Sunday 30 October 2016. Farewell Bottle Gentians

It was about 59 degrees F at 8:18 this morning, the sky cloudy from the congealing of the light puffs of clouds that were zooming in from the north

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while I was walking Sparky, the Senior-Wonder-Bichon before the ride on Rhododendron to Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped for some fall color,

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then went on and peeked in among the spruce trees as I passed to see about mushrooms, which were still there as they were yesterday.

Then proceeded to Meadowbrook in search of the year’s last bottle gentians. But not without getting a view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Meadowbrook definitely was about shades of brown with accents of red and yellow, but with still-vibrant greens of those plants whose internal rhythms let them take advantage of this mild autumn.

A short way down the path looked where I thought I remembered seeing them for what remained of the bottle gentians. Could not find them for at first but finally spotted their red stems and a couple dots of blue,

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and then the rest of them.

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They were not the fresh, gorgeous blue blooms of a few weeks ago, but was happy to see evidence of seeds among the dry, color-drained petals.

A contrasting yellow sneezeweed bloom also remained.

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Then rode on to check for bottle gentians near the Marker statue. There were a few still very blue ones,

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strangely beautiful in their decline, against the bleached grass, and here also it looked like they’d set seed.

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An old favorite song, “Farewell to Tarwathie,” as performed by Judy Collins came to mind, and I tried to substitute autumnal prairie lyrics:

Farewell bottle gentians
Adieu goldenrod
And all dear prairie flowers
I bid you farewell!

You’re bound for the black soil
To sleep till next year
When the spring red-winged blackbirds
Will again greet my ear.

Not Bob Dylan, but it feels good and fits ok.

My prime goal attained (though a long ride would have been good, too), continued on the path, catching images of the withdrawing inward of metabolism from the landscape.

There were a few bright red leaves of blackberry brambles.

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Wild indigo pods rattled eerily in the wind amid white goldenrod seed heads.

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Some of the pods were split open,

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and empty.

Got a nice view of the fading prairie

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with a dot of distant red from in front of the Freyfogle overlook.

Came around to the Windsor and Vine entrance to the park and remembered scenes of fall color that were not displayed today. For one thing, the apple and crab apple trees near the entrance had been cut down.

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Was it plant disease facilitated by the drought, and/or by global warming? Whatever the reason, it was another reminder that life is change.

Near the northwestern corner of the neutral-colored park was a green flush of foliage and flowers that looked to me like ragweed,

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though the leaf shape didn’t seem quite right. Another effect of the unseasonable warmth, probably.

Farther along, was drawn in by this abundance of color and shading in front of one of the doors to Clark-Lindsay Village.

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Not nature, exactly, but not outside of its touch, its influence.

Then rode south on Race street, along which the turning trees were bathed in morning autumn light.

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How can one not be vulnerable to love in the widest sense under the early light (in the late afternoon it’s pretty darned gorgeous, also) of autumn?

Close to home, the ride was punctuated by a multicolored bough of sweet gum,

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a note in the swan-song of the year, the love-death, the grand farewell to this year’s season of growth.

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Saturday 29 October 2016. Mild Urbana Autumn

This morning at 7:30 it was 64 degrees F under mostly clear skies.

This would be a short ride on the more upright- sitting Discovery II, just to get out and connect with the light and the color of the gorgeous autumn morning.

It seemed that the leaves were turning one fiery tree at a time, but still surrounded with green.

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Wondered what was happening at the mushroom site and stopped to check; found both the ravages of the meta-fungus

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and the irrepressible life force that kept mushroom emerging from the ground.

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Rode on only to the Idea Garden of the U of I Arboretum. But there was plenty to see!

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It was breathtaking with its late blooms in the early morning (late sunrise!) sun:

a yellow milkweed,

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second-bloom spiderwort,

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glowing pink “flowering” kale,

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popcorn Senna

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Cosmos with nearby Nasturtium that looked like little lotus leaves,

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and Cleome

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Winter seems quite far away.

Sunday 23 October 2016. High Cross Road, Mid-Autumn

It was 8:30 am, late by Vélo du Jour standards, but it was a beautiful fall morning au velo, and I headed in the direction of north High Cross Road to see the colors, wearing a wide smile.

