Sunday 4 June 2017. West on Curtis Road to Kaskaskia Ditch

It was 73 perfect degrees with thin scattered clouds and just a hint of westerly breeze at 5:40 this morning as I headed Rhododendron southward toward Curtis Road.

Lovely as they were, did not stop for the yellow and pale pink cabbage roses nor the laden apple tree but did stop to check on the Amanita mushrooms. Wondered whether the increasing ground cover was inhibiting the appearance of fruiting bodies, but it seemed not.

img_9097

But overall it still did not look like a healthy population.

Turned west on Windsor Road without thinking then cut south toward Curtis on a gravel (“authorized vehicles only”–should have taken a clue) road and regretted it.

img_9104

It was a mile on semi-loose (could have been worse, but still) gravel that reminded me of riding on uneven ice. Had to concentrate, going slow and steady, balancing as if “flying”. Don’t want to do it again any time soon, however.

Headed west, enjoying the sky, along Curtis Road, to its intersection with Prospect Avenue and the sunken pond.

Around the pond were Penstemon,

img_9109

spiderwort,

img_9113

purple indigo,

img_9119

and the season’s first purple coneflowers.

img_9121

Did not see many waterfowl: one mallard duck and a few Canada geese.

Continued west on Curtis, and saw a great blue heron wading in the stream that cut under the road east of Mattis. Stopped and got the iPhone camera ready before carefully going back to get a photo before it took off. Those great bue herons sure are wary!

img_9123

Got a view of the decaying farm building across Curtis from the large and growing Carle Clinic on Curtis facility. It was a glimpse of the past and future of the area.

img_9127

Then farther west, just over the I-57 bridge, was a large structure under construction, which at first I thought was a new high school. But it turned out to be yet another Carle facility. I guess that means jobs for our community, or even improved medical care. But sometimes it seems like Carle is Everywhere. At the same time it seems like health care is becoming a luxury.

img_9130

Noticed that both the corn and soybeans were well along in their growth

img_9132

Rode as far as the crossing of Kaskaskia Ditch

img_9135

and then got a text from a friend inviting me to talk over morning beverage. So turned and headed back.

The ride was a satisfying 20 miles!

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday 3 June 2017. Greeting the Early Sun and Catching the Abundance of Spiderwort and Penstemon

It was 67 degrees F under mostly clear, mostly calm skies at 5:17 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and toward South Race Street.

Was determined to be present to receive the gift of additional daylight and thus additional time with which to take in the outdoors. I am a morning person but this year have not quite managed to get up with the birds and not squeeze in too many little activities to make it out the door before official sunrise. Until today!

The bike felt smooth and easy, and the morning was fresh and of a perfect temperature, but today I felt very much not quite awake. As an inveterate morning person, this does not happen to me very often, but when it does I think of the night-people who have to be awake early for something unusual and am sorry for my past insufficient empathy for their situation.

Stopped not far into the ride for the irresistible pastel cabbage roses

img_8931
and the fuchsia-colored sweet peas

img_8934

Looked like there were lots of little apples on “my” tree.

img_8937

Saw some Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees,

img_8938

but not tons of shiny, new, succulent specimens.

img_8941

Saw also a couple individuals of another species,

img_8939
which looked healthy enough.

At Meadowbrook Park, was delighted to welcome the rising sun.

img_8945

Stopped at several spots to take it in, over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge

img_8948

and down the path a little way

img_8949

Wondered whether there still would be blue flag irises, and, oh, there were!

Framed by prairie dock leaves,

img_8951

and close-up.

img_8954

The park was empty, the morning fresh, already mint-fragrant!
the Penstemon

img_8959

and the spiderwort

img_8962

therapeutically abundant!

img_8998

Stopped at the Freyfogle overlook

img_9007

to check on the lead plant, which were in bud, but, alas, bearing a collection of robust shiny reddish-brown beetles on their foliage.

img_9020

Fervently hoped the beetles were just resting there or at least readily sated with little damage to the plant’s integrity.

