Saturday 23 June 2018. Catching up with the Bloom at Meadowbrook, and Catching a Little Rain Just South

It was 64 degrees F under cloudy skies at

7:00 this morning (just before which spotted this perfect exoskeleton of a nymphal cicada) as I went to the garage expecting to take Rhododendron to the KRT to St. Joseph.

But Rhododendron was not in the garage; after a very brief moment of panic remembered that my husband picked me up from my job assignment at Clark-Lindsey yesterday and I’d forgotten to load the bike in the car.

So the plan changed from the KRT to a circle of Meadowbrook and maybe a ride south on Race Street. l drove to CL and parked in the lot: unlocked my bike, and headed east along Windsor Road for a counter-clockwise circle of the park.

The spiderwort still were plenty evident, but they bore lots of brown seed heads, indicating that more of their bloom was behind rather than ahead of them.

But false sunflowers,

purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans

yellow coneflowers,

and compass plants

were just beginning their bloom.

Farther down the path, at the viewing platform, the apparently expanding (compared to previous recent years) patch of lead plant was in mid-bloom,

as was the Baptisia.

Framed by lead plant blooms was this new inflorescence of rattlesnake master.

Decided that lead plant is much more spectacular in detail than from a distance.

Noticed that wild quinine, also in mi-bloom,

was more abundant than I remember from previous years.

Noticed a patch of pasture rose already full of green hips.

All along through the prairie, the common milkweed still was full of fragrant pink spheres of flowers, but didn’t stop to photograph them till I saw this one next to an early Monarda bloom.

Noticed that the wet place where the irises and cardinal flowers appear (in their respective times) was quite grown up with willows.

Tree swallows (there were three, all flew at my approach,and one returned) perched on a bird house.

Continued on and crossed McCullough Creek (which was quite full) at the rabbit statue bridge,

opposite my usual direction of travel.

Did not go straight out to Race Street but continued north on the path and exited near the “wonky Christmas tree,”

which looked like it had been trimmed (or had grown) since I observed it last.

Turned south on Race Street toward the open farm fields, where there was incredible corn!

Light rain began to fall before I reached Old Church so turned back

Was surprised by two deer, right next to the road.

They were completely unperturbed by my stopping to photograph them.

Then returned to the CL lot, packed the bike into the car and headed home, somewhat better synchronized with the season.

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Thursday 14 June 2018. Sunrise on the KRT

It was 61 degrees F and partly cloudy at a little after 5 this morning as I departed for the Kickapoo Rail to Trail bike trail and points east.

At last I made it I made it out before sunrise! At last I had a bike ride! My early hours have be taken lately with other activities, and this was my first time out for days, as well as on the KRT since any native prairie plants had started to bloom.

Oh, the early morning sky!

Saw not one but two foxes, neither of which photographed well enough to bother trying to show the dots to indicate their presence.

Stopped at the edge of Weaver Park, where there were lots of orange butterfly milkweed in bloom

as well as other other early summer flowers I didn’t take time to photograph.

At the beginning of the KRT trail, stopped to view the sunrise!

Was glad to see it after having missed it for so long.

Soon after passing Walmart rode through the little wooded stretch that still was a little dark.

Got into the soothing rhythm of pedaling straight ahead, on and on through the subtly changing landscape. Got a view of the corn with clouds above.

Central Illinois!

Rode as far as Full’s Siding then turned back.

Saw fewer prairie flowers than I expected (no spiderwort to speak of!?). But this feral hollyhock was striking.

Near High Cross Road and the beginning of the trail I turned back to see the sun well clear of the horizon but still low in the spreading clouds

Stopped to get a view of the weedy but stately mullein.

And returned home to take up the rest of the day.

Saturday 31 March 2018. Slow Spring

This morning I got to see the dawn: purple, pink, orange, gold-yellow.

Saw the sun-disc at 6:47.

It was reflected in the front entrance to the yoga studio, where I attended to the first order of business, yoga practice.

