Saturday 23 July 2016. Pink-Purple, Yellow, and a Bit of White in the Little Prairie

It was 72 degrees F at 7:02 am, with the unimpeded sun rays already starting to blaze.

Time was short. Pined for the royal catchfly at Meadowbrook and wondered whether cardinal flower might be starting to bloom there (as it is in my front yard, by happy circumstance!)

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So went as far as the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, which was crowded with tall, blooming prairie plants.

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Included on today’s roster were rosinweed

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and yellow coneflower, false sunflower, and black-eyed Susan, which are not pictured.

Among the pink-purple examples were purple coneflower, (not pictured) ironweed

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wild bergamot

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blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

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and an early-blooming aster

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near which also were white rattlesnake master and mountain mint.

Saw a nice brood of immature milkweed bugs clustered at the tip of a common milkweed pod.

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Then went on with the day!

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Sunday 17 July 2016. Lots of Big Corn and a Peek at Bondville

This morning at 6:10, after succumbing to the urge to do a little modified Surya Namaskar in the wet grass of my back yard (echoes of Yoga in the Park), rolled Rhododendron out of the garage and headed south toward Windsor Road and then westward.

The sun was up (have had few views of the disc at the horizon this summer, as compared to years past, alas), but the sky was darker than I’d expected, so turned around to look east.

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Saw a bright smear of sun through filtering clouds: hoped they would not thicken and complicate the ride.

Stopped at the City of Champaign Prairie Resroration Project, which today again seemed to cry out for stewardship, though a variety of July prairie flowers were represented, if not abundant (yellow coneflower, wild bergamot, false sunflower). There was a good population of compass plant with open yellow flowers near Neil Street.

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They look so good close-up.

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Also, note the little frame of side-oats gramma grass.

The leadplant were all out of bloom but still not unattractive.

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At first was tempted to not go far so I could sit and catch up on blog-writing. But once I cleared Duncan Road just wanted ride out into the corn.

Then did a lot of straight riding, and felt better and better the farther out I went. The route looked pretty dog-free, which was nice.

Turned north at Staley Road

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which bordered a great length of expensive-looking residential real estate. Wondered what people out here did for a living.

Crossed a creek bordered by manicured lawns.

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On Staley Road just south of Bradley was an old farm house with nice gingerbread trim that didn’t look long for this world.

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Or maybe someone was just getting down to some renovation.

Rode a little bit farther north on Staley then decided to go west on Bradley.

Got a view of the corn from Staley south toward Bradley, where the land dipped a little.

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Rode out to Barker Road (500E)

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and turned south, which took me through downtown Bondville,

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the first time I’d been there on bike.
It had a cute little (apparently functional!) post office.

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Wondered whether people in the couple of cars that passed though when I had my iPhone out that I was looking for Pokemon.

Turned east at 1500N (eventually to become Kirby Avenue), which took me deep into the monster tassel/eared corn,

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the air there permeated with that corn-water smell. Thought once again about that edge between solitude and loneliness, but just briefly.

Stopped at another creek crossing, where a monster-great mullein grew.

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Disturbed a great blue heron on the other side of the bridge, which flew upstream (or north, anyway) and landed where the full-zoom of the iPhone could just barely detect it.

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Then rode straight toward home on not-especially-picturesque Kirby, and my right shoulder (but not either hip or knee, thank you very much!) began to nag that it didn’t like the position I was asking it to maintain. But it was a good 20-Mike ride. And soon there was coffee and writing!

Saturday 16 July 2016. Yoga in the Park!

It was 70 perfect degrees under a perfect blue sky this morning at 8:30 as I approached the Vine street entrance to Meadowbrook Park, yoga mat secured to Discovery II’s rack.

It was my day to teach Yoga in the Park!

On the way, stopped to observe the purple and yellow coneflowers, common and sometimes stricken with wilted petals but here shown in their glory.

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Although I’ve been through this park hundreds (at least) of times, today was new. Usually Meadowbrook Park is “my” haven of solitude; today it was full of people, and I was grateful to be among them. Felt embraced by and ready to extend a spirit of welcome.

Led 50 people as best as I could! It was not the kind of class I, especially as an Iyengar teacher, would have taught in the studio, but I watched the students I was able to see, stuck to poses not likely to produce dangerous mistakes, and made as much eye contact as possible.

Felt my energy start to lag a bit toward the end, but we all survived, and I think with some enjoyment!

On the way back got a photo of a red-winged blackbird scolding me for coming too close to his territory.

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Was full of joy and gratitude (and a bit of post-excitement fatigue), eagerness for practice, an awareness and need to let go of the pumped ego. Ready to take the next step into the unknown.

Friday 15 July 2016. Pink Flames of Culver Root, and More Royal Catchfly

This morning at 6:06 it was 66 degrees under mostly clear, calm skies when I headed out on Discovery II for Meadowbrook Park. Hadn’t made a whole “big loop” for a while and knew it was a different prairie from when I was there last.