Rode on through gloriously abundant white Penstemon and blue spiderwort. The landscape was deeply soul-filling. Was happy to be smack in the middle of another stage of the year that’s anticipated before it comes and missed when it’s finished.

Near the Vine Street entrance to the park got a shot of the abundant serviceberries

img_9039

Then rode west on Windsor to check the lead plant at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, which more than ever looked in need of stewardship,

img_9054

so overgrown with invasive exotics. But the lead plants looked well enough.

img_9056

Did not want to walk through the overgrowth to check for beetles on these.

Rode south on First Street, which felt mostly uphill! My hip muscles were starting to tire though knees and shoulders were happy enough. At 900 S, turned back.

img_9060

img_9057

On the way back stopped at the roadside prairie garden, which featured spiderwort, lace-edged (not an official name, just a description) cup plant,

img_9068

butterfly weed

img_9064

and a small, less showy milkweed.

img_9073

Spied a great blue heron while crossing over a creek on First Street. Parked the bike and carefully walked back to the bridge, Just in time to see the heron take off.

img_9079

They sure are wary.

Got a shot of a dickcissel (had been hearing lots of these “mini-meadowlarks”) on a fence post.

img_9084

The way home was mostly downhill, which I gratefully enjoyed!

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday 27 May 2017. Out Yankee Ridge Road via Lush Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 6:20 under cloudy skies this morning as I got Rhododendron the road bike out for a long-awaited spin!
The nice people at Neutral Cycle put the pedal crank back into is working position, replaced the cables and brake pads, and reduced the number of speeds to five (really, who needs more than that, at least in central Illinois?) by removing the rusted-out front derailleur.

Was amazed by Rhododendron’s speed and smoothness and didn’t stop until Windsor Road, where I did not wait long to cross.

Made the customary stop at the rabbit-statue bridge.

img_8688

Then sought blue flag irises, which I found, more abundant and widespread than I ever remember seeing them.

img_8698

img_8702

And of course there were spiderwort

img_8728

and Penstemon.

img_8694

Pasture rose provided a pink counterpoint to the greens, white and blue.

img_8732

At the Freyfogle overlook was lead plant, with its festive-looking foliage.

img_8744

The clouds broke up enough to reveal some blue sky and cloud-shapes over the land.

img_8739

Saw dew-beaded spiderwebs.

img_8711

The flowers and foliage at Meadowbrook this morning were spectacular and particularly uplifting, at least to this observer!

Then rode along Windsor road on the “sidewalk,” (which I see more as a multi-use path) to Philo Road and east on Old Church, then south on Yankee Ridge Road.

Here is Yankee Ridge at Old Church Road, viewed from the west

img_8747

as ever, a place of quiet. I think of it as a bit of sacred silence, accompanied by its stark and subtly beautiful view.

Wanted to go on

img_8754

but time limitations prompted me to turn back at the road that is paved to the east but is wet and unpaved to the west.

img_8756

Returning home rode into a north wind (which explains the ease of the trip out) and just wanted to get back!

img_8760

The fog blew toward me and I was sure it would rain even though the phone Ap assured me it wouldn’t. There was nothing to do (as is so common in so many aspects of life!) but hunker down and press on.

After some discomfort just settled into it as if I were lost, but not in a bad way, just absorbed in the present. And made it back with some satisfaction.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 21 May 2017. Spiderwort and Penstemon at Meadowbrook and the Curtis and Prospect Sunken Pond

It was 54 degrees F at about 6:15 am under cloudy skies, which seemed certain to produce rain, though the weather ap said no, as I rolled Shadow out of the garage. Wanted to see the spiderwort at Meadowbrook and whether the Penstemon (beardtongue) were yet in bloom.

Contemplated this portion of time that I devote to biking and how it might be used for other things that need attention in my life. At the beginning of a ride sometimes recently, I’ve been feeling impatient and uncomfortable, especially if it’s rainy and cold, and I think ahead to sitting in the coffee shop writing or knitting. But decided the physical exercise alone is worth pushing through zones of reduced joy and so resolved to protect this ritual.