Found myself flying along east Main Street with ease, stopping first at the grove of oaks across from the Dart plant. Though of the fox I used to see there Sunday mornings but didn’t expect to see it: who knows what might have happened to it since then, and it was later in the morning than when I used to look.

By then it caught my eye, closer than it was last time. Had no great hope of getting a photo but went for the iPhone just in case.

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It’s the tiny dog-like head and neck at the base (left side) of the large burr oak tree.

It always makes me think (though I know it’s ridiculous) that it was waiting for me to show up.

Then it ran off into the field to the west across the train tracks.

Got a fall-color photo of the planted parkway maples

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and rode up Main with, seemingly, effortless effort, through the Berringer subdivision, and over I-74. Stopped to peek at the possum-bone site (where I’d been observing what happened to a road kill over the past four years or so)

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which was so full of trash, like it was a designated dumping station, alas. Saw a couple of bones there, but I think more probably recent chicken than old possum.

Trees near the Saline Branch were just starting to turn color.

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Passed the edge of Brownfield Woods where there were a few late asters,

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surrounded by stinging nettle and poison ivy. Hoped I hadn’t already stepped in it.

Rode on northward noticed a delightful tiny hint of a hill sloping away, a lovely slight departure from total flatness, near Ford Harris Road.

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Oh, the subtlety of the central Illinois landscape!

Turned east on Ford Harris and stopped at the Yearsly (so it was labeled) Cemetery.

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Seemed like a nice location to contemplate mortality. Did not spend enough time to look exhaustively but did find a few thought-provoking markers.

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Getting back on the road noticed recently emerged asparagus plants. Didn’t know they showed up so fresh in the fall. Global warming, perhaps.

Planned to ride east to Cottonwood Road and south to Oaks or Airport and back to High Cross, but just after the turn saw a large brown dog in front of the upcoming farm house. The dog didn’t look especially aggressive, but I wasn’t up for the possibility of any form of problematic interaction. So without hesitation turned around to head back.

On the way back had a chance to photograph spilled corn kernels on the road

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that were not interesting enough to make me stop on the way out. But I do like to catch the harvest, the yearly “results” of this sprawling land of central Illinois, in the middle of its process, when I can.

Passed, as I have many times without comment, the sign for the U of I Aeronomy (the study of the upper atmosphere, as I again googled to find out) station.

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On the way back faced a bit of a head wind–no wonder it was so easy on the way out. Not bad, though. Was grateful for the lack of rain and for the mild temperature.

Close in to town was a cornfield all ready to harvest. Reminded me of a crowd of starving men.

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Wonder how much longer crops will grow this close to downtown Urbana. Change keeps happening. Autumn is our yearly reminder of that.

Sunday 9 October 2016. Meadowbrook Bottle Gentians!

It was 47 degrees F at 6 am today, but did not check the temperature at 7-ish when I rolled down the driveway on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park. Did notice that the sky was clear.

Eagerly awaited this trip, as important and enjoyable events had prevented a number of usual morning bike rides. Was ready to meet the gentians!

On the way stopped at the site of the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, which definitely were approaching the end of this round of their fruiting.

Couldn’t help being a little sad at how the meta-fungus on them detracted from their characteristic beauty.

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Yet they still had a kind of understated beauty that also was part of the wondrous workings of nature and tried to turn the lens of my perceptions and responses in that direction.

At Meadowbrook the goldenrod were well toward the completion of their bloom, and other plants were mostly shades of pale yellow and brown,

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including brown stars of compass plant seed heads

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Saw a few late blooms of yellow coneflower

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Saw a pretty good abundance of (dark) white wild indigo pods, including one with an insect (or two?) of the order Hemiptera (as near as I can tell) resting on one of them.

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Rode along without stopping at the Freyfogle observation deck because someone was up there luxuriating with the Sunday newspaper. Looked like they were enjoying the space.

Proceeded to the Marker statue, and with just a little searching found the blue jewels of flowers.

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Noticed that the flower stems branched from a cropped middle stalk, which seemed to be more the rule than the exception. Appears that the deer (I assume) search them out. It’s perhaps a wonder they manage to bloom at all.

A lot of plants looked worse for whatever else was trying to appropriate their biomass,

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or whatever kept them from thriving more, but there were plenty that were healthy enough and lovely,

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especially with the light as it was and the dew as if diamond-encrusting the gentian.