Not far from home saw a beautiful example of a cup plant, with its stack of those 90 degree-alternating cup-leaves, each completely surrounding the square stem and often holding a bit of water.

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Continued south on Race Street, which presently is undergoing construction. So rode for a while on the sidewalk, which passed the stand of spruces that shelter the Amanita muscaria mushrooms that have previously appeared in this blog. Lately haven’t seen any, but today there were a few small ones.

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My mind wandered to the past (the abundance I’ve witnessed!) and to the future (would there be multitudes of them again this fall?) Sometimes the present seems meager in comparison.

Rode on and found myself speeding toward the Rabbit-statue bridge, over which I coasted and made the subsequent turn with no application of brakes. Whee! Came back for a shot of McCullough Creek from the bridge,

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Where there were walnut leaves alight in the sun as well as deep shade over the high water.

And then there was the bloom!

Along with abundant yellow and purple coneflowers, false sunflower, wild bergamot,

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cup plant, and white wild indigo, some blooms and many already with large green pods. My favorite flowers so far today were Culver root

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and compass plant.

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The compass plant were not the most abundant I’ve ever seen, but at least they were widespread, tall, and decked with columns of healthy yellow flowers. Still have the impression of recent years when they were few and stunted, so was especially glad to see these.

Rode on along the path around the “big loop,” which was bordered by thick yellow and purple-pink flowers: the glory of July!

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Is it not the apex of the year? And I got to be born in this month!?! Just another one of those completely unmerited gifts that rain down on us all the time.

Loved the unfolding bouquets, but mostly pressed on to the Freyfogel viewing station because I’d seen some nice Culver root there recently.

And yes, there they were. Including one with a honeybee resting atop a pink spike.

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Remembered that a little way out into the prairie from the viewing station was where my first sighting of royal catchy had been. Glanced out in that direction, and sure enough, there was a plainly visible patch of red flowers!

Had not planned to walk out into the intervening prairie to photograph them, but they called, and I went.

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Noticed that the bloom of this patch was more advanced than the one along the “soft” path, and felt a little sad to have missed its beginning. But got the best shots I could (maybe not so good as some from years past) and was glad to witness this particular manifestation of this population of the blazing red flower-stars.

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Then wondered whether the lead plant had completely finished its bloom, and was pleased to see a few little deep-purple and orange blooms remaining.

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Noticed how funny it is, the way expectation shapes our responses: the little disappointment of missing the beginning of the royal catchfly bloom and the relief and satisfaction of not missing the very end of the lead plant’s.

The rest of the ride through Meadowbrook was accompanied by flowers that looked so much more beautiful by direct observation than through the iPhone camera. Like the march of life-experience, it can’t all (or any, really) be saved except in the eternal moment. Just savored its effects: melting away the morning’s layer of sadness and anxiety and revealing another serving of joy.

Wednesday 13 July 2016. Behold the Royal Catchfly!

It was 72 degrees and humid under cloudy skies (though the phone weather ap said “clear”) this morning at 6:33. Felt an urgent need to go to Meadowbrook Park and see about the present state of the bloom, which seemed like I hadn’t seen for quite a while.

So the plan was to bike to the organic garden plots and walk Discovery II on the “soft ” path of the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

Passed the ever-developing Clark-Lindsey Village.

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Entered the park and passed the Sensory Garden, then walked toward the prairie, stopping on the little wooden bridge for a view of barely babbling McCullough Creek.

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Yes, the prairie was different since last time.

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Seemed like the angle of the well-risen sun and the haze from the humidity conspired to make it hard to get a good shot of the abundant and various prairie flowers: false sunflowers,

yellow coneflowers, wild bergamot, white wild indigo,

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Culver root,

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rattlesnake master, cup plant, compass plant, rosinweed.

Queen-of-the-prairie were nowhere to be seen. Alas.

Near the place where I thought it had been was there was a spike of American Germander.

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Got a decent shot of the abundant yellow coneflowers

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as I wondered whether the royal catchfly were yet in bloom in this area where I’d seen them in years past.

Just a little farther down saw that there they were!

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They were numerous and at the beginning of their bloom.

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Who could be “uncheered” (as Winnie-the-Pooh would have said) by such a bright red star of a flower?

Farther on, toward where the soft path joined the paved ” big loop,” blackberries added their own version of red next to the gold of false sunflowers.

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At the end of the path stood a couple of those photogenic basketball-players of the prairie, compass plant.

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Even in this difficult light they made a handsome appearance.

Then, farther along, among the yellow coneflowers and Culver root, spotted some purple tick trefoil.

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The flowers were sparse, which meant either that it was the showy species not at full bloom or maybe the prairie species.

Saw some swamp milkweed a little far back to get a good shot and didn’t want to go in after it; then saw one right next to the path.

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Couldn’t resist another shot of a candelabra of Culver root.

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And of course there was the mandatory shot of McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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In this rich and abundant bloom, summer fulfills its promise.

