walking right toward me. I stopped long enough to get their picture and wish for their survival through the winter. 

Noticed someone had bestowed knitted accessories on the Marker statue.  

 Stopped this time to get a shot of Davis Creek stripped of its riparian vegetation.  
 
Have to say I found it kind of shocking; I’ve looked at this area so many times over the years, and it’s a bit disconcerting to see the creek exposed, as well as the houses behind it. Well, I guess it will be nice to see the creek flowing, though it takes a lot of effort to keep the growth (of prairie plants, at least in part!) down. 

Searched for Baptisia pods but didn’t see any. Also remembered  what nice winter prairie portraits the stalks of compass plants used to make. Saw some curled dark compass plant leaves but no stalks. Was disappointed, actually. On the other hand, tried to remember that the times of, e.g., glorious blooms or even rattling Baptisia pods, were singular, not to be repeated, and so precious. Also, needed to try to accept the present on its own terms and not expect an exact repeat of a previous year. 

Riding back, did not quite reach that stage of all-embracing joy, but was grateful for the reasonable comfort in the cold and soothing exercise of the bike ride.