Sunday 4 February 2018. Light Snow at Japan House Garden

It was 32 degrees F under a cover of textured clouds at 7:45 this morning, light snow having fallen overnight.

There was not much time before the Senior 2 Iyengar Yoga teacher assessment for which I was volunteering as a student this morning, but wanted at least to get on the bike and check in with the world outside.

Noticed that a lot of sweegum fruits had fallen recently.

Tried not to think of them as perilous ball-bearings, but did avoid them as best I could.

So rode Shadow to the U of I Arboretum

and the Japan House garden.

Checked the “Winter’s Ghost ” hellebores,

the foliage of which did seem to have sustained some damage from this winter’s low temperatures. No early February blooms this year.

Got a view of the pond with willow and cherry trees.

Then turned to back toward the yoga studio, where my attention was caught by the spiky balls of sweetgum fruit,

looking like gifts of little stars hung and dangling from the otherwise bare branches.

Then headed on to the yoga institute to continue with the day, to partake of and contribute to my Iyengar yoga community.


Sunday 14 January 2018. Japan House Garden with Frozen Pond

At 7:23 this morning it was 6 degrees F and clear with minimal wind.

Dressed warmly and unlocked RhododendronShadow’s brakes still were pretty frozen–for a minimal ride in the cold. The streets were salty but clear and dry, which was favorable both for safety and for the condition of the bike.

Heading south on Race Street, noticed (just hadn’t looked for a while) some lingering apples on “my” apple tree.

Then continued west on Florida and south on Lincoln to the Japan House garden, technically part of the U of I Arboretum.

The sun (already launched for a while) was rising above the frozen pond.

Checked the hellebores under the bald cypresses, the ones with the “Winter’s Ghost” marker)

and found stiff but green leaves.,

apparently reading to resume photosynthesis as soon as the temperature goes above freezing. Wondered whether the bloom (often underway by early February) would be much later this year.

Got a photo of bare cherry trees ,

The frozen pond,

and the sculptural evergreen shrubs accented with a stone architectural feature

of which I may have heard the name but don’t remember it, alas.

As I looped around the pond thought about spring and bringing friends here when the weather is more hospitable. But for completeness was glad to have been here in the cold.

And that was today’s little ride!

Sunday 18 June 2017. Dark Clouds but No Rain

It was 71 degrees F and cloudy with a 12-mph WSW wind at 6:25 pm as I took Rhododendron out toward south First Street.

Rode south on Race Street, reasonably comfortable though feeling the somberness of the clouds.

Did not stop before Windsor Road except to examine the bike for the source of a light banging sound, but could not make it happen when I got off and spun each wheel independently. It was annoying but didn’t seem to impair the bike’s performance so just rode on.

Stopped at the linden tree on the corner of Race and Windsor.


Was not sure whether it had not yet fully bloomed or whether it was mostly done blooming, but it didn’t exude the perfume I remember from past years.

Headed into the westerly breeze on Windsor, noticing dark clouds ahead.


Observed how the diminished light and color pressed on my mood. The expression “like a wet blanket” came to mind.
There was some current pain in it (everyone has his or her list!), a little fear that the clouds would deliver discomfort-inducing rain or even electrical danger, but also some broody comfort, a little space to allow that pain before going back to face the slings and arrows that caused it.

Nevertheless decided to limit the ride (oh waste of extra daylight and free time!) to checking the lead plant at the City of Champaign “Prairie Restoration.”

The lead plants were starting to bloom,


lax stewardship notwithstanding.


And didn’t notice any plague of beetles, either. There is hope for that place, I think.

Thought again that I was missing a chance to get in good ride, but really felt averse to being far from home in a storm, and was not sure that the banging, knocking sound was not the sign of some kind of trouble with the bike.

Then riding north on First Street happened to look look at my right Keen sandal, which had a plastic knob at the end of loop of the elastic lacing, and saw that it was banging on the bike frame. Mystery solved!

So on the way back stopped at Japan House garden

Where amazing, durable hellebores contributed to the design of the hosta planting.

Also stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, where the summer bloom was beginning to build.

There were post-peak spiderwort


and Penstemon


Black-eyed Susan,


common milkweed, in a big way(!)


false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,


and lovely blue vervain.


Made it home without getting wet, satisfied enough with the ride.

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

It was 55 degrees F with steady rain falling


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.


Florida Avenue was wet and green.


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


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


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


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!

