Sunday 24 April 2016. Fog and Phlox

It was 46 degrees F this morning at 6:15, the sky thinly cloudy and scattered fog spread close to the ground.

Had rather a slow start, the sun already risen, though the clouds and fog completely obscured its shape and exact position.

Was not completely enthusiastic about the trip, even though a momentary contemplation of not doing it felt absurd (during 30 Days of Biking, no less!?!). Could not decide which direction to ride, and then just found myself going north. Direction established, felt at least a degree of calm, of serenity.

At the long-under-construction but inconspicuous crossing of Broadway over the Boneyard Creek was a curious pile of metal, etc., including erstwhile bikes.

Rode on past Crystal Lake Park and the country fairgrounds to Bradley Avenue and north on Lincoln. At this point noticed my early hesitations were fading, and the ride clearly was becoming more enjoyable. It was good to be pedaling on relatively quiet (but not deserted) Lincoln Avenue on a Sunday morning.

Stopped at the water-filled pit on the east side of Lincoln, north of I-74,

img_5826 over which the sun was rising through the fog. Was surprised there wasn’t more construction or structure than last time I saw it, when there were several earth-moving vehicles around.

Wound around “new” north Lincoln and followed the urge to turn east on Oaks Road,

and then north on Willow, which passed the marked Centennial (as of 1966) farm

img_5833 which seemed still to be in operation at some level.

Turned east on Ford Harris Road and rode to High Cross, then south. Saw large vehicles in a field that made me worry about development of the open spaces out here.

Closer inspection suggested that the project was drainage. Might be for agricultural purposes, but maybe it’s the first step to building on the land. Alas.

Proceeded to the edge of Brownfield Woods

(note the 30 Days of Biking spoke card).
Was happy to see the Trillium

and especially the woodland Phlox

some of which mingled with stinging nettle.

And of course it was lovely to see them along the stream that goes through and along Brownfield,

img_5853 with a little butterweed for contrast.

Felt like it was a good trip, though all told wasn’t quite 15 miles. It’s getting to be time to wake up with the sun and stretch the distance. Definitely broke through the fog, inside and out! Nothing to do once again but be grateful.


Friday 22 April 2016. The Opening Bloom of the Meadowbrook Shooting Stars

Rode out to Meadowbrook Park on Discovery II at around 5:30 pm. The sky was mostly clear and the temperature was 57 or so.

Destination was the center of the Spomer Prairie to greet the shooting star blooms, which after the several days since last visit surely would be at least starting to open.

Actually went with slightly less enthusiasm than otherwise because I’d brought back two ticks from a walk around the park with a friend and our dogs the day before. Just needed to be careful and observant…

On the way, my attention got snagged by a couple of blooming crab apple trees.

Not native, at least not this cultivar, but who can resist such a gorgeous profusion of early bloom?

Made the customary stop at the rabbit statue bridge,

rode on and then across the little bridge over Davis Creek, and walked the bike through the no-bike zone into the prairie. On the way to the shooting stars met up with a couple of very unconcerned deer.

Then, where the path split in two places,

there were the glorious little stalks rising from amid the small clusters of top-rounded upright leaves.

Each stalk bore several flowers: each flower a circle of five white petals that streamed upward, away from a downward-facing red-dotted, yellow point of compressed flower-reproductive parts.

They were emblems of grace.

Welcome, first prairie flowers of the season!


Sunday 17 April 2016. East Washington with a Stop at the “Buffalo-Wallow” Pond

It was 52 degrees F this morning at 6:35, sky clear, an east breeze barely blowing.

The air was fragrant with viburnum, late daffodils, and most recently that faint, not quite sweet but distinctive scent of the crab apples that were just beginning to bloom. All delivered at an optimal temperature.

Eastward I rode on Rhododendron down Washington to Street to check for waterfowl at the Weaver Park pond, reputed (according to a respected retired U of I botanist) once to have been a buffalo wallow.

