Wednesday 21 June 2017. Sunrise on the Solstice at Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 5:15 this morning of the first day of summer and the longest day of the year!

Was thrilled (and amazed) to have gotten myself going early enough to be heading to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron ahead of the phone weather ap’s promised 5:23 sunrise.

Did as little as possible (alas, no Pranayama!) to get out to witness the Solstice sunrise at Meadowbrook.

Sped to the park and caught the sun at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Over the bridge and around the corner looked to the north out into the prairie and saw a thin layer of mist on the ground, which enhanced the atmosphere of the sunrise.

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Tried not to tarry on the path but noted spiderwort, the occasional lingering Penstemon bloom, black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, lots of purple coneflowers in early bloom, and emerging Baptisia, with its stately white spikes of blooms that play tag-team with the Penstemon’s white flower spikes.

Got another view of the sunrise over the little bridge across Davis Creek

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and a sunrise view of a handsome Baptisia spike.

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But the flowers in which I was most interested on this solstice ride were the lead plant at the Freyfogle overlook.

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Which, against the slings and arrows of insect attack,

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were well into their micro-gaudy deep blue-violet and orange bloom.

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On the bird house to the north of the overlook were perched unmoving tree swallows, and in front of them (not pictured, alas, you have to trust me), a bright yellow and back goldfinch,

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that amazing stimulator of human endorphins. (At least for some humans. If you’re reading this you probably are one–try focusing on a goldfinch for a moment next time you get a chance and see what happens.)

Felt like I stood firmly and with joyful awareness on the summit of the year. Hooray! Let the summer begin!

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Sunday 18 June 2017. Dark Clouds but No Rain

It was 71 degrees F and cloudy with a 12-mph WSW wind at 6:25 pm as I took Rhododendron out toward south First Street.

Rode south on Race Street, reasonably comfortable though feeling the somberness of the clouds.

Did not stop before Windsor Road except to examine the bike for the source of a light banging sound, but could not make it happen when I got off and spun each wheel independently. It was annoying but didn’t seem to impair the bike’s performance so just rode on.

Stopped at the linden tree on the corner of Race and Windsor.

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Was not sure whether it had not yet fully bloomed or whether it was mostly done blooming, but it didn’t exude the perfume I remember from past years.

Headed into the westerly breeze on Windsor, noticing dark clouds ahead.

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Observed how the diminished light and color pressed on my mood. The expression “like a wet blanket” came to mind.
There was some current pain in it (everyone has his or her list!), a little fear that the clouds would deliver discomfort-inducing rain or even electrical danger, but also some broody comfort, a little space to allow that pain before going back to face the slings and arrows that caused it.

Nevertheless decided to limit the ride (oh waste of extra daylight and free time!) to checking the lead plant at the City of Champaign “Prairie Restoration.”

The lead plants were starting to bloom,

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lax stewardship notwithstanding.

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And didn’t notice any plague of beetles, either. There is hope for that place, I think.

Thought again that I was missing a chance to get in good ride, but really felt averse to being far from home in a storm, and was not sure that the banging, knocking sound was not the sign of some kind of trouble with the bike.

Then riding north on First Street happened to look look at my right Keen sandal, which had a plastic knob at the end of loop of the elastic lacing, and saw that it was banging on the bike frame. Mystery solved!

So on the way back stopped at Japan House garden

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Where amazing, durable hellebores contributed to the design of the hosta planting.

Also stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, where the summer bloom was beginning to build.

There were post-peak spiderwort

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and Penstemon

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Black-eyed Susan,

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common milkweed, in a big way(!)

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false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,

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and lovely blue vervain.

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Made it home without getting wet, satisfied enough with the ride.

Saturday 17 June 2017. Lots of New Flowers at Meadowbrook but No Visible Queen of the Prairie

It was 72 degrees under progressively more cloudy skies at 6:05 this morning as I pointed Rhododendron down the driveway, toward the street and Meadowbrook Park.

First, looked at wild roses in my own back yard, which were attracting lots of pollinators.

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At Meadowbrook stopped at the arresting sensory garden

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where there were poppies, common milkweed, purple coneflowers, Delphinium, (a shameless mixture of natives and exotics, i.e., a garden) and more.

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As I walked toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie, noticed that already black-eyed Susans were starting to bloom.

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Crossed the wooden bridge over McCullough Creek

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and walked out, i.e., off the path, into the dew-covered prairie, looking where I’d see them before (but not last year, I don’t believe) for queen of the prairie flowers. Did not, however, see any.

It was pretty much worth the soaking shorts and shoes, though, because I did get decent views of other prairie flowers: common milkweed

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butterfly milkweed

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rattlesnake master

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purple coneflower,

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Baptisia

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false sunflower,

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wild petunia.

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Saw stalks of cup plant

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and compass plant

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elongating upward.

Spiderwort, though past its peak, continued to produce nearly perfect violet-blue triangular flowers.

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Got back on the paved path and rode past the wet area, the place of irises, where my eye was caught by an unusual (two, actually) bird. They turned out to be, unmistakably, two rose-breasted grosbeaks!

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Farther on by the Freyfogle overlook,
lead plant continued its bloom.

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Was sad not to see queen of the prairie, but its absence reminded me not to take it for granted and to appreciate the unique floral symphony that the prairie offers each year.

Wednesday 12 July 2017. Velo Colorado!

It was 70-some degrees and partly cloudy at around 11 am, Mountain Time, as one of my oldest friends, her three sisters, one of her sisters-in-law, one of my sisters, and I set off for a bike ride (the day after we’d seen Santana at Red Rocks!) along the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon.

But first we had a good breakfast at the Daily Bread Restaurant, (including eggs Benedict with veggies!) which featured a lovely display of perfect-looking donuts and a clever sign based on the design of the handsome Colorado state flag.

