Friday 24 June 2016. Taking in the New Summer Flowers

It was 64 degrees F and mostly clear at 5:30 this morning as I headed out on Discovery II. There was time for a quick spin to Meadowbrook Park to see today’s manifestation of the summer prairie bloom before morning swim, so there I went.

Entered the park at Vine Street and stopped to look at McCullough Creek from the Windsor/Vine bridge.

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Was surprised by how clear the water was, and how apparently shallow, considering how much rain we’ve been having.

Wound near the creek on the “short loop” path, and saw a deer to the right in the prairie vegetation.

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Next to it seemed to be another, smaller deer-like head, not visible here, that bobbed up and down, in and out of view. Perhaps a fawn.

Saw lots of purple coneflowers and the first yellow coneflowers, but didn’t get great photos of them here.

Heading toward the big loop saw the sun disc just above the organic garden plots.

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Got the customary shot of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge

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With the sunrise over it.

Down the path a little way saw another deer, so close, didn’t use any zoom at all to get the photo.

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The Common milkweed (Asclepius syriaca ) was widespread, all abloom and fragrant.

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Near the wet, willowy area on the south side of the path saw one little spike of pale pink obedient plant (Physostegia Virginiana)

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Saw wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) in early bloom

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Was happy to see compass plant (Sylphium lacineatum) stalks rising above the prairie

img_7545 After a couple of not-great-for-compass-plants years, this one promised to be better.

The leadplant (so it’s one word) (Amorpha canescens) bloomed.

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Like many other plants I’ve been noticing lately, it hosted Japanese beetles. Alas. At least, while they seem to eat any leaf or flower they land on, they tend not to destroy whole plants, at least from what I’ve seen.

Along Windsor Road were new yellow coneflowers (Ratibida pinata)

img_7556, white wild indigo Baptisia alba and remainning spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis),

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There were lots of purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpuria)

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false sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides), and rosinweed (Sylphium integrifolium).

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Loved the light on the flowers, stems, and leaves just then. The rosinweed leaves especially reminded me of paintings by Henri Rousseau.

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Welcome, summer prairie flowers!

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Monday 20 June 2016. First Morning of Summer, on the Edge of Weaver Park

At 5:35 this morning, this earliest morning, this first morning of summer, it was 72 degrees F and clear except for some thin clouds near where the sun was coming up.

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Did not quite make it to see the very leading edge of the sun disc break the horizon, but it was close enough.

Had a little time to ride in the bonus daylight and wanted to stay fairly close to Crystal Lake Park, so the destination was Weaver Park, or what I could see of it from Main Street. Also wanted to check a wildflower garden across the street where I’d seen lead plant past bloom in previous years.

Weaver didn’t look like much from a distance, bit closer up were a variety of flowers:

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepius tuberosa)

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Monarda (fistulosa, wild bergamot)

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False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)

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Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)

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Rattlesnake master (Eryingium yuccifolium)

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And some lovely late spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

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Then across the street in the wildflower garden, so generously right next to the bike lane, was the lead plant,

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which was still mostly in bud.

Also lovely were the remaining pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa)

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Love how much beauty one can take in
on such a short excursion!

Then to the pool, on the way to which tried again to capture something of what a lovely little ride that is.

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Not quite possible, I think.

And on the way back, it was hard to resist a look at the winding Boneyard.

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I think I do, mostly, like the results of that lengthy project after all.

Sunday 19 June 2016. Farther West on Old Church

This morning at 5:35 (missed the 5:23 sunrise, alas) it was 68 degrees and mostly clear as I brought out Rhododendron (after almost leaving on Discovery II, out of daily habit) and headed south and ultimately west. Planned to go part of the way to Allerton Park, per directions I found online. Set out to go at least 10 miles out, for a 20-mile ride.