This year the spring is coming very slowly, as if reluctantly. But the morning light, colorful today, is coming earlier, right on schedule.

After practice, the drama of the sunrise had faded, and the sky was filled up with grey, warm spring-weather-delaying clouds.

On the way home, noticed a pair (about 20 feet apart) of mallard ducks standing in front of someone’s house. Looking for a place to nest? Then noticed a cat in the window watching the duck(s).

Did not feel like suiting up to continue the bike ride in the rain so put Rhododendron away in the garage and walked to the local coffee shop to write.

Noticed the stump of a recently cut tree.

The sawdust was remarkably orange

Continued my observations au pied; it was so nice to see more color:

hellebores,

new bloodroot,

Scilla coming up among sweet gum balls.

daffodils,

purple crocuses,

pale lavender crocuses among ivy leaves.

I am grateful to witness how, slowly but surely, spring unfolds again.

Sunday 25 February 2018. High Water and Breaking Clouds at Meadowbrook Park

It was 34 degrees F with a stiff south breeze at 7:38 this morning as I set out on Shadow for Meadowbrook Park.

Felt heavy with the sameness for so long of the grey-brown land-and-sky-scape, which did little to lift my current thoughts of dismay. From feeling like I’ve not been giving enough time to my yoga practice or to friends and family, to thoughts of friends with chronic illness, to the struggles of my children, relationships, our principle-less (nihilist!) president, to the loss of trees from climate change….

For the first part of this morning’s ride, felt like I was under a heavy, grey mass.

But after a little way, noticed that being dressed comfortably in the almost-freezing morning was a little victory against the grey. Being mobile outside was a little victory.

Seeing the water rush through McCullough Creek was a little victory.

Seeing the clouds break up was a little victory.

They reminded me that if earthquakes and floods and wars have not extinguished all joy so far, I trust that somehow it will survive, if we are willing to accept small victories.

On the way back from the prairie saw wingstem remains standing in front of some tree branches,

making a swaying vertical pattern.

Farther along, at the Meadowbrook sensory garden, pioneer snowdrops were emerging.

Oh brave, welcome harbingers of the inexorable (so far!) renewal of life!

Saturday 26 August 2017. CU Across the Prairie Homer Lake and the KRT!

It was about 54 degrees F under mostly (but lightly) cloudy skies

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this morning at 7:20, when I checked in at Parisol Records for the 2017 CU Across the Prairie ride. Yesterday when I registered online I’d thought maybe I’d go for the 20-something mile ride, but when the guy checking me in asked if I was doing the 40-something ride I said “Yes.” Ok. That’s one way to decide.

But before that, got myself to the yoga studio for a pre-ride practice.

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So was ready to ride!

Took my cue sheet and headed out!

Spent a little time (as did other cyclists) figuring out a mistake in the itinerary early on, but after exploring the neighborhood just east of Crystal Lake Park, where there was, e.g., a well-laden apple tree,

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soon was in familiar territory.

Headed out Brownfield Road,

Crossed Interstate 74, observing the first of the goldenrod bloom.

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Farther along, noticed what I thought was a run-over garter snake.

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There is a word in Sanskrit that describes this kind of mistake (Viparyaya), which is one of the disturbances of consciousness and can be the origin of a lot of personal suffering and interpersonal conflict. Btw.

Rode on, pondering the nature of mistakes and alternative perceptions, southward on 1800 E and east toward Homer Lake Road.

For the third time in a month passed “Gehenna,” which today was active and issuing smoke.

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The road opened under the mostly cloudy sky. It was quite pleasant.

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Crossed the Salt Fork.

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Where a great blue heron waded.

Stopped at the prairie-planted Lincoln “shrine”

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which featured Physostegia, tall Coreopsis, and rosin weed.

Met up with another cyclist who was deciding which way to go, a young woman from Canada who had just gotten a job in Champaign. We decided on a direction and chatted as we rode.

We made it to Homer Lake,

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but after that there were lots of not-well-marked twists and turns on the route around and through the Homer Lake Park, and neither of us could be sure we were where the cue sheet said we should be.

