Saturday 10 December 2916. The Edge of Japan Garden

This morning at 7:10 it was 27 degrees F under mostly cloudy skies.

Set off on the bike
For yet another short ride
To Japan Garden.

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The once-lush Hostas
Were frozen down to the ground,
The surface level.

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Ice at the edges,
The pond, willow beside it,
Was starting to freeze.

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Old Hellebore leaves
That had been out all season
Gave a last greeting.

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Sunday 18 December 2016 A Short Ride after the Ice Storm

It was 6 degrees F this morning at 8 under clear skies and with an occasional gust from the west or north.

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Mostly ill-advised,
But to show it could be done,
Brought out my road bike.

Ice still was coating
The sidewalks and tree branches
On top of that, snow.

But road salt was spread
Abundantly in the streets,
Allowing passage.

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I rode to Carle Park
Where the trees cast long shadows
On the snowy ground.

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Stopped for a quick look
At ice on the tree branches,
Shiny twigs and buds.

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Majestic dark trees
With spreading, twisting branches
Rose against the snow.

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This short excursion
Was enough to connect me
With life in the cold.

Sunday 11 December 2016. First Snowy Ride of the Season

31 degrees F at 7:15 am

Eager to ride in just enough snow.
Not out as much lately as I’d like. But even the briefest contact with the outside, with nature, fills me with an energy not available from any other source.

So off I went, on Rhododendron, careful, balancing, going with the forward momentum.

It was a good first-snow ride, i.e.,not much snow.

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Stopped to see the “forest” where the mushrooms had been.

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Then to Meadowbrook Park, anticipating the “wonky Christmas tree”

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And finding it,

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comical as ever.

Slowed, for safety, the usual fast pace toward the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Looked across

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then got the customary view of the confluence of Davis and McCullough creeks.

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Looked back for a view of the “eponymous” rabbit statue.

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Then noticed adorable little footprints of creatures of which I’ve never caught a view!

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Was hugely grateful for the silence. There were people ahead of me on the path, but I lingered before coasting down to the bridge to give them space, and a jogger or two crossed the bridge as I got out the iPhone, but then there was a blessed, soothing silence, which I gratefully let soak into me.

And apart from the passage of a small representation of the greyhound club, the silence continued for a while.

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The winter prairie
Breathed its comforting whisper
To my aching heart.

Stopped for an upstream view of McCullough Creek, accented with surrounding snow.

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Was happy my fingers still were warm. Cheap fleece removable-finger-covered mittens did the trick. Two warm thumbs-up for those!

Stopped at the edge of the park bordered by Windsor Road to observe the rattling indigo pods.

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Their stalks of decorative, bead-like shapes persist above the increasingly flattening prairie, a welcome visual relief, though the dark pods are bleaching as winter approaches.

Homeward bound, my fingers were beginning to feel cold, but not so much as I remembered from past trips. Felt ready to take on the next level of winter.

Saturday 26 November 2016. The First Starkness of November

It was 36 degrees F at 8:25 this morning under clearing skies as, after what seemed like so long, departed for Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped for the mushrooms,
No fresh ones after the freeze,
Only dry remains.

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A little way down
Saw a shapely syacamore
With expressive limbs.

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At Meadowbrook Park
Crossed the rabbit-statue bridge
Stopped for a photo.

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Meadowbrook’s turned brown,
Quite suddenly, since last time,
It made me feel sad.

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It always happens,
But today I felt the loss
Way in my innards.

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These days, one wonders
Whether next spring still will come.
Or was this the last?

Then, ice on the bridge.
Where suddenly tried to stop;
Nearly took a spill.

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Stopped to see the creek.
Getting used to the cleared space
That the stream runs through.

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Stark, pointy remains
Of once-large compass flowers
Stood against pale grass.

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Farther on there were
Lots of dark indigo pods
Shaking on their stalks.

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Will tomorrow come?
Leave that question unanswered.
Just embrace today.

Sunday 27 November 2016. Sunday, Through Late Autumn Fog to Phinney Branch

It was 34 degrees F at 6:45 this morning under cloudy, foggy skies.

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Had some reluctance
About riding in the cold
But rode anyway.

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Fog lay on the ground
It made the morning quiet
And mysterious.

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Thought about which ride
Would work best this morning
And chose Phinney Branch.

Rode west on Windsor.
Foggy fields were edged with brown,
The wind blew southward.

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Stopped to see the dam
Made by beavers, it would seem,
Between First and Neil.

Fleece mittens, oh, yeah!
They saved my hands from freezing!
The comfort is nice!

Rode on, then, westward.
Got to Phinney Branch, beginning at Robeson Park and kept track of each time I crossed, which I hadn’t done on previous rides.

The path along Phinney Branch crossed back and forth about five times from one side of the creek to the other.

Crossing One: Edge of Robison park

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Crossing Two: Scottsdale Drive

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Saw a great blue heron glide to the end in the creek but didn’t see where it landed

Crossing Three: just above Scottsdale Drive

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Crossing Four: an arched metal-framed bridge at Southwood Drive.

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Crossing Five: just above Southwood Drive.

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When Crescent Drive crossed Phinney Branch I turned east on Crescent and then south on Parkdale drive and rode till it ended abruptly at the parking lot of the strip mall on Kirby and Mattis.

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All this wild riparian exploration happened within or close to the city limits of Champaign. Felt like I was in on a well-kept secret.