Sunday 10 July 2016. Weaver Beauties, and the Fork in High Cross Road

It was 61 degrees F, the sky clear, this morning at 6:15 as I wheeled Rhododendron out of the garage (and then back in briefly for some lubricant on the chain) and headed toward Main Street and High Cross Road.

The sun was well-clear of the horizon so didn’t get any sunrise shots.

But the morning was beautiful, and the buzzing of waking doubts and worries about the usual things, and and now some new ones, began to yield to the sweet, cool air and the road under my wheels.

Stopped at the outer edge of Weaver Park, where an abundance of native prairie plants had been planted. And a lot of them were blooming together–a mid-July prairie bouquet.

Included were wild bergamot

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false sunflower and cup plant

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yellow coneflower,

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purple coneflower

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rosinweed

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and compass plant.

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Also saw flower stalks of the fourth Sylphium “sister,” prairie dock, but it was too far into the middle of the planting to get a good shot.

Did not venture southward to the buffalo-wallow pond but rode on through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road, over the I-74 bridge and over the Saline Branch through slightly moist air that varied from comfortably cool to comfortably a little cooler in the lower micro-altitudes.

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Along Brownfield Woods, not much was obviously blooming among the poison ivy, stinging nettle, and giant ragweed except Joe Pye weed,

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Which is so tall and the flowers so small that it’s hard to get a good photo of them.

Seemed like herbicide had been applied to a good stretch of the edge of Brownfield between the road and the outside of the fence. Alas.

Saw the sun catch the fuzzy leaves of a field of vigorous-looking soybean plants.

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Then noticed a visual pun,

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which made me laugh out loud. Reminded me of the bones and other materials I’ve observed imbedded in roads, how the road has modern fossils and is made of more things than we’d guess.

Went as far as Ford Harris Road

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a nice little corner where soapwort

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and a few other non-native but nice enough flowers bloomed.

Also it was a good place to see how crazy-huge and already-tasseling the corn was.

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On the way back saw an impressive three-flower-spiked great mullein plant.

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Across Airport from Brownfield Woods spotted a cluster of attractive very pale-pink flower-spikes I couldn’t immediately identify.

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Close-up, the structure of the flowers looked wildly exotic.

Later looked it up, and it turned out to be American Germander (Teucrium canadense) which now I remember finding a couple of years ago, a little farther north on High Cross and wondering why its name referred to three (or at least two) different countries.

Noticed in the home stretch back that now I felt all engaged in this ride, that the worries and doubts were folded and stowed into the appropriate compartments and for this while I gratefully occupied the present. Hooray!

Friday 8 July 2016. Summer Prairie Near Crystal Lake Pool

This morning at 5:25 it was 70 degrees F, the sky with thin, finely-textured clouds. Getting ready to go, caught a glimpse of deep pink sky through the front hall window, but it had faded by the time I got Discovery II out to head for Crystal Lake pool.

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Thought about going to see Meadowbrook Park before morning swim, but time was short. So just made a slight longer trip around the fairgrounds

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to the pool, with a stop at the tiny Lincoln Bindery “prairie.”

The first image to attract my attention was of the abundant, though past peak-bloom, purple prairie clover.

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Then, a little farther along, were the white species.

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Knew there were two species, but today it looked like the white were just a color variant of the purple. But then closer examination revealed the differences in their leaves: the white-flowered species with more “football-shaped” leaves, the purple’s leaves more evenly elongate.

Other flowers represented today were white wild indigo (and their small

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and large

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bush clover,

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false sunflower, rosinweed, and compass plant.

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Then proceeded to the end of Coler Avenue and the thrill-hill between Busey Woods and Woodlawn Cemetery. But stopped (reminded myself that it’s not a great place to stop but did so anyway) because the big oak tree across the road at the top of the hill was naked, in the middle of leafy summer, an emblem of the place before which it stood.

Flew down the hill. (Good, yes!)

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The cemetery drew my attention more than usual because at the moment I know at least three wonderful people who are facing their arrival at such a place. Makes me so sad yet aware of and so grateful for the love they’ve brought into the world and where our lives have intersected.

Followed the curve of the road till it crossed the Saline Branch, straitened into Country Club Road, then turned toward the pool on Broadway. Saw lovely prairie flowers abloom in the plantings near the entrance to the pool: vervain,

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yellow and purple coneflower, and wild bergamot.

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On the way back home went along the Boneyard Creek river-walk, where lots of fish were visible in the water (though not in the photo), and also bullfrogs, of which one is visible between the water and the vegetation, if you use your imagination.

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Saw under the bridge a couple of swallows that swooped after a feather that floated above the water, let it go, and swooped at it again.

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Thought it might be some kind courtship game, but then wondered whether they might have thought it was a moth or a fly.

Decided that I like this public works project of the river-walk after all, especially looking into the water and seeing various forms of animal life. Even the mosaic on the wall near its southwest end is, I think, kind of nice.

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I still don’t care for the sculpture of half-buried and gasping fish (“Athirst”), and the river-walk remains invisible from street level, but with a little love and attention it might make a favorite place for taste of nature close to downtown.