The air was perfect: not too cool or warm and no breeze to speak of. The occasional linden gave its perfume, and best of all, I was awake. Alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic, you might say. And my recently increased attention to my yoga practice since having one less paid job meant the only thing like pain was occasional discomfort in my “bad” right shoulder and neck. For which the internalized voice of my mentor–“Get the dorsal spine in!”–was helpful.

Could see the northwestern corner of Meadowbrook Park as I turned west on Windsor Road.

First stop, not counting turning back to see the rising sun (and activating Strava),

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or pausing to marvel at the speed with which the new Carle Sports Medicine facility is going up near First Street, was the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration Project

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which looked sorely in need of stewardship. But the strange and wonderful lead plants were there in early bloom

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with a jumping spider for graphic interest.

Then rode to Prospect and south, with a stop at the sunken pond at Curtis Road.

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where the bloom was much different than last time: saw no obvious spiderwort or Penstemon, but did see lots of purple coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, and the first purple prairie clover and Monarda. There were some attractive Coreopsis I wasn’t sure were native.

Heard a solo bullfrog, and when I walked closer to the water, about a dozen frogs leapt into the water.

Did not see any ducks on the pond. Around a bend in the shore discovered why: a family of geese.

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The geese move in and there goes the neighborhood.

But on closer examination of the photo realized that the two smaller waterfowl didn’t really look like young geese but actually may have been non-mallard ducks. How quick one can be to judge.

Then went west on Curtis, south on Mattis, and west again on Old Church Road.

There were houses and corn and soybeans with just a little up and down roll of the road.

Was amazed by the “tidiness” of the corn planting, how very bare the ground is under and near the stalks.

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Then reached county road 500E and turned back.

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Got a nice view of the already fairly high, almost solstice sun.

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The relative uniformity of the landscape helped me focus on the breath, just like I had in Pranayama practice earlier this morning. Noticed in detail the “shape” of each breath and how something interesting in the landscape drew attention away from the breath. Have to say, that “boring” corn/bean stretch was really enjoyable with the breath for company.

Rode Old Church to Prospect and north, on the lovely path behind a residential area.

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Thought I might have seen a fox, but it turned out to be a large ginger cat.

Stopped at a produce stand (an interesting place) to buy a pepper plant for my husband for Fathers Day and carried it home, sticking out from my backpack .

On the way back, peeked at an awesome garden I saw yesterday on the way home from the official Garden Walk.

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Wow.

Saturday 18 June 2016. This Year’s Queen of the Prairie

It was 62 degrees F under thinly cloudy skies this morning at 6:30.
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This morning’s mission was once again to seek and hopefully find queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra) at Meadowbrook Park.

Tried not to chastise myself for doing laundry (it’s insidious!) instead of being present to witness the sun disc breaking from the horizon as I headed south on Discovery II.

The temperature was perfectly comfortable, the light was bright but slightly softened, the air fresh, as they say.

Some linden trees had almost finished blooming; others were in full fragrant bloom. The perfume of linden did not fill the block, but close to a blooming tree the fragrance was sweet and uplifting.

Made me think of Samadhi, or spiritual absorption. Not the same as pleasure, I understand. But I think it’s hard to imagine without a reference to something pleasant.

Away from Samadhi, observed irritation arise at the stop light at Windsor and Race, again.

Entered Meadowbrook Park near the garden plots and Sensory Garden and walked Discovery II toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

The sound of McCullough Creek babbling at the the little wooden bridge provoked from me a sigh. Calm!

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Stopped for a quick look upstream

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and walked on.

The path into the prairie was nicely worn, and comfortably proceeded to walk in and search for the prized flowers. On the way saw remaining foxglove Penstemon,

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rattlesnake master,

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and mountain mint, like last week.

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Scanned the area toward the middle of the prairie where I’d seen it last year and at first saw nothing like queen-of-the-prairie except a bare-looking stalk that rose a little above the other plants, next to a blooming common milkweed. Had it finished blooming and I’d missed it?

