Sunday 25 June 2017. North on High Cross to Ford Harris, with a Glimpse of Weaver’s Early Summer Bloom

At 6:12 this morning it was 56 degrees under clear skies as I pointed Rhododendron to the east and north to check out High Cross Road.

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Did not expect a Meadowbrook-like flower display, but on the way, Weaver Park was just starting to offer a bouquet of prairie flowers:

False sunflower,

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Monarda,

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mountain mint,

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at least three of the Sylphium sisters (cup plant, rosin weed, and prairie dock; cup plant is shown here) and budding yellow coneflowers

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common milkweed

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butterfly milkweed,

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Baptisia,

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and an early-blooming aster.

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And this on a pretty casual inspection.

Then rode on Main Street, across University through the Beringer subdivision and north on High Cross Road.

The corn and soybean crops were well underway.

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Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris

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and turned back.

Noticed bone-like pieces (turned out to be wood) imbedded in the road.

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Saw a dead possum, presumably hit by a car, with its immature babies scattered around it. Alas. Almost showed a photo but decided against it. Photographs of violence have their importance, but they always feel disrespectful to the victims.

Stopped on the pleasant ride southward (it seems there is a bit more downward slope in that direction) to get a picture of chicory (exotic weeds) because their discs of pale violet-blue radiating petals seemed exceptionally lovely just then.

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On Main Street on the way back stopped at the place with the native plant garden, across from Weaver Park, where lead plants were blooming.

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And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.

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Shortly afterward I was troubled by the next-door dog, who must have thought I was about to trespass on its territory. I used the high-pitched “Good doggie!” approach, its owner called it back when he saw what was happening, and no damage was done.

Except that I got out of there so fast I didn’t get my phone securely into my pocket. After crossing the street I heard a sound that reminded me of crushing an empty bottled-water bottle and unwisely rode on without investigating it. Only when I stoped for another photo did I realize that the phone was not there.

Alarmed at being without my life-support (sad, I know) phone, I retraced my path and desperately hoped it was near the site of the sound I’d ignored.

Fortunately it was! I retrieved it, and the day proceeded without any more such near-disasters.

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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!

Sunday 23 October 2016. High Cross Road, Mid-Autumn

It was 8:30 am, late by VĂ©lo du Jour standards, but it was a beautiful fall morning au velo, and I headed in the direction of north High Cross Road to see the colors, wearing a wide smile.

Found myself flying along east Main Street with ease, stopping first at the grove of oaks across from the Dart plant. Though of the fox I used to see there Sunday mornings but didn’t expect to see it: who knows what might have happened to it since then, and it was later in the morning than when I used to look.

By then it caught my eye, closer than it was last time. Had no great hope of getting a photo but went for the iPhone just in case.

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It’s the tiny dog-like head and neck at the base (left side) of the large burr oak tree.

It always makes me think (though I know it’s ridiculous) that it was waiting for me to show up.

Then it ran off into the field to the west across the train tracks.

Got a fall-color photo of the planted parkway maples

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and rode up Main with, seemingly, effortless effort, through the Berringer subdivision, and over I-74. Stopped to peek at the possum-bone site (where I’d been observing what happened to a road kill over the past four years or so)

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which was so full of trash, like it was a designated dumping station, alas. Saw a couple of bones there, but I think more probably recent chicken than old possum.

Trees near the Saline Branch were just starting to turn color.

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Passed the edge of Brownfield Woods where there were a few late asters,

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surrounded by stinging nettle and poison ivy. Hoped I hadn’t already stepped in it.

Rode on northward noticed a delightful tiny hint of a hill sloping away, a lovely slight departure from total flatness, near Ford Harris Road.

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Oh, the subtlety of the central Illinois landscape!

Turned east on Ford Harris and stopped at the Yearsly (so it was labeled) Cemetery.

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Seemed like a nice location to contemplate mortality. Did not spend enough time to look exhaustively but did find a few thought-provoking markers.

