Friday 5 April 2019. The Latest Signs of Spring at Meadowbrook

It was 43 degrees F and cloudy at 8:40 am (and incidentally Day 5 of 30 Days of Biking!) as I headed out on Rhododendron for Meadowbrook Park.

The ground was moist and the air smelled like April, i.e., like earthworms. Sure enough, small and large worm bodies were stretched out along the street and on the paved path around Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped at the rabbit -statue bridge

for a look at the confluence of McCullough and Douglas creeks. Then turned to look downstream of the bridge and saw what reminded me of the ripples that the beavers used to make when they had a damn several years ago. As I watch the ripples, there emerged a brown furry creature (not quite visible in this shot, but this is where it was) swimming downstream. It was a beaver, I think. Are they back? Maybe just exploring the real estate possibilities.

As always, it was so very good to be back on the bike, circling Meadowbrook Park. The red-winged blackbirds were busy and vocal. A little farther down the path, noticed a pair of tree swallowsperched on a birdhouse. I’m not sure what species the bird houses were designed for, but tree swallows are what one usually sees on them.

Saw a good-sized crayfish chimney and additional mud excavated from its insides.

No crayfish, though.

Then farther down near the Freyfogle observation platform saw more tree swallows, perched atop compass plant skeletonsand on top of the platform structure. Saw a lot of tree swallows around, more than I remember seeing in previous years. Wonder if it has anything to do with there being so many diseased and dead trees.

Saw some nice arrangements of dried prairie plant remains.

Rode along McCullough Creek

then stopped at the sensory garden. The native flowers mostly were yet to emerge, but introduced daffodils and hyacinths

heralded their impending bloom.


Tuesday 19 March 2019. First KRT Ride of the Year!

It was 30 degrees F and mostly clear at almost 7 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron out for a ride on the Kickapoo Rail to Trail, determined to get back in the swing of Vélo du Jour!

Saw the end of a gigantic crane hovering over the Urbana Free Library, but had no idea what it was doing.

Rode east on Main Street. Stopped to see the handsome little oak grove across Main from the Dart plastic factory.

Stopped at Weaver Park, where the rays of the huge sun disc shown behind the dry remnants of yellow coneflower, Monarda, and bush clover. Soon reached the the trail, which sparkled with frost.The air was mostly calm, so in spite of the frost, it didn’t feel intolerably cold.

The sun was in my eyes and so my thoughts tended to go inward.

Thought of my friend who’d died a few weeks ago. Thought of his last days, of our last conversation.

Was glad to have seen him then and was able to say some of what I wanted to convey, but didn’t know it would be the last time we’d talk. So I “talked” to my dead friend, rewrote our last words to express that he mattered to me and I to him, sang him a James Taylor song, allowed myself to sit quietly with him instead of worrying about what I should or shouldn’t say. Thanked him for his friendship and wished him and his family, especially his children, well.

The not-yet-planted prairie soil spread out under the sky.

Rode on to the Salt Fork, where the first maple flowers were bursting over the water. Saw animal tracks I couldn’t quit decipher on the shore.

On the way back noticed some ever-decorative (a contrasting feature in the uniform landscape) milkweed pods.

Rode and rode homeward; it seemed like even Fulls Siding was far away. But reached and passed it eventually.

Thought about the meaning of “success” in regard to one’s children, of “successful” parenthood. Is it anything besides being there to hear and affirm their story, their journey, wherever it leads, to applaud the external landmarks but especially to encourage the inner ones?

Close to the trail’s end saw curiously uniformly torn and scattered bits of fur: I’m thinking hawk predation.

At the end of the trail was satisfyingly tired!

Sunday 17 March 2019. Meadowbrook on the Way to Work and the First Signs of Spring

[Am determined to catch up before the first day of summer! (!?!) Abbreviate! Abridge! Till then….]

It was 34°F and cloudy at 6:50 this morning as I got Rhododendron out for a ride to Meadowbrook Park, on the way to my job assignment in Yankee Ridge subdivision.

  • It was exceedingly good to be on the bike heading south on Race Street. My attention was not strongly drawn to stop for photographs, but it was good to be moving, good to be working my legs, moving over the ground and through the wind. It seemed like such a long time since I’ve been over a little too too busy schedules, but I’ve been feeling a strong need to go back onto the road and work out loss, for example a good friend that passed away this week and, I know it’s not the same, but our family dog had to be put down this week also. I know my losses are not extraordinary, I just need to work them into a big picture. It takes some effort. It takes the kind of clarity one gets from riding a bike out in some version of nature.
  • At Meadowbrook Park, stopped at the “wonky Christmas tree,” which looked like it had been trimmed and less like a Snuffleupagus then it used to.
  • Heard a lot of bird sounds: woodpeckers and birds I didn’t recognize. Wondered whether there were woodcocks around; it was the time of year when they did their courtship displays at dusk and dawn.
  • Rode to the rabbit statue bridge, crossed it, then turned around and stopped on the bridge and took some photos. There was a blush of color on the surface of McCullough Creek.
  • It looked like a lot of the woody vegetation along the creek had been cleared away. Also, there were so many broken-looking branches and tree trunks. The park is changing.
  • Rode a little way down the path; stopped to look at the clouds behind the still bare trees, many of which looked broken and sick if not dead. Looked up and heard then saw red-winged blackbirds.Had heard they were on their way and, yes, here they were. Their main call, which many were practicing, sounds something like “vote for me!” (Also it sounds like the first three notes of the introduction for the original Star Trek TV show, but that’s getting to be obscure.)
  • Farther down still saw deer to the north of the path on the other side of the Marker statue
  • The prairie looked so desolate, the dry vegetation beaten down. There were standing remnants of compass plants, but many fewer than earlier in the season.
  • They provided a little interest to the mostly very bleak, uniform landscape
  • On the Windsor/ Vine bridge stopped to look at McCullough Creek, where a mallard drake quacked imperiously.
  • Rode back towards Race Street along the creek.
  • Stopped at the sensory garden near the Race Street parking lot to photograph an early sign of re-awakening plant life, pussy willows beginning their bloom!Then noticed a barn to the south that had been there forever, well at least a long time, with a quilt pattern painted on a wood panel and hung up onits north wall. The panel was not original, but I’d passed it by many times before withholding noticing. Today it struck me as interesting, especially its asymmetry. Thought it kind of looked like a spiderweb.
  • Felt the deep stirring, the immanent but not yet manifest growth of the coming spring, the stirring increased by recent events: loss, but also my younger son’s twenty-first birthday. So glad that the familiar, comforting unfolding of spring and summer is likely to be upon us soon!