Rode on Race Street near the grove of spruces that shelter the Amanita mushrooms (when they appear) and planned to check for fruiting bodies (mushrooms), but stopped because there was a fox nearby. The fox ran off before I could aim my iPhone camera at it, but then it appeared again and I recorded a glimpse.

img_8446

Had yet another pleasant passage across Windsor Road and headed to the rabbit-statue bridge across McCullough Creek, but first stopped for the view of shadows under these precisely shaped haw trees.

img_8447

Davis and McCullough creeks were full and fast-moving.

img_8448

Over the bridge and around the corner, right away were spiderwort, so many more in bloom since last week.

img_8450

And the first Penstemon were showing, with lots of little buds for coming days.

img_8458

Was surprised and delighted to see the blue flag irises!

img_8456

It seemed to be a good year for them; in addition to the main large patch, iris flowers could be see in at least three directions a little way from it.
As a bonus, the area had been “managed” to allow a decent view without having to walk in water through willow shoots and other vegetation. Was really glad for that bit of close view and glad to have been able to content myself with a shot at this distance, though it was tempting to get closer to the “mother” patch.

Filled me with that joy I do this for, it even summoned the not eternally profound but entirely appropriate lyrics from the band Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park”, “Listen children, all is not lost, oh no!” Which I really can stand to hear lately.

Soon the clouds were starting to break up and make sky-sculptures.

img_8486

And the spiderwort! Something about spiderwort makes one (me, at least) want to take endless photographs of their simple, graceful blueness against the tender green of May foliage.

img_8490
I indulged a small portion of that urge.

img_8492

img_8493

It was the same, perhaps on a smaller scale, with the Penstemon.

img_8475

Rode around and back through the small loop and back to Race and on to Curtis Road where the clouds were large and shapely and the sky felt huge!

img_8501

Rode to the sunken pond on Curtis and Prospect, which featured more spiderwort but also purple Baptisia
(indigo).

img_8516

On the way back were weedy but handsome Erygeron

img_8536

and attenuated but peaceful looking
clouds.

img_8541

The many gorgeous flowers, decent mileage, and lovely sky made for a very enjoyable trip!

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday 20 May 2017. Meadowbrook Before the Rain

It was 54 degrees F and cloudy at 7:00 this morning, with the wind from the east.

Missed the sunrise, but it was not spectacular because of the low cloud cover.

I’ve been slowed down by various things lately and really was ready to ride. Not only do I miss observing the word from the bike but I’ve come to take the physical activity for granted and don’t like having less of it. Even so, a long ride was not in the cards.

Thought, paradoxically, as I aimed Shadow south on Race Street that time demands can turn even a bike ride (or yoga practice, fo that matter) into something I “have to” rather than “want to” do. Usually, if I take some effort to re-arrange my thoughts and re-focus, it’s at least partly possible to restore the the joy to the once completely joyful activity. Makes me wonder whether I can bring that attitude to other things that have to be done and infuse them with more joy.

It was good to see some of my favorite neighborhood perennials in bloom:

Cabbage roses,

img_8401

A very fancy Clematis,

img_8404

and Asian poppies

img_8407
which seem to exude the very spirit of my late friend Nancy, who loved them so much.

Rode south on familiar Race Street and crossed Windsor Road with little waiting at the traffic lights. I think the city traffic authority must have adjusted it. It no longer seems to disturb my enjoyment of the morning ride. At least not lately.

Rode right to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek

img_8410
the banks of which are becoming quite lush, then crossed over and rode just far enough to spot a blooming spiderwort.

img_8414

Considered taking the rest of the loop, but heeded the raindrops and distant thunder and headed back.

img_8415

Not long after, there was electrical activity and lots of rain.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 14 May 2017. Mother’s Day at Meadowbrook

This morning at 5:30(!) it was 61 degrees F under clear, calm skies as I rolled Shadow out to head to Meadowbrook Park.