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Getting back on the road noticed recently emerged asparagus plants. Didn’t know they showed up so fresh in the fall. Global warming, perhaps.

Planned to ride east to Cottonwood Road and south to Oaks or Airport and back to High Cross, but just after the turn saw a large brown dog in front of the upcoming farm house. The dog didn’t look especially aggressive, but I wasn’t up for the possibility of any form of problematic interaction. So without hesitation turned around to head back.

On the way back had a chance to photograph spilled corn kernels on the road

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that were not interesting enough to make me stop on the way out. But I do like to catch the harvest, the yearly “results” of this sprawling land of central Illinois, in the middle of its process, when I can.

Passed, as I have many times without comment, the sign for the U of I Aeronomy (the study of the upper atmosphere, as I again googled to find out) station.

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On the way back faced a bit of a head wind–no wonder it was so easy on the way out. Not bad, though. Was grateful for the lack of rain and for the mild temperature.

Close in to town was a cornfield all ready to harvest. Reminded me of a crowd of starving men.

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Wonder how much longer crops will grow this close to downtown Urbana. Change keeps happening. Autumn is our yearly reminder of that.

Sunday 11 September 2016. A Little Stop at Meadowbrook, Another Little Ride Out East Curtis Road

This morning at 6:30 (the official time for sunrise) it was 54 degrees F, with clear skies and hardly a breeze.

Decided last night (did not want to waste energy fretting about it in the morning) to check the inner, unpaved path at Meadowbrook Park for bottle gentians and to ride a ways east on that pleasant stretch of Curtis Road.

First, however, had to try again to lure my friend’s cat, for whom I was caring in her absence and whom I had not seen for two days, back to his home.

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To my great relief, he was sitting at the top of the front steps when I arrived and I let him in, and so was able to continue my ride with a light heart.

Approached Meadowbrook Park at the Vine Street entrance and was surprised that the parking lot was rather well-occupied for this time of day.

As soon as I turned into the park was greeted by the beginning of a vast goldenrod bloom.

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And not far down the path were puffy purple-pink spheres of pasture thistle flowers,

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stiff goldenrod (another humorous official name),

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delicate (my description) Gaura

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and false sunflowers, the blooms of which were photogenic when they appeared in late spring and that still are at the end of summer.

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Made it to the Freyfogel overlook and there found white wild indigo pods,

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delicate dangling flower parts of big bluestem grass

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and cream gentians

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Time advanced, and so thought better of exploring the soft path to the middle of the prairie in favor of a bit of mileage. So turned back, stopping for a handsome goldenrod display (with thistle accents)

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close to the turn (to the east) onto the sidewalk next to Windsor Road. Then rode south on Philo Road and east again on pleasant, open, and I do think mostly downhill to the east, Curtis Road.

Much of the bordering abundant corn was very mature, crispy and golden against the blue sky

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Friday’s rains still filled a number of low places along the road, even gushing from the fields,

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forming sloughs

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and ponds.

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Rode as far as Curtis and Cottonwood roads

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and retuned west on Curtis, which did feel uphill this time. But had a nice view of the yellowing soybean leaves under the blue sky.

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Rode all the way on Curtis to Race and then north toward home. Along the outside of the Yankee Ridge subdivision saw some lovely wingstem,

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a very slow-moving bee resting on one of the blooms.

Closer to home, stopped at the U of I gateway and fountain

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which, this morning, was a perfect spot to do a little writing on the blog.

Tuesday 2 August 2016. Lingering with the Tall Coreopsis and Wandering Eastward on Curtis Road

Though I glimpsed the pink sky from inside the house early this morning, a list of things (like headstand, which I never used to leave the house without doing and am returning to that practice) kept me from bringing out Rhododendron, the road bike, until 7:45. It was 73 degrees F and humid at that time, with thinly spread clouds that allowed plenty of light through but kept the sun from blazing too brutally.

The plan for this morning was to ride by the north edge of Meadowbrook Park, the part that I’ve tried (with mixed results) to hurry past toward the end of many a ride, and then eastward on Curtis Road.

