Sunday 15 January 2017. Depth of Winter: After a Bit of Freezing Rain

It was 28 degrees F at 9:10 under cloudy skies, the dogs walked and a rudimentary yoga practice accomplished, as, at last, after weeks of not getting there, I steered the bike toward Meadowbrook Park.

Various obstacles had been preventing the trip until now: other time demands and Rhododendron’s flat tire principal among them. A friend offered her (grown, moved-out) son’s old (but good) mountain bike for me to use and perhaps buy if I liked it. It worked well, and because it’s black and very smooth I’ve dubbed it Shadow.

Had a smooth ride on Shadow, which just happens almost to fit me, though it has a longer reach than I’m used to. Felt absolutely no strain on any muscles or joints yet still was able to get the heart rate up a little. I am a fan of road bikes, but I think this one will serve well through the winter. Thanks, Penny!

Zoomed to Windsor Road and by a miracle did not have to wait to cross either Windsor or Race. Cool.

Noticed that the construction at Clark-Lindsay was winding down, for this phase.

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Greeted the “wonky Christmas tree,” which today made me think of a swimmer doing the front crawl.

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Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge and got a shot of McCullough and Davis creeks with the ice-trimmed bridge in the foreground.

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Yesterday’s frozen rain persisted also on some of the remaining prairie vegetation like this goldenrod.

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Noticed the large, dark shapes of trees and their branching, how they fill and divide space.

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Then turned back and got a look at the path with a patch of ice

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A little way along saw a bench which first attracted my attention because of this glove with an icicle hanging from one finger.

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Then noticed a marker below it at ground level with a name I recognized. It brought the person vividly to mind, along with her family and people who’d worked with her near the end of her life. At that moment felt connected to them and hoped that the feeling of connection and support reached them in some tiny way. Hoped that it was not the exact mirror image of being angry at someone, even wishing them ill, from a safe distance so they would’t really be harmed. Maybe the difference comes with what comes next, how the thought is sustained or acted upon….

Then sustained the effort of proceeding homeward.

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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.

Sunday 20 November 2016. After the Freeze

This morning at 8:14 it was 26 degrees F, the sky with scattered sheets of thin clouds and (unlike yesterday!) minimal wind.

Gingko leaves still green,
Last night’s freeze releasing them,
Rained down to the ground.

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Smooth-barked sycamore
Let in light between large leaves
Golden and sun-lit.

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Golden corridor
Plenty of leaves are still held
In spite of this freeze.

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Checked the last mushrooms.
A small group emerged, quite whole,
Their last bright showing.

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It was a harsh year
For these dear Amanitas.
Most succumbed to mold.

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Another short trip,
But never too short to see
Some thing beautiful.

Thursday 10 November 2016. Velo Chicago via Divvy!

It was about 51 degrees F and partly cloudy at about 11 am on this 2-days post-election (still disoriented) morning in my childhood home of Chicago, on my way to see my parents.

Arrived in Union Station right around the scheduled time of 9 am after catching the City of New Orleans in Champaign at a little after 6.

Had planned to take the Orange Line (rapid transit, or, “el,” train) to my parents’ place but then noticed a rack of light blue Divvy rental bikes lined up under the sunshine and perfect temperature, begging me to have another go at biking to the neighborhood.

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Last summer I’d attempted this ride but only made it less than a quarter of the way when the front tire of the Divvy bike went flat. I didn’t know how to exchange it for a fresh bike and reached my destination by falling back on the Orange line.

So here was another chance, and I plied the kiosk touch screen, slid my credit card in and out, and removed the bike from its stall, ready to roll.

Had some trepidation: normally I don’t ride without a helmet (did they sell them at Walgreens?) and was not used to navigating big city streets. (I was born and grew up here but have spent almost every one of my adult years in much smaller Champaign-Urbana) For example, could not bring myself to look down through the mesh-decked bridge at the river below. And the bike seat needed adjustment (it actually was too high!) and had to pull the heavy (!) bike over a couple times to fine-tune the height.

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But the ride was smooth enough, and appreciated the front carrier, in which I secured the box of frozen local pork chops I brought from U of I Meat Sales for my Dad.

Headed south on the bike lane of Clinton Street. Should have heeded the turn in the ole lane at Roosevelt Road and had to retrace my route when it was cut off by the UPS station. Eventually made it back to Canal Street and on to familiar Archer Avenue.

The traffic was reasonably light and the temperature comfortable, but faced a brisk headwind. It was a good workout!

The scenery was not like that of central Illinois,

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but it was stark in a different way.

Relaxed more as I rode along but did not stop much.

Did get a shot of a triangular building that fit the corners made by the intersection of right-angled and diagonal streets.

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Stopped to view the Archer Avenue Bridge over one of the branches of the Chicago River,

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this manifestation of which was built when I was eight years old.

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Loved looking down from the bridge.
Was glad to note that the river smelled better than I remember it used to.

After somewhere between five and six miles and 45-some-odd minutes, I inserted the front wheel of the Divvy bike into the rack by the 35th and Damen Orange Line stop,

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grateful for the intrepid souls who’d fought the odds to bring this so-civilized service into being. And did feel proud to have succeeded in completing the trip!

Sunday 6 November 2016. Falling Back au Velo

Rolled Rhododendron out of the garage at 8:20 this morning, on the late side even with the time change (the happy return of the hour we lost last spring!), even with the extra daylight it provided. What can I say except that other first-thing-in the-morning activities, like Pranayama and a bit of Asana (handstand, forearm balance, headstand) practice, as well as giving Sparky a good Sunday morning walk, protruded into velo time.

It was 48 degrees F, the sky clear as I headed south on Race Street, intending to do at least 20 miles toward White Heath along Old Church Road, but still feeling the effects of the population of cold viruses that I was hosting since Thursday evening. So just played it by ear.

Have been one another haiku kick–it’s such a handy method for focusing thoughts and winnowing words.

At least checked mushrooms
Amanitas were still there,
Moldy or healthy.

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Majestic trees stood
Throwing their westward shadows,
Lifting golden leaves.

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Cold at first, not sure
Of a long trip; then warmed up,
And the road beckoned.

Turned west on Windsor.
Rode to the prairie near Neil.
It was mostly brown.

Heard water running:
From a pond over a dam,
Built there by beavers?

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Rode west on Windsor,
South at Prospect to Curtis
And the sunken pond.

Near the sunken pond
Which was quite brown and quiet,
Saw large bird footprints.

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At the pond’s far end
Gathered a large group of ducks!
They weren’t all mallards.

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Prospect Avenue
Became a shaded bike path
That reached to Old Church.

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In the autumn soil,
Something was strangely growing:
Thousands of corn shoots!

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Back north on Race Street,
Runners looped Meadowbrook Park
A beautiful course.

Did not reach my goal
Of 20 miles for this ride,
But 13 was good!

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 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.