Thought it might be cutting off some distance from the ride, but sensed which was the way back and wanted to proceed there. So we decided to go different ways and wished each other a good conclusion of the ride.

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Eventually made it to St. Joseph and the head of the long-awaited (and just opened the day before) Kickapoo Rail to
Trail!

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The trail made its own beautiful crossing of the Salt Fork on what presumably was a form of a railroad bridge.

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The trail was lined with prairie flowers, most notably prairie dock,

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Sunday 23 July 2017. First Cardinal Flowers and Other Summer Blooms

77 degrees F under very cloudy skies at 6:15 this morning as I headed out to, where else? Meadowbrook Park to witness the summer bloom of the prairie.

At the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek could see a faint spot of red, not quite visible in this photo.

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But I could see it, so today made the trek through the “briars and the brambles” to the creekbed, and was rewarded! Was thrilled to see newly blooming cardinal flowers, on both sides of the creek.

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Got to view of the first flowers opening,

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the stalked bulbs of the buds peeling out into their graceful, majestic bird-shapes.

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Around the corner and down the path were more flowers, starting with purple and yellow coneflowers and Monarda.

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Then was taken by surprise by a deer close to this bench.

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Farther along was rosinweed,

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Tall Coreopsis,

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early goldenrod, the exact identity of which I haven’t been able to figure out,

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and wild quinine, the cauliflower-like white flowers of which were more widespread than I remember from previous years and mostly quite healthy-looking.

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Dramatic clouds billowed over the prairie.

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as I dismounted Rhododendron and walked into the prairie on the unpaved path.

Compass plant stalks with their version of sunflowers rose toward the clouds high above the other plants.

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A red-winged blackbird lighted at the top of one,

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then flew off.

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There was ironweed,

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the ever-photogenic false sunflower,

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and Culver’s root.

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And, lo, there was royal catchfly!

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Which was stunning close-up by itself as well as mid-distance, framed by rattlesnake master,

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or as the red splash in a prairie “bouquet.”

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It was the time of the two red prairie flowers, the zenith of the summer!

Noticed (cropped!) cream gentian foliage with the beginnings of buds but no blooms yet.

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On the way back to the paved path noticed white prairie clover

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and purple prairie clover.

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The progression along the inflorescence from pre-bud to bud to flower to spent bloom of both species looked like a flame moving from the bottom to the top.

The clouds continued to threaten rain, which came as I headed, entirely satisfied with the morning’s presentation, north on Race Street, toward home.

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Saturday 22 July 2017. Vervain and a Few Other Summer Blooms

It was 75 degrees F and cloudy this morning at 7:15 as I headed toward Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.

The cardinal flowers in front of my house were beginning to bloom, so wanted to check whether they were blooming at Meadowbrook.

Rolled toward, over and past the rabbit-statue bridge across McCullough Creek and around the corner just to the wet area where cardinal flowers have been (though not every year) in the past, parked the bike on its factory kickstand, and walked away from the path and into the willowy wet area. But saw no cardinal flowers.

Saw plenty of newly blooming spikes of vervain,

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and wild senna surrounded by mountain mint, with a bumblebee working the flowers.

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This year have seen wild senna in more places in Meadowbrook than I recall from previous years.

Swamp milkweed, with its two-toned, dark and light-pink blooms, was abundant.

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Liatris (blazing star) was beginning to add its purple plumes to the summer bouquet.

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Saw some especially fresh, robust spikes of American Germander (if that’s what it was) pinker than others I’ve seen (along High Cross Road).

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A late flower spike of Baptisia, with little pods developing in the lower positions, rose toward the dark sky.

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Clouds gathered over the path, which may be why I cut the ride short. [Some time has elapsed between when I was there and this report. Sorry!]

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Always-photogenic compass plant set off the cloudy sky.

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This has been a reasonably good bloom year for them.

On the way back peeked over the rabbit-statue bridge looking for cardinal flowers, but could not quite see any red.

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Tomorrow I would return and investigate further.