After a grumpy passage through the “micromanaging” stoplight system on Windsor and Race streets rode (downhill!) east on the sidewalk along Windsor Road and stopped for lots of photos.

I’ve seen better compositions of August prairie flowers at this edge of the park, but there still was beauty aplenty, if one looked.

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White wild indigo lifted their plump green and darkening pods.

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Blooming purple coneflowers still were abundant, and dense, in places.

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The star of today’s display, it seemed, was the tall Coreopsis.

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many individuals quite worthy of their name.

Here they make a nice background for a thistle

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It certainly was good to be out among the summer-worn bloom: vigorous, colorful, diverse, abundant. But the word “fresh” was not the first to come to mind. Reminded me a little of the awesome week-long yoga intensive I did last week, many (but not all!) of the participants of which were at least as old as I am and/or bearing various manifestations of life’s progression, even as we drank in the sunlight of BKS Iyengar’s teaching through the channel of dear Lois.

Also thought about the current installment of difficulty and pain that happens to be passing through a lot of people in my life (including, I suppose, myself) these days. It’s real and not to be dismissed, especially that of others. But still it has gaps, where, e.g., the summer prairie’s healing glow can shine through. I’m not entirely sure (and others insist to me) that allowing this joy isn’t a form of painting a smiley face over the pain. It just seems like a good alternative to despair.

Saw rosinweed flowers in interesting positions.

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Was not expecting to spend the morning with wet feet, but barely stepped into the mowed edge of the prairie and my Keen sandals and feet were thoroughly soaked. Amazing how much liquid water can be produced by condensation. Oh well. The dew is a fact of August morning prairie life.

Did not intend to turn into the big loop of the “Art and Billie Spomer” prairie,
but there it was,

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featuring compass plants

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whose stacks of large yellow flowers practically throw themselves at your phone camera, white wild indigo pods, and rattlesnake master that look like pompon girls.

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and the always photogenic false sunflowers

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Only went as far as the Freyfogel observation deck then turned back and headed out Windsor to Philo (passing lots of sweet little goldfinches atop the high chain-link fence) and then east on Curtis Road.

Also saw but didn’t try to photograph lots of dickcissels and at least two (or was it the same one twice?) red-tailed hawks gliding over the corn.

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The ride was easy, which made me worry a bit about the return trip, but mostly just enjoyed being out between the corn and beans.

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Went as far as 1250N and 1975E and turned back.

Stopped at creek (must be a tributary of the Salt Fork) where I’d seen wood ducks before, though it was a little ways north. No ducks today but there were quite a few ebony jewelwing damselflies.

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Was glad to get a few good miles in.

And the way back was easy, too.

Sunday 17 July 2016. Lots of Big Corn and a Peek at Bondville

This morning at 6:10, after succumbing to the urge to do a little modified Surya Namaskar in the wet grass of my back yard (echoes of Yoga in the Park), rolled Rhododendron out of the garage and headed south toward Windsor Road and then westward.

The sun was up (have had few views of the disc at the horizon this summer, as compared to years past, alas), but the sky was darker than I’d expected, so turned around to look east.

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Saw a bright smear of sun through filtering clouds: hoped they would not thicken and complicate the ride.

Stopped at the City of Champaign Prairie Resroration Project, which today again seemed to cry out for stewardship, though a variety of July prairie flowers were represented, if not abundant (yellow coneflower, wild bergamot, false sunflower). There was a good population of compass plant with open yellow flowers near Neil Street.

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They look so good close-up.

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Also, note the little frame of side-oats gramma grass.

The leadplant were all out of bloom but still not unattractive.

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At first was tempted to not go far so I could sit and catch up on blog-writing. But once I cleared Duncan Road just wanted ride out into the corn.

Then did a lot of straight riding, and felt better and better the farther out I went. The route looked pretty dog-free, which was nice.