Sunday 2 April 2017. Cherry Blossoms Plus a Nice Ride

It was 43 degrees F under mostly cloudy skies at 6:45 this morning as I headed out on Rhododendron on this second day of 30 Days of Biking

Noticed yesterday that the cherry blossoms at Japan House seemed to be in bloom, so made that today’s destination. After that planned to continue the ride to the south and west to reach my 30 Days of Biking goal for this year (my fifth, if that’s possible!) of at least 10 miles a day.

Indeed, the cherries were in bloom!

It was unquestionably the proverbial religious experience, especially standing under the canopy they made, looking up into the pale, tender petals.

In addition to the cherries, the bloom of the hellebores in the garden had, if you can imagine, developed since my last viewing.


And not only did it seem to be the optimal day for the cherry bloom, the exact time of day seemed perfect as well: the early morning sun managed to slip through the clouds enough to softly illuminate the cherry petals.


It was beautiful upon beautiful, and I knew it wouldn’t stay this way for very long. But it was the kind of moment that “fills eternity.” So glad to have caught it!


Then rode south on Lincoln and straight across Windsor Road where Lincoln turned into into a gravel path and past an Illinois Natural History Survey facility, next door to the U of I Bee Lab,


toward Curtis Road.


Looking to the west over the unplanted plowed field, the sky showed some interesting features.


Rode to First Street, along the side of which there was a road-killed possum and, alas, the smooth, pink, motionless baby possums she’d been carrying scattered around her. No pictures here.

Then west on St. Mary’s and south a little for coffee and egg bites at Starbuck’s on south Neil.

On the way home stopped on St. Mary’s Road by the vet school for a horse portrait.


Coasted at speed down the big hill to Lincoln Avenue and into the day.

Sunday 12 March 2017. Spring Forward–Brrr!

It was 21 degrees F under a cloudless sky at 7:55 this morning on which, just a short time ago, we (the entire USA, except Indiana, as far as I know) had just purposely removed an hour from the day. As if the day wasn’t barely long enough already. But there it was, Daylight Savings Time. Nothing to but embrace the remaining day. And look forward to when the hour returns in the fall.

One encouraging event for this morning was that I’d finally fixed Rhododendron’s (rear) flat tire and was happy to be rolling the road bike out of the garage. I’ve enjoyed riding Shadow (a mountain bike), but in the flatlands, those 27-inch road-bike wheels can move a body along at an exhilarating clip. Oh, yes!

Nevertheless it was cold this morning, which curtailed my thirst for a long ride. So set the modest destination of the Japan House garden.

Rode between the rows of cherry trees lining the path to Japan House, noticing the sparseness of buds on their branches.

The sun slanted on the carpet of bald cypress needles with the sizable, vertically furrowed trunks with horizontal branches rising above it.


Checked on the Winter’s Ghost” Hellebores

which were full of blooms, if turned down toward the ground.

Saw that the weeping willow by the pond was well into greening,

and that robins were out in force.

Heard but didn’t photograph plenty of vocal red-winged blackbirds, and noticed that grackles also had returned.

Turned back homeward before my fingers got too cold.

Cold as it was, 21 degrees F is not especially unusual for March, it’s just that it’s been so mild till now that the spring bloom is well along, and this blast of cold feels like an affront. But the daffodils in the neighborhood were not collapsed in limp heaps, the way impatiens are after the first hard frost in fall would be.


Was glad for these hardy yellow star-faces standing up to the cold!

Saturday 28 January 2017. Hellebore Check at Japan House Garden

This morning at 7:20 it was 27 degrees F under, surprise, surprise, cloudy skies.

Was pressed for time but felt an urgency to connect with “nature,” to be present with things that grow (even if now dormant) things outdoors, to have a personal relationship with the weather. However brief, it’s so much better than not doing it.

So rode on Shadow to Japan House Garden to check the condition of the Hellebores, the blooms of which sometimes already are out at this time of year.


Last year’s foliage hadn’t gone completely brown, but couldn’t see this year’s coming up yet.

Last year some plants had flowers in early February. And unlike, e.g., snowdrops or crocuses, which come a little later, they don’t die back to the ground after a brief bloom but persist (often with flower-shaped structures that remain after the actual flowers are spent)robustly until winter They are a most intriguing species.

While in the area got a few shots of the lovely bald cypresses with their thick, folded trunks and horizontal (on average) branches

that rose above the rust-colored carpet of last year’s growth of needles.

It was good to touch the earth even at these few points.