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.

    Monday 24 December 2018. Long-Awaited Time on the Bike: Meadowbrook and Campus

    It was 27 degrees F under clear skies, the just-post full moon bright and sinking westward at about 7:10 this morning as I headed toward Meadowbrook Park on Shadow.

    It was wonderful to be rolling in the quiet of the Christmas Eve morning, especially since my pleasure rides (still try to commute au vélo when possible) have been growing briefer and farther between.

    At Meadowbrook stopped to see the “wonky Christmas tree,”

    and also one that portrayed the more standard holiday attitude of upliftment.

    rode to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek,

    and zoomed in on trees reflected in the water.

    Rode around the outside of the prairie in my usual counterclockwise direction, stopped to see the “dry bouquets,”

    and zooming in to the details of a durable old stalk of compass pant.

    Then rode west on Windsor Road and north, probably on First Street to stop for coffee and calm at Flying Machine Avionics. (It’s getting to have been a while since it happened….)

    Next, meandered to and through the western edge of Campustown, where a huge new design (I believe that’s what it said) building was going up between Krannert Art Museum and Huff Gym, where for decades there had been an open grassy field.

    More progress, of some kind.

    Then rode north and east and saw yet another huge appartement going up, presumably to be filled by a succession of student tenants.

    Change is the constant, everything is in process: seasons, lifetimes, what we call “home.”

    Saturday 3 November 2018. Fall Color Arrives at Last!

    It was 49 degrees F at 11:20 this morning as I took a detour through Meadowbrook Park on my way home from my work assignment.

    Cut across the grass and around the gate to the southwest corner of the park, an unofficial entrance, checked out McCullough Creek below the rabbit-statue bridge, then proceeded clockwise (opposite of my usual direction).

    Stopped for orange crab apples set off by the blue sky. Here was some color!

    Farther along the path saw a wooly worm (caterpillar) hurrying to get across. Have heard lore about the coloring of woolly worms predicting a harsh or mild winter, but can’t remember the scheme of it.

    The prairie was pretty close to finishing with color for the year, though did find the odd purple remnant of New England aster bloom.

    Mostly it was dry bouquets.

    And here and there, the dark, defined, sculptural, Baptisia pods.

    This fall there seemed to be a longer than usual monochrome interlude between the end of the prairie flower bloom and the beginning of fall leaf color. But today, at least among the planted ornamental trees, fall color was upon us.

    12 May 2019(?!?)


    Apologies for months of lapse! Let’s see whether I can figure out how to catch up! Wish me luck!

    Saturday 15 September 2918. Bottle Gentians at Busy Meadowbrook

    It was 69 degrees F under clear skies at 8:20 am as I pointed Rhododendron southward in Race Street for a very brief visit to the bottle gentians at Meadowbrook Park.

    On the way stopped to check under the spruce trees for mushrooms. It was about this time three or four years ago that I first witnessed the glorious profusion of Aminita muscaria (fly agaric) mushrooms.

    It was not completely devoid of mushrooms, but almost.

    Rode as directly as possible over the rabbit-statue bridge

    and briefly took in the unavoidable and alluring goldenrod ,the lovely violet-blue of the wild sage,

    and the gold of the Bidens

    And there they were, the bottle gentians.

    which looked like they had not been blooming for very long.

    There were several plants in the vicinity of the Marker statue, and I got a variety of shots.

    Many flowers were not free of “blemish”

    but their shape and color still were beautiful.

    On the way back stopped for bees in goldenrod.

    Thursday 23 August 2018. Meadowbrook and West on Windsor Road

    It was 60 degrees F (at most) and mostly clear at 6:50 this morning as I, with as little deliberation and fuss as possible, headed south on Race Street toward Meadowbrook Park and then perhaps out west on Windsor Road.

    Stopped to look for mushrooms under the spruce trees. There were no Amanitas but did notice a couple of dough-like masses,

    which I assumed were fungi and not actual masses of dough, although one can never, without further exploration, be sure.

    Sped (but not completely without applying the brakes) towards and across the rabbit statue bridge. Then stopped and turned back to find the Great Blue Lobelia I’d seen on a previous visit, but first was distracted by thistle and wingstem.

    Soon found the Lobelia

    and then a little to the right saw a cold dragonfly perched on a boneset plant.

    (Look slightly to the left of the very center of the photo.) But it zoomed away when I tried to get a closer shot.

    Going back to the bridge I noticed colorful trash in the open container,

    including a funny, ironic label, the literal reading of which actually came close to describing the mood of the morning.

    Proceeded eastward on the path and stopped for a nice counterpoint of boneset and late compass plant.

    Also stopped for the tall Coreopsis against the blue sky.

    Farther along the path saw a deer crossing to the other side,

    Then another,

    And another, and another (four in all!), off to the buck’s club, or wherever.

    Near the Freyfogle observation deck noticed that many compass plants were done blooming,

    but even the last flowers sent out their yellow exuberance.

    The cream gentians were abundant!

    Apparently, bees had been at work getting into the flowers.

    Then turned west along Windsor Road on the south edge of the park. Close to the path were thistles framed by tall Coreopsis.

    At Race Street crossed to the westbound bike lane and headed west on Windsor just to ride!

    Saw a harvested field and was amazed by how early the corn had been harvested, which was good news for these geese,

    availing themselves of the bounty.

    Along Windsor Road in Champaign there were crab apples laden with and dropping fruit.

    Rode on Windsor as far as 700 E

    and turned back, stopping to look down into the current of Copper Slough.

    The corn along Windsor Road had golden ears on green stalks and surrounded by green leaves –a picture of health and vigor.

    My bike for scale shows how crazy-talk it was.

    Some of the corn stalks were decorated with blue morning glories.

    Not sure whether the morning glories were harmful to the corn, but visually they were lovely.

    Headed east and and then a little north, across the U of I campus just in time for move-in at the dorms.

    Cars were lined up on the sidewalk (!?!), but the mood seemed calm, as if everyone expected it to go just like this.

    Was deeply satisfied to have inserted a decent ride into the busy week and trekked out in the waning summer!