    Saturday 23 February 2019. Winter Wears On

    It was 38 degrees F under cloudy skies at 11:20 this morning, as I headed home on Rhododendron from my work assignment.

    Was delighted to have the time to make a loop of Meadowbrook Park on the way!

    Actually, made a very brief stop just outside the park on my way to work.

    The sound of honking (a higher-pitched honk, it seemed, than than from our local geese, but can’t be sure) from above made me stop, look up, and get out the iPhone.

    Quite an ordered aggregation.

    Then, on the way back, entered Meadowbrook at the unofficial southwest entrance

    and started the loop at the rabbit-statue bridge

    before proceeding around the south side of the park.

    Winter (wind and rain and snow and repeated freezing-thawing ) had worn down a lot of the features of the prairie, but some structure, like these compass plants stalks, and even a lone stalk of prairie grass, survived.

    Rode along McCullough Creek after crossing the Windsor/ Vine bridge and stopped to see live alders and dead ash (most likely) trees.

    Noticed the alders’ persistent, separate flower structures (which look like blunt pretzel sticks and little pine cones).

    Alder is not a tree I grew up knowing. It’s nice to discover new species all through one’s life.

    Thus were the simple wonders of this winter morning.

    Thursday 31 January 2019. A Short Ride Below Zero

    Well, January almost got clean away without my posting about any bike rides. Must say that along with other distractions, the weather often was not inviting for biking. Today snow and ice covered lawns and many sidewalks in the neighborhood, but the streets were mostly clear, so I got Shadow out of the garage for a January ride to the yoga studio.

    It was -6 degrees F(!) and partly sunny at 8 am, and Cedar Street, normally filled with school-day traffic at this time of day, was empty.

    School was closed because of dangerously low temperatures.

    My head was wrapped in a scarf and covered with a hood against the cold, so for this short ride I dispensed with the usual helmet.

    Pedaled down the empty street toward the yoga studio. There was little wind, but still the air was so cold that breathing it was like drawing in a different substance.

    Soon reached the yoga studio.

    Did not even lock Shadow; who would steal a bike on the day like this?

    On the way back, it was hard to ride because the chain kept slipping: probably because the links were so stiff. It was enough riding in the harsh weather. But got to log a trip for January!

    Tuesday 25 December 2018. Christmas Day Ride to Japan House Garden

    It was 36 degrees F at 7:20 this Christmas morning as I got Shadow our for a ride through the quiet neighborhood to the Japan House garden.

    Just north of Japan House and its garden, stopped for a view of the U of I Arboretum through sweet gum branches,

    which decorated the sunrise with their spiky, star-like seed receptacles.

    Rode into the Japan House Garden among the bald cypress trees and stopped to observe the hellebores,

    which were dark green and leafy (they seem to have a living presence all year) but had yet to bloom this cycle.

    Walked close to the pond and observed piles of dead leaves on the shore merging with inverted images of trees, reflections on its surface.

    Looking toward the rising sun near the weeping willow, spotted a well-defined, rising sun-dog

    and its reflection in the pond, a fitting image for a special day.

    Then headed back home to do the usual family celebration of Christmas.

    Monday 24 December 2018. Long-Awaited Time on the Bike: Meadowbrook and Campus

    It was 27 degrees F under clear skies, the just-post full moon bright and sinking westward at about 7:10 this morning as I headed toward Meadowbrook Park on Shadow.

    It was wonderful to be rolling in the quiet of the Christmas Eve morning, especially since my pleasure rides (still try to commute au vélo when possible) have been growing briefer and farther between.

    At Meadowbrook stopped to see the “wonky Christmas tree,”

    and also one that portrayed the more standard holiday attitude of upliftment.

    rode to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek,

    and zoomed in on trees reflected in the water.

    Rode around the outside of the prairie in my usual counterclockwise direction, stopped to see the “dry bouquets,”

    and zooming in to the details of a durable old stalk of compass pant.

    Then rode west on Windsor Road and north, probably on First Street to stop for coffee and calm at Flying Machine Avionics. (It’s getting to have been a while since it happened….)

    Next, meandered to and through the western edge of Campustown, where a huge new design (I believe that’s what it said) building was going up between Krannert Art Museum and Huff Gym, where for decades there had been an open grassy field.

    More progress, of some kind.

    Then rode north and east and saw yet another huge appartement going up, presumably to be filled by a succession of student tenants.

    Change is the constant, everything is in process: seasons, lifetimes, what we call “home.”