Decided to walk in just in case, and to my delight discovered that the tall stalk was full of tight pink buds!

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Not only that but there seemed to be more shorter stalks, even more than I recall from last year.

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in company with the very photogenic common milkweed.

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on which were a couple of Japanese beetles. Wondered whether the milkweed toxins affected them. Not enough to keep them off, apparently.

On the way back to the bike saw some lovely later-bloom spiderwort

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Maneuvering the bike, noticed a hole pretty much flush with the ground

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No chimney; was it made by a crayfish? It was the right diameter. Some other creature?

Onward to the little bridge, spotted a black-winged (ebony jewelwing, Calopteryx maculata) damselfly resting on a leaf near the creek,

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a lovely decoration for the stream-side.

Was glad to be able to witness the bloom of queen-of-the-prairie for another season.

Friday 17 June 2016. Gradual Awakening to the Summer Prairie

This morning at 5:20 it was 63 degrees F under clear skies.

Rode south on Race Street toward Meadowbrook Park on Discovery II on a fair amount less than full power.

The trouble with being an early riser (and why sleep through this blessing of extra light in the early summer morning?) is that sometimes events conspire to delay bedtime and leave one pretty tired at that precious early morning. So it was today.

In addition, those particular events, their precursors and likely repercussions, wondering whether other choices might have yielded better results, were spinning in my head.

So was not very drawn in by the passing scenery.
The cabbage roses seemed to have all but disappeared, so made no stop there. And a cursory glance under the spruce trees revealed no Amanita muscaria mushrooms.

Got to Meadowbrook pretty directly and noticed that the forestry plantation across Race Street seemed intact enough,

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i.e., not in the process of being cleared as I’d worried recently.

From the rabbit-statue bridge could see that the water level in McCullough Creek had gone down quite a bit.

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Noticed that the prairie bloom was maturing: Spikes of wild white indigo (Baptisia alba) were rising above the other plants

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here with the sun rising behind one.

Stopping to see the sun disc come up near the Marker statue could distinctly hear the arising of the sound of the wind, first in my ears directly and then through the leaves of the cottonwood tree across Davis Creek. Was taken by how seldom I notice the beginning of that sound and just then was able to really enjoy it.

Could feel my energy and awareness increasing as I made my way along the “big loop” of the prairie and was very glad for it.

Spiderwort blue and Penstemon white were still in view,

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but spread out through the dominant green.

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Spotted a couple of deer, not together

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This seems to be the time when they don’t cluster as much as they did earlier in the spring, though my sample size is not really large.

Saw wild quinine blooming

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with its cauliflower-like blooms and scalloped leaves.

At the Freyfogel prairie viewing station was happy to see the peculiar and lovely lead plant staring to bloom

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with lots of buds for later on.

Saw the soon-to-be orange butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) in bud but will wait to post a photo till it blooms.

Then came to feel (with the help of this ride through dear Meadowbrook Park) that last night’s events actually had turned out better than they might have: right or wrong, the decisions made were not as fussed-over as they often are, and that seemed to indicate progress, and much-desired calm.

Other newly blooming plants were rosinweed

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false sunflower

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and purple coneflower

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Then documented the state of the blackberries

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before heading south on Race and continuing on with the now much more comfortable day.

Saturday 11 June 2016. Embracing the Later Morning, with Sweat and Spit

It was 86 degrees F (whew!) under partly cloudy skies at 10:15 am, considerably later than my usual start of morning ride time. But this was the available slot, and I really wanted to see whether there would be queen-of-the-prairie this year, so off Discovery II and I went, south on Race Street to Meadowbrook Park.

Bypassed the pale pink and the yellow cabbage roses and didn’t plan to stop to look at the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, but spotted one as I passed, so did stop for a quick photo.

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Near Windsor Road (at which the new stoplight system was blinking red rather than “micromanaging” the light traffic. How intelligent!) were linden trees, whose honey-fragrance was intensified by the heat.