All around me was business green, interspersed with the orange-red of poppies, the purples, blues, yellows, and maroons of irises, and the bright whites, pinks, and deep reds of peonies.

img_8212
Though the bloom was further along than I expected.

A patch of irises in two shades of blue-violet bloomed Monet-perfect.

img_8215

A little way down Race Street, the spruces that shelter the fall Amanita mushrooms were putting out pale green shoots: a promise of health and growth.

img_8216

Caught another cluster of blooms in a neighborhood garden, including yellow irises.

img_8220

At Meadowbrook Park, saw the sun come up!

img_8223

Even caught the sun rising over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

img_8232

Was grateful to be there, like I used to do so frequently but lately have managed so seldom.

Not far from the bridge and after the path turned east, saw lots of tender green foliage and fresh, new spiderwort in bloom.

img_8237

Blackberry brambles put out their white flowers.

img_8241

In the recently-created little pond along Davis Creek was a trio of Mallard drakes, preening and grooming vigorously.

img_8254

Stopped at the Freyfogle Overlook and found a bold tree swallow guarding its south edge.

img_8277

On the way out stopped to photograph the long shadows around the “wonky Christmas tree.”

img_8291

It was Mother’s Day, a day that brings up so much emotion on all sides: my Mom, my kids, their birth mothers, myself…. But my thoughts presently were unfocused, absorbed into the beauty of the morning.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 7 May 2017. No Fox

It was 41 degrees F under clear skies at 7:30 this morning as I finally got Shadow on the road. Headed north and east to see whether the fox would be in its customary place across Main Street from the Dart plastic-lid factory.

It was not.

So went on to see what was happening at the edge of Weaver Park.

Blooming were golden Alexanders.

img_8048

Recognized shoots of common milkweed, wild bergamot (Monarda), I’m pretty sure,

img_8055

as well as prairie dock, compass plant, cup plant, to name a few.

img_8060

Rode only to the edge of Weaver and turned back.

Across the street on the way back were pink evening primrose in a garden generously planted in native plants

img_8061

The field next to the Dart parking lot bloomed in butterweed.

img_8066-1

Wondered whether there would be corn or soybeans (if anything) planted there this year.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday 6 May 2017. Wet Meadowbrook, After the Shooting Star Bloom

It was 45 degrees F and mostly cloudy, not raining but with fresh puddles in the street

img_7962

at 6:30 am when I headed out in Shadow in the direction of Meadowbrook Park. It was a little past dawn, but the sky still spoke of the sunrise.

img_7963

Stopped on the way at the Amanita mushroom site, where there only were remnants of last year’s appearance. Getting back on my bike, puzzling in my mind about how one might make sure nursing home residents get their showers on schedule, my foot slipped on the pedal and the bike went down, taking me with it, something pinching my left middle finger hard. I think I saw the bike over my head for a bit(!?!). Was shaken and embarrassed but not seriously hurt, and very grateful it hadn’t happened in traffic!

Proceeded then, carefully, to Meadowbrook Park.

The “wonky Christmas tree” was full of pale green growth shoots,

img_7967

somewhat obscuring its resemblance to a four-limbed creature.

At the rabbit-statue bridge, the water in McCullough and Davis creeks ran high and fast.

img_7970

The park was quiet!

Puddles reflected the sky.

img_7974

The burr oak trees still had tiny leaves.

img_7978

The sky was sculptural and dramatic.

Walked in on the soft path, which was was quite wet and true to the name, to see whether the recent cool weather had prolonged the shooting star bloom enough to be able to still see any of it.

Alas, no, it was done. Only the slightest evidence of their presence remained.

img_7986
Could not help feeling sad for the brevity of their graceful presence.

It now was the time of the golden Alexanders

img_7989
which are nice enough but to me are humble place holders between the shooting stars and the more spectacular coming spiderwort and beardtongue. Not proud of my prejudice, but there it is.