It’s not easy to get to this possible buffalo-wallow, especially on a bike. One can either walk a good way on the grass or have a bit of a strenuous bike ride. For the sake of time I chose the latter.

Approached close enough to see coots cavorting on the water and also, saw a pair of ducks that didn’t quite look or sound like mallards that, with the help of the zoom of the “devoted” camera, determined that they were blue-winged teal. Graphically beautiful birds; something you don’t see every day in Urbana.

The pond was alive with sound! Especially amphibians; I believe most of the sound was of toads, though I wondered whether at least some were spring peepers. Also, there were bird sounds, like red-winged blackbirds and song sparrows, and some the source of which I had no idea. What a chorus! Could almost imagine them joining in parts of the Verdi Requiem.

Then rode on out E Washington till the road jogged south and I turned around.

It wasn’t a long-distance trip but still good to put on a few miles in the open, as yet bare farm fields.

Stopped at a wet spot near the intersection of Washington and High Cross, where a raccoon (I believe) had been not long ago.

In the home stretch got on a thought train in which I wrangled with the idea of justice, self-respect, unconditional love, and how to turn ideas about those things into practice.
What is injustice? What is bad luck? This not in a self-righteous or self-pitying way. Just wondering. What do I or anyone “deserve?” Wouldn’t forgiving 70×7 times sometimes encourage people to take advantage of one, which ultimately is not good for that person, either? What does it actually mean to forgive?

Another one I probably won’t resolve today.

Saturday 16 April 2016. Those Amazing Hellebores

It was a gorgeous 57 degrees F, the sky most clear this morning (as I recall) at 7:35, as I got on Discovery II for a quick ride to Japan House.

This was after an especially satisfying practice to prepare for teaching my Saturday afternoon yoga class. Sometimes I worry that my students will find the sequences repetitious or boring or want more novelty. But this morning I focused on repetition as a way to know the pose better, to get comfortable with it and to draw comfort from it. Of course, one never does the same pose twice, as I was reminded at the teacher education workshop I attended this past week.

Hoped my beginner students would be able to draw on the peace and calm I got from this morning’s awareness.

Then headed out into the fragrant Saturday-morning spring air, just then of a perfect light, temperature and humidity, that felt like a gentle embrace, a moment of complete primeval love and fulfillment (yes, really good!), and off toward additional bliss in the form of the maturing cherry blossoms at the Japan House garden.

Whatever life-situation drama is out there, for these moments, dissolves.

Also sought out the mighty hellebores.

These living things emerge crazy early in the season, among or even before the Aconitines and snowdrops, and here they still are, perhaps past the height of their glory but still vigorously floral, when those other, more fragile and ephemeral beauties have long gone. (More like the Rolling Stones than like the Beatles, which reminds one that even if amazing, longevity isn’t everything.) The edges of their robust leaves bore marks of frost damage that did not seem to impair their function.

Nearby also were Virginia bluebells,

img_5624 tall but delicate, ephemeral, their tender curving stalks with tissue-thin blue flowers that come up from the ground and go completely back to it in not much time.

While the hellebores endure.

Got a view of cherries near the pond

Glad not to have missed it.

Just outside the garden, a fairly large (for this time of day) group of young people was gathered for an event I couldn’t quite identity. Hoped, in the midst of their activities they would be able to enjoy the extreme beauty around them.

Friday 15 April 2016. Crayfish Chimneys and Shooting Stars

At 12:30 pm it was 73 perfect degrees under a clear sky.

Rode to Meadowbrook Park to check on the shooting stars, for which I had to cross the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek and walk Rhododendron into the Spomer Prairie.

First stopped at the “seep” (water trickling out of the ground, by some means) near the bridge.

Noticed a lot of crayfish chimneys, little works of invertebrate architecture, near the stream.

Then walked Rhododendronon on the “soft” path into the prairie, where I looked and looked al around for shooting star leaves but found them only in the two little patches where I’d found them each of the past several years.

They still barely showed early-stage flower buds. I love to be there for the very beginning of the bloom!

Was dismayed to see this bottle in the middle of the prairie.

Thought someone who would select this cleverly packaged beverage might also have the mindfulness to dispose of it properly, but the deed was done and I was pretty sure the person who left it wasn’t coming back for it, so I picked it up and packed it in the front bike bag to recycle.

On the way out of Meadowbrook caught a view of a not especially thickly blooming weeping cherry and a budding redbud against the blue sky.

img_5607 Still said “spring.”

This ride was brief and less focused than a morning ride but it, like all bike rides (especially in the spring) easily yielded gems.

Sunday 10 April 2016. Meadowbrook and a Little Detour South

Left the house a little after 6 this morning, but got delayed searching for the tire pump. Ultimately successful, did fill Rhododendron’s tires and rode into the 37-degree F south wind, under clouds, toward Meadowbrook Park.

Almost immediately started dreaming about sitting in a warm place drinking coffee, selecting photos, and writing. Too funny! But tried to open my attention to the cold, the “buttermilk” sky, the leafless but white-petaled trees, to the road. That and not be distracted by Rhododendron’s squeaky pedal crank and the dropping and banging of its winter-beaten factory kickstand.

But soon reached Windsor Road and actually continued south, because it’s 30 Days of Biking (day 10) and wanted to add a little mileage.

Stopped just past Curtis Road and got a photo of a house that I believe was moved from town (Urbana) to that site.

Noticed in the foreground an electric fence. Then headed back toward Meadowbrook and the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek,

the trees flanking its far side beckoning inward. But turned back just long enough to get a shot of the creek (which was pretty full) from the bridge, looking upstream,

one of my favorite places in the park to observe the changes of the seasons and of the years.
Rode farther along, feeling chilled and not anxious to stop. But there were a couple of birds (among the background of red-winged blackbird calls) resting in a small tree next to the path that I thought might be bluebirds. Then one showed with its preening, revealing pointed wings,

img_5511 that they were tree swallows.

Then in the area of Davis Creek that had been cleared for restoration were several deer, looking like lawn ornaments in front of a house made visible by the clearing.

On the way back, happily exerting my muscles and exchanging gases at an elevated rate, riding north on Vine Street, approaching warmth, pondered again the idea of “work” –does it really enrich or more just deplete us, and when? Decided that the French word for work, “oeuvre” (as in a work of art) was an enriching thing but that “travail” could go either way.

Either way, was happy to conclude today’s ride.

Friday 8 April 2016. A Wonderful Nine-Mile Ride to a Conference and Nine Miles Back on a Tailwind

It was around 40 degrees F and cloudy with intermittent light rain and something of a west wind as I headed south to Windsor Road on Race Street.

Then headed into the wind on Windsor with the ultimate destination of a teleconference to be held at a church on Curtis and Staley roads.

Made a brief coffee and a scone stop on Windsor near Galen Drive, then moved on.

There wasn’t much temptation to stop farther along on west Windsor Road, but did get a look at the road ahead at about Mattis Avenue

and then again after turning south on Staley Road.

Then thoroughly enjoyed the teleconference that in its tone as well as its content was a tribute to a woman who pioneered ways to connect with and help children who’d experienced early trauma.

Alas, did not get to see the whole thing, but was inspired and encouraged by what I did see. And it was good to touch base with the fellow mom who organized it.

Then headed back, briefly quite anxious about a blast of sleet that hit right about over the I-57 bridge.

Might not be visible in this photo, but believe me, there were beads of sleet blowing around. Hoped fervently that there wasn’t suddenly going to be a big pile of it in front of me, especially so early in the return trip.

At least the wind was at my back. In fact, it pretty much blew me all the way along Curtis Road! Was it as satisfying as working hard against the wind? Well, yes. In a different way. Definitely at least as enjoyable.

And the sleet was just a scare that immediately abated. Keep that image for a metaphor!

Made a stop at the Embaras River crossing.
The water was pretty high.

Then turned into the northern cross-wind, happy with the preceding adventure and ready for the rest of the day.