Turned north at Staley Road

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which bordered a great length of expensive-looking residential real estate. Wondered what people out here did for a living.

Crossed a creek bordered by manicured lawns.

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On Staley Road just south of Bradley was an old farm house with nice gingerbread trim that didn’t look long for this world.

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Or maybe someone was just getting down to some renovation.

Rode a little bit farther north on Staley then decided to go west on Bradley.

Got a view of the corn from Staley south toward Bradley, where the land dipped a little.

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Rode out to Barker Road (500E)

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and turned south, which took me through downtown Bondville,

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the first time I’d been there on bike.
It had a cute little (apparently functional!) post office.

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Wondered whether people in the couple of cars that passed though when I had my iPhone out that I was looking for Pokemon.

Turned east at 1500N (eventually to become Kirby Avenue), which took me deep into the monster tassel/eared corn,

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the air there permeated with that corn-water smell. Thought once again about that edge between solitude and loneliness, but just briefly.

Stopped at another creek crossing, where a monster-great mullein grew.

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Disturbed a great blue heron on the other side of the bridge, which flew upstream (or north, anyway) and landed where the full-zoom of the iPhone could just barely detect it.

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Then rode straight toward home on not-especially-picturesque Kirby, and my right shoulder (but not either hip or knee, thank you very much!) began to nag that it didn’t like the position I was asking it to maintain. But it was a good 20-Mike ride. And soon there was coffee and writing!

Sunday 10 July 2016. Weaver Beauties, and the Fork in High Cross Road

It was 61 degrees F, the sky clear, this morning at 6:15 as I wheeled Rhododendron out of the garage (and then back in briefly for some lubricant on the chain) and headed toward Main Street and High Cross Road.

The sun was well-clear of the horizon so didn’t get any sunrise shots.

But the morning was beautiful, and the buzzing of waking doubts and worries about the usual things, and and now some new ones, began to yield to the sweet, cool air and the road under my wheels.

Stopped at the outer edge of Weaver Park, where an abundance of native prairie plants had been planted. And a lot of them were blooming together–a mid-July prairie bouquet.

Included were wild bergamot

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false sunflower and cup plant

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yellow coneflower,

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purple coneflower

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rosinweed

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and compass plant.

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Also saw flower stalks of the fourth Sylphium “sister,” prairie dock, but it was too far into the middle of the planting to get a good shot.

Did not venture southward to the buffalo-wallow pond but rode on through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road, over the I-74 bridge and over the Saline Branch through slightly moist air that varied from comfortably cool to comfortably a little cooler in the lower micro-altitudes.

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Along Brownfield Woods, not much was obviously blooming among the poison ivy, stinging nettle, and giant ragweed except Joe Pye weed,

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Which is so tall and the flowers so small that it’s hard to get a good photo of them.

Seemed like herbicide had been applied to a good stretch of the edge of Brownfield between the road and the outside of the fence. Alas.

Saw the sun catch the fuzzy leaves of a field of vigorous-looking soybean plants.

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Then noticed a visual pun,

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which made me laugh out loud. Reminded me of the bones and other materials I’ve observed imbedded in roads, how the road has modern fossils and is made of more things than we’d guess.

Went as far as Ford Harris Road

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a nice little corner where soapwort

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and a few other non-native but nice enough flowers bloomed.

Also it was a good place to see how crazy-huge and already-tasseling the corn was.

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On the way back saw an impressive three-flower-spiked great mullein plant.

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Across Airport from Brownfield Woods spotted a cluster of attractive very pale-pink flower-spikes I couldn’t immediately identify.

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Close-up, the structure of the flowers looked wildly exotic.

Later looked it up, and it turned out to be American Germander (Teucrium canadense) which now I remember finding a couple of years ago, a little farther north on High Cross and wondering why its name referred to three (or at least two) different countries.

Noticed in the home stretch back that now I felt all engaged in this ride, that the worries and doubts were folded and stowed into the appropriate compartments and for this while I gratefully occupied the present. Hooray!