The sky had some lovely cloud shapes

img_7992

img_8008

img_8016

Saw a group of 3-4 deer ahead of me and then one in the path that took a while to decide to move. I waited for it to do so, thinking it unwise to try to approach it head on.

Rode on and over the Windsor/Vine bridge, beneath which a mallard drake swam with speed and determination, as if it were late for an appointment.

img_8020

Glad at this point I wore mittens!

Then home.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 30 April 2017. Big Wet Finish for 30 Days of Biking

It was 55 degrees F with steady rain falling

img_7849

as I donned rain gear and went forth for a ride.

Getting the phone out to get a photo was not easy: it got wet pretty fast. But did manage a few, including a white and a pink dogwood (it’s been a great year for them!) in the same shot.

img_7850

Florida Avenue was wet and green.

img_7851

At the Japan House Garden, rain pooled under the now-leafy-green cherry trees

img_7852

The hellebores still looked great in their present manifestation and now surrounded by hostas.

img_7853

The pond on the far side of the garden looked quite full.

img_7855

Enjoyed being out connecting with the weather but wished I’d put on the shoe-covers a friend had given me. They were still wet from yesterday and did not keep my shoes bone dry then but would have kept out most of the buckets of water with which my shoes were now filled. Now I know.

Noticed that the word “exhilarated,” which often occurs to me on bike rides, was not what I would have used to describe my state of mind just now. The discomfort of wetness was a bit distracting and looked forward to being out of the wet clothes.

Still, was glad to have fulfilled my 30 Days of Biking pledge with all the other joyful cyclists!

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 23 April 2017. Brownfield Woods with Woodland Phlox, and Sighting the Fox

It was 38 degrees F under clear skies at 6:05 am, the sun about to come up. Rolled Shadow out of the garage to head east and north, per the wind direction. Have learned my lesson that even a reportedly small wind velocity can make a difference when it’s blowing straight at you. Also, had been wanting to visit Brownfield Woods (to the east and north) to see the bloom of the Dutchman’s britches but never managed that. Now it was time for woodland Phlox and didn’t want to
miss that, too.

Headed out Main Street, past the little grove of burr oaks.

img_7603

Noticed a good-sized reddish, furry creature lounging under the oak trees that didn’t seem especially perturbed by my presence. It seemed to be the Sunday morning fox right around where I’d seen it on several Sundays in the past, as if waiting for my visit. Marveled at the “bushiness” of what appeared to be its tail. The only feature I wasn’t sure about was its face, which could have been a cat’s. A very large cat’s. After I took several pictures and so had been staring at it for a while, it got up and ambled back away from the street and toward a line of trees and the sound of a multi-breed chorus of barking dogs.

Rode on Main Street until it ended at University Avenue, crossed University and rode through the Beringer subdivision. Checked the ponds but saw no ducks.

Crossing the I-74 bridge was very glad to be wearing the felted mittens I’d just finished making

img_7608.

Saw not one but two dead possums along the road that paved the bridge. No pics of that for the blog. Remembered the possum remains I used to observe (described in older posts) at the north side of the bridge that had taken years to decompose and be grown over. Didn’t plan to follow these the same way but made a note to look next time I come this way.

img_7616

Was happy to reach Olympian Drive and turn back.

img_7617

It was kind of disappointing to look back and notice how I’ve been taking fewer and shorter rides than I used to. But no use not enjoying where I was then! And where I am now, reflecting on it.

On the way back –tailwind!–stopped for shots of woodland Phlox.

img_7620

This seemed to be a good year for them,

img_7626

and today appeared to be the peak of the bloom.

img_7637
Oh, lovely stars of blue! Was especially glad to have caught this bloom because of having missed the Dutchman’s breeches.

Butterweed, which bursts yellow in seemingly random patches of sometimes great abundance in farm fields and near streams

img_7641
provided a striking yellow contrast.

Saw the fox (was convinced for a while that it was a cat but the ears decided the ID) again on the way back.

img_7646

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment