Wednesday 3 July 2019. To Breakfast at Geschenk via the KRT

This morning at about 6:15 it was 70 degrees F and cloudy, but not, according to the phone weather app, threatening rain.

So hopped on Rhododendron and made for the KRT to St. Joseph.

Stopped on the way at the edge of Weaver Park, which sported a variety of summer prairie flowers:

cup plant,

Monarda,

purple coneflower and Black-eyed Susan,

common milkweed, some still in bloom,

some already making pods,

and butterfly milkweed.

There were false sunflower,

spiderwort ,

and even a few remaining Penstemon.

On the KRT right away saw lots of soapwort.

Noticed near the beginning of the trail a hole on the ground that looked like it had not been constructed by human hands (or tools).

I’m guessing it was a groundhog.

Farther along stopped to look out at the corn plants, dark with vigor, which really seem to have made up for lost time!

Saw a stately mullein in bloom against a cornfield.

Soon came to Full’s Siding, east of which the prairie plant diversity seems to increase.

There were quite a few thick patches of spiderwort

and a couple of compass plant, though they were rather stunted.

And then came the lovely bridge over the Salt Fork,

not much farther from which was St. Joe and the Geschenk coffeehouse. Breakfast was their wondeful Florentine egg and cheese wrap. And the brewed coffee was not bad!

Before heading back, looked between the coffee house and the next building to see the St. Joe vultures, still claiming the grain elevator.

On the way back, stopped for a shot of some spade-shaped prairie dock leaves.

and for a nice patch of oft-overlooked (by me anyway) black-eyed Susans.

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Friday 14 June 2019. Chilly Meadowbrook Sunrise with Sleeping Spiderwort

It was 52 degrees F and clear at 5:15 this morning, downright cold for mid-June. So wore a sweater under a light jacket; thought about gloves but didn’t feel like digging for them. And headed for a quick ride on Rhododendron around Meadowbrook Park, eager to check the progress of the prairie bloom.

Took Vine Street and noticed another place where the tornado of a few weeks ago had been.

A little farther on saw a possum, taking its time crossing Vine Street, though it did pick up the pace and seek shelter when I stopped and trained my iPhone camera on it at close range.

Entered Meadowbrook at Vine but didn’t photograph much.

Did catch the understated sunrise!

Saw the first budding Baptista flower spikes.

with a bit of the waning Penstemon.

But the profuse spiderwort flowers were not open.

Wondered whether they were inhibited by the cold.

Was happy to see bush clover

and lead plant,

its flower-spike buds continuing to expand and color.

Was comforted to know how little time it takes to receive these small wonders of the season.

Friday 31 May 2019. A Burst of Blue Bloom

It was 62 degrees F and not entirely cloudy at 5:20 (hooray for the summer sunrise!) this morning as I defied the 80 percent chance of rain (did wear a rain jacket and garden boots just in case) to venture to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.

On the way rode on Vine Street to see evidence of an F-1 tornado that had slipped, as it were, under the radar (no warnings were issued) and pulled trees over and ripped off pieces of roofs.

Was slightly disappointed to have been in Chicago (getting ready to “Bike the Drive”) when it happened.

Had stopped by yesterday afternoon and seen fading (they are day bloomers) spiderwort and some new beardtongue but hoped to see more bloom in the morning.

Approached Meadowbrook Park from Vine Street and followed McCullough Creek (already mostly hidden by vegetation) the Peg Richardson Hickman Wildflower Walk, where there were not only the glorious spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) and beardtongue (Penstemon diditalis)I am certain of the genera but not 100 percent on the species) but already Coreopsis for a nice contrasting accent. and false sunflower!

Proceeded along to the rabbit statue bridge over McCullough Creek for a glimpse of the sweet rays of the sunrise playing among the leaves and the water of the creek.

Not far from the bridge, spiderwort

Started to beg for photography.

But stopped along the path at the wet, willow-covered iris location to get some closeups.

It was good to be wearing those boots!

Noticed a tall grass in bloom that released clouds of pollen as I bumped their stems on the way in.

They looked invasive, sullying the clean lines of the iris patch,

though close up, the irises still were stunning.

The spiderwort were aggressively irresistible: their color, their simple lines, their abundance.

But the whimsical spikes of trumpet-like beardtongue flowers were right behind in their draw to be photographed.

And never, it seemed, too far from some supporting spiderwort.

Near the Freyfogle overlook saw small shoots of prairie dock leaves.

And more spiderwort, which seemed to get more dense as I went along the path, including some with dew-beaded leaves.

Caught a nice panno sky shot.

A week ago the prairie was still very much all green; felt fortunate to have been there within days of the beginning of its display of color.

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!