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But the flowers, it seemed, alas, had been hurried past the peak of their bloom, I think by the much warmer recent temperatures.

Across Race from the entrance to Meadowbrook noticed more clearing of the forestry plantation.

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This was a mulberry, a “weed” tree, but the grove was getting to look pretty sparse. Hoped it wasn’t wasn’t all soon to come down.

On the way to the prairie noticed a lot of people with yoga mats. Had just been wondering whether there was “Yoga in the Park” this summer. Apparently there was.

Stopped at the entrance to the prairie to hear a lot of bird song that, alas, I mostly couldn’t identify. Wondered whether some of the sweet improvisations were being offered by common American robins.

Liked the new sculpture with the soft green of vegetation around it.

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Proceeded across McCullough Creek on the wooden bridge into the prairie and
saw foxglove Penstemon close up

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still vigorous but with few new buds.

Rattlesnake master (really must get the story on that name) was in bud

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As was mountain mint.

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Was glad that even though the vegetation was high, the path through it was clear enough.

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Looked but saw no queen of the prairie.

There were many spent spiderwort blooms,

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mostly petal-less clusters of gracefully stalked buds and developing seeds.

The common milkweed flowers had green globes of buds.

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Did not linger in the heat once I judged the queen of the prairie to be absent, at least from the present view. Headed back to the little wooden bridge, and on the way noticed little foamy saliva-like (in form and volume) globs

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on several different species of plants.
Such a sight in nature makes one hope it represents spittle bugs ( more about spittle bugs, also known as “froghoppers”) and not the eponymous substance,

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though it fondly reminded me of people in my life who are contending at the moment with with too much or too little of it. Important stuff, really.

Back on the path near the Sensory Garden and the organic vegetable garden plots saw more people, mostly young, some pushing pushing baby strollers, carrying yoga mats.

Have long been curious about Yoga in the Park, about what draws people to different styles of yoga. I personally love the Iyengar yoga that I study and teach, but I think it might seem “dry” or intimidating to some. And to Iyengar practitioners, other styles might seem less methodical or rigorous. I do have a “dream” that someday we all might at least stand for a while (perhaps in Tadasana!) together in mutual respect on our common ground.

Maybe on a very warm summer morning.

Friday 10 June 2016. Flowers, a Force for Good

It was 72 warm degrees at 5:05 this morning and mostly cloudy as I brought out Discovery II for a quick, early ride to Meadowbrook Park.

As I rode south with the low light coming up, a word that hovered around my thoughts was “malevolence,” the power of evil, and “evil”, in a practical sense, meaning “harm.” For whatever reason it’s out there, even if I don’t like to watch it on TV and as much as I try to avoid it.

As best as I can figure, it happens when people are so afraid for their survival that they are unable to or somehow don’t consider the effects of their actions on others: from Hitler to Al Capone to mass shooters and maybe even to petty thieves.

Rode along with this mental company, the dimness of the light and my own dark thoughts preventing images from catching my attention until I arrived at the Vine Street entrance to Meadowbrook.

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At the Windsor/Vine bridge saw a moving ripple on the surface of McCullough Creek, of the type the underwater-swimming beavers used to make, but did not identify its source. Maybe it was just the wake of a duck.

Rode along the “small loop” under the streameside trees and stopped for spiderwort and Penstemon in the sunrise.

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Then got the customary view upstream from the rabbit-statue bridge

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and spiderwort in front of the rising sun

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and more dense, blue, lovely spiderwort.

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Kept an eye on the lead plant in “pinkening” bud.

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Greeted the new purple coneflowers

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My mood, as always, lightened as I made my way along the path. The flowers were a powerful comfort. They were effective on their own, but also they made me think of my late friend Nancy, who also loved them, and who happened to emanate an evil-neutralizing energy, if you will. She saw the best in everyone and lived to bring it forth and connect it with that in others. I imagined her power of connection and kindnesses still out there working….

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