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Felt compelled to take home one of those beautiful donuts, and did enjoy several bites (not quite the whole thing) over the next couple days. But I digress!

On the way back from breakfast, our group decided all to get one of a t-shirt I’d spotted on the way there: featuring a bike (wheels for eyes) with a smile under it.

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We were a united front!

My friend, the birthday girl, who has been living in the mountains an hour west of Denver for the past 35 years or so, had arranged a trip (bike rental and a ride to the top of the trail–not a rugged expedition but an efficient way to be together in the awesome mountains) that originated next door to the Hotel Colorado, where we were staying.

The expedition outfitters were friendly and confident as they distributed our bikes, which were labeled with names so we could easily find the one we’d spent time carefully adjusting, once we got to the trail. Mine was called, a little ironically, “No Name,”

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the actual name of a nearby town.

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And off we went to pedal along the Colorado river, which rushed over boulders and between walls of sculpted rock, on a bike trail that paralleled Interstate 70. Thank you, CDOT!

We stopped at a few particularly scenic places along the way

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including a little waterfall at the head of a hiking trail,

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where we chatted a while with some hikers touting the merits of inexpensive walking poles, which you could get at Walmart in a pair and split with a friend for hiking up more rocky trails.

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The scenery definitely was in another league from Velo du Jour’s usual material. It was mile after mile of SPECTACULAR landscape.

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So there was no way to describe it the way I usually do in this blog.

Not only that, but this was a social event,

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and my attention just wasn’t available to dwell on my personal connection to the landscape.

So had to work to stay present and not to cling to every mind-blowing arrangement of rock and water (there were so many!) that went by during this close but fleeting contact with Glenwood Canyon.

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Of course a lot of the best views were not photographed; it was ridiculous to keep stopping things to get an accurate documentation of the experience. I suppose other aspects of life are like that: you move through them without stopping, trying on the way to absorb their marvels. Perhaps like raising kids.

It certainly was a body-mind-soul stirring experience! I breathe more smoothly and fully just thinking about it. Easily imagined how people could leave behind whatever life they came from to be here, even to live here, as my friend did, to be embraced by the intoxicating mountains.

Could see how one’s thinking can be shaped by the surrounding landscape: imagining surprises tucked among the land’s folds versus seeing what seems like everything out in the open.

Knew there must be stories in each of the formations we passed and wondered what the native Americans who used to live in reverence of this area would think about tourists easily speeding among the rocks on bikes. But was hugely grateful to be able to come into such close contact with the rocks and the river without risking my life.

Toward the end of our ride we crossed the river (and I-70) over a fence-enclosed bridge

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and headed back to the Hotel Colorado to enjoy one another’s company over the sandwiches we were going to eat on the trip but didn’t because the weather seemed a little uncertain.

The rest of the trip, though without bikes, continued the high spirits of this awesome ride!

Sunday 11 June 2017. To Philo, Center of the Universe, and Back

It was 66 degrees F under a cloudless sky at 5:50 this morning as I rode Rhododendron south on Race Street.

It sounded so calm outside, but the phone weather ap said there was a 9 mph south wind. Have learned to respect that information so planned for a trip to Philo IL, Center of the Universe, according to its water tower.

Indeed, riding south presented me with a noticeable headwind.

Stopped, as I almost always do, at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

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Noticed dying trees.

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Too common, alas.

Saw the continued bloom of spiderwort

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and Penstemon

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Used restraint to continue around the prairie without further stopping to Windsor Road. Rode east to Philo Road, south to Old Church then east again.

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Rode on Old Church Road to Yankee Ridge

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that lovely little oasis of vantage and sacred silence, then rode around the corner onto Yankee Ridge Road, past a friend’s amazing house, complete with extensive prairie landscaping.

Turned east onto section road 900 N (County Highway 18) to Philo.

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Rode to the water tower; went off the road along the train tracks to get a view of all the words.

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On the way back saw my friend who lives in the amazing prairie-landscaped house, out walking her dog. It was nice to actually stop and talk a bit this time!

Then rode downhill with the wind at my back toward Old Church Road.

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Stopped at Barnhart Practice Restoration

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Could not see spiderwort but there were lots of Penstemon.

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Saw a good number of prairie dock leaves: large, erect, serrated spade-shapes, with the sunlight and shadows showing through them.

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Saw spiderwort farther down, along the road, among waving grass flowers.

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Stopped on the way back to check for Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees. They were prostrate and dried up.

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Felt a little more centered for having visited Philo this morning.

Saturday 10 June 2017. Worn Flowers at Meadowbrook

It was 66 degrees and mostly sunny at 6:09, on this morning of my father’s 90th birthday, as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and headed south on Race Street.

Stopped for a cabbage rose shot

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And checked the Amanita mushrooms, which seemed to be very much on the decline.

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Rode directly to Meadowbrook Park and stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek for the customary shot.

Farther down, in the willowy wet iris territory, Penstemon held forth, but with more brown than white flowers.

Near The Freyfogle overlook went to check the lead plant, which had been munched and damaged by (not unnatractive) beetles.

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But the beetles seemed to have eaten their fill and mostly gone, though who knows what was going on with their actual eating-machines, the larvae? This year, at least, it seemed there would be flowers.

Rode to the end of the path at Windsor Road and west on the sidewalk along the park.

There was a lot of green; the spiderwort were past the peak of their bloom. Yet there were some remaining fresh blue daily flowers,

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every bit as lovely as the first ones.

Along with the wizened spiderwort were soon to bloom rosinweed

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and green blackberry fruit.

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The early prairie flowers are finishing as summer, with its own anticipated bloom, draws near!