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Then wanted to see whether there were any bottle gentian flowers in the middle of the prairie, via the “soft” path.

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On the way in were still-blooming goldenrod

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bush clover

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more indigo pods,

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one of which was open, revealing the seeds within.

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Did not see any bottle gentian flowers, but did see bitten-off stalks,

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which I was not sure weren’t those of cream rather than bottle gentians. And maybe if I’d looked longer I’d have found some flowers. But moved on to the next possible site.

First reached, paused for a photo, then crossed McCullough Creek,

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and proceeded to the “upland cardinal flower site,” where there were cardinal flowers gone to seed

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red-leafed vervain gone to seed,

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the source of mountain mint fragrance,

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the last of the turtlehead, one with a bee.

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At first could not locate the bottle gentians I’d seen here before, but then saw it, one lonely flower (like the one that managed to bloom in my backyard after planting this spring!), next to some contrasting sneezweed.

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Felt glad to see even that one and was getting back on Rhododendron to go home when, right next to the path, saw a generous bloom of bottle gentians.

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Mother lode!

There were plants with blooms stacked along the stalk

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and dense clusters of them,

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some flowers pristine and smooth and others already faded.

It was reassuring to see gentians in the old location and joy to find them in a new place!

Sunday 16 October 2016. Rainy Mushrooms and Gentians

It was 64 degrees at about 7:45 this morning under cloudy skies and the beginnings of light rain as, equipped with raincoat and waterproof backpack, I rolled Rhododendron out of the garage toward Meadowbrook Park via Race Street.

Approaching the double line of spruce trees along Race, thought there would not be much to see of the Amanita muscaria mushroom population, but also wondered whether it might be having a second manifestation.

Found that there still were some reasonably healthy fruiting bodies (mushrooms) at early stage

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And later stage,

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some newly emerged

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and even some not quite emerged yet, barely breaking the surface of the soil.

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But many more were “withered untimely”.

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The scene was interesting but not wondrous or magical. (I apologize to readers who may have wanted to see the fairy-inviting scenes described a couple weeks ago.) But this absence of magic is one reason why the magic is so magical when it is, or so I believe.

At the Race-Windsor crossing practiced being open to change

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and observed an irate driver sounding their car horn, but couldn’t make out what the offense was. Of course I attributed it to the micromanaging stoplights. Tried to think of how people felt when the very first stoplights were installed. Something similar?

Thunder rumbled (which set off a song association so I sang) and so decided just to make a beeline to the “upland cardinal flower site”.

Rolled fast downand around on the path (which was strewn with fallen walnut leaves and gave me a little fright to navigate, like ice) to the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Over the bridge, around the corner, and down a short way, there they were among the willow shoots: bottle gentians!

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There even were a few late tickseed blooms for contrast

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How glorious they were, those clusters of little blue Hallelujahs!

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Even the faded blooms didn’t much detract from the beauty of the bouquet.

Was happy with the find and wanted to get back before it might storm.

But first a couple of prairie dock leaves, one brown and curled and the other still green, caught my eye.

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Got a view of the rainy path

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then enjoyed the light rain on the way home with this song playing in my head.

Saturday 1 October 2016. Signs of the Time: Sage and Mushrooms

Here are photos from two little rides, one the lovely route back from work around 1:15 pm,

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on which I stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard. It featured goldenrod just past its peak and lots of blue-purple, red-purple, and pink asters. The surprise was wild blue sage (Salvia azurea grandiflora) , a good amount of it.

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Among the thick, pervasive common (Canada) goldenrod also was at least one other species which I guessed to be showy goldenrod, Solodago speciosa

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Later in the day, (about 5:45 pm) made a visit to the mushroom site and saw lots of fruiting bodies (mushrooms) of Amanita muscaria that I first noticed only a week ago.

Just indulged in picture-taking:

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Noticed healthy and “sick” looking individuals.

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Saw flies hovering around and resting on some of the mushrooms.

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This must have something to do with its common name: fly agaric. Thought perhaps that the flies were of a particular species that associated with fly agaric mushrooms, but internet research didn’t turn up any information about that, only that a certain compound in the mushroom was thought to be both an attractant and poison to unspecified flies.

It was nice to see the late afternoon sun on them. Nice to witness the sage and the mushrooms, markers of early fall.