Friday 28 June 2019. Part 1. Catching Another Solstice-Time Sunrise at Meadowbrook

It was 71 degrees F at 5:15 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron out of the garage and toward Race Street to watch the summer sun rise over Meadowbrook Park.

First stopped for a view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

There was a layer of low mist in the distance.

Then caught a glimpse of some obedient plant in the wet area to the south of the path.

with mist in the background.

Looked into the middle of the prairie from a favorite vantage at the sun rising above the mist.

Sunrise at a favorite vantage point

Saw stately Baptisia near stately budding rattlesnake master.

Saw the sun rise over the prairie, over its northeastern edge.

Noticed the intermittent scent of mountain mint.

Checked the lead plants next to the prairie observation platform.

They were just starting to bloom.

Saw the season’s first yellow coneflowers.

Felt welcomed to the majesty of the summer prairie!


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.

Friday 24 May 2019. Cloudy Again, but with the First Meadowbrook Spiderwort

It was 64 degrees F under thick blue-grey clouds this morning at 5:30 as I headed to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.

The flowering trees in the ornamental grove of Meadowbrook were mostly well past their bloom, but these hawthorns, related to their delicately fragrant crab apple neighbors, were just starting to give off their slightly less than pleasant aroma. They make a dense shade.

Coasted toward and over the bridge and turned back.

Stopped near the rabbit-statue bridge (here showing the rabbit statue) to show butterweed growing on a bank of McCullough Creek. It’s been a big butterweed (here is a better photo from nearby, a few days ago) year. I think they love all the rain we’ve been having.

Rode down the path under the mass of clouds to the wet area where blue flag irises have bloomed in years past. Careful scanning revealed a couple blooms in the distance. Hoped it was the leading edge of the bloom because today didn’t really want to walk through the water to get close. Will return to the place with boots.

Saw no spiderwort. The abundant green is lovely, but am longing for prairie color. Blue-violet in particular.

Should give the golden Alexanders, though past the peak of their bloom, and blackberry blossoms, just beginning, their due. For whatever reason they seem less spectacular than the flowers I’m waiting for.

Looked over the cloudy green prairie from the observation deck and there were, posing in the green, three white-tailed deer.

Near the end of the prairie trail at last saw spiderwort!

Their leaves were decorated with water-beads.

Was satisfied (delighted, actually) to see them and looking forward to their further bloom!

Friday 17 May 2019. Meadowbrook Morning: Cloudy and Green

It was 68 degrees and cloudy as I headed to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.

Can’t remember the last time I made it out to Meadowbrook before sunrise but today it would happen!

Unfortunately, the sun-disc breaking through the horizon, which I’ve been wanting a long time to see again, would not be visible because of the clouds, the color of which was subdued.

Took a left turn at the entrance to the park (would have gone right for the usual counter clockwise loop except didn’t feel like excusing myself to get past two dog-walkers who filled the width of the path), past the sensory garden, pavilion, and organic garden plots and along the edge of Clark-Lindsay Village.

The landscape was decidedly green: no blue spiderwort or white Penstemon had yet appeared.

On the sculpture I think of as “To” (though from this side it said “oT”) perched a calling mourning dove.

But soon my attention was caught by a trio of mallard drakes, comically waddling up the path together, chuckling.

Made the large loop and stopped to view the prairie as it was on this day, noting the tree swallows and red-winged blackbirds.

Around the bend, past the Marker Statue, across the little bridge over Douglas Creek and around another bend, a group of deer gathered in an area where I often have seen them. Wondered whether there were a lot of ticks in there.

Proceeded to the rabbit-statue bridge across McCullough Creek and stopped to record its rather swollen manifestation of this morning.

On the way out of the park, along the grove of small ornamental trees, caught a view of a late-blooming dogwood. What a magnificent bloom the weather of this spring had bestowed on the dogwoods! Most now were about done, but these made a beautiful coda.

But will have to return (ok, there are some golden Alexanders) in the coming days for native color on the prairie.

Friday 5 April 2019. The Latest Signs of Spring at Meadowbrook

It was 43 degrees F and cloudy at 8:40 am (and incidentally Day 5 of 30 Days of Biking!) as I headed out on Rhododendron for Meadowbrook Park.

The ground was moist and the air smelled like April, i.e., like earthworms. Sure enough, small and large worm bodies were stretched out along the street and on the paved path around Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped at the rabbit -statue bridge

for a look at the confluence of McCullough and Douglas creeks. Then turned to look downstream of the bridge and saw what reminded me of the ripples that the beavers used to make when they had a damn several years ago. As I watch the ripples, there emerged a brown furry creature (not quite visible in this shot, but this is where it was) swimming downstream. It was a beaver, I think. Are they back? Maybe just exploring the real estate possibilities.

As always, it was so very good to be back on the bike, circling Meadowbrook Park. The red-winged blackbirds were busy and vocal. A little farther down the path, noticed a pair of tree swallowsperched on a birdhouse. I’m not sure what species the bird houses were designed for, but tree swallows are what one usually sees on them.

Saw a good-sized crayfish chimney and additional mud excavated from its insides.

No crayfish, though.

Then farther down near the Freyfogle observation platform saw more tree swallows, perched atop compass plant skeletonsand on top of the platform structure. Saw a lot of tree swallows around, more than I remember seeing in previous years. Wonder if it has anything to do with there being so many diseased and dead trees.

Saw some nice arrangements of dried prairie plant remains.

Rode along McCullough Creek

then stopped at the sensory garden. The native flowers mostly were yet to emerge, but introduced daffodils and hyacinths

heralded their impending bloom.

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.