Tuesday 4 July 2017. Almost to Flatville

It was 68 degrees F and mostly sunny and calm at 6:45 this morning of American Independence Day as I filled up Rhododendron’s tires (it made a helpful difference!) and headed east on Washington Street into the dappled canopy.

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Could not skip a stop at Weaver Park, even with having to traverse a stretch of trail-less grass, across which a couple of apparently well-fed ground hogs undulated toward the tree-lined street side of the park.

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The edge of the purported buffalo-wallow pond was richly decorated with newly blooming prairie plants, like Monarda,

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yellow coneflower, cup plants, an early aster,

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and, most whimsically, the candelabra of Culver’s root,

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all beautifully set in front of the water lily pads and cattails of the pond.

Then headed back on Washington to Route 130 (High Cross Road), where there is a lovely place to view the sun rising over the landscape

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and on past Cottonwood Road to the “T” at 1800N.

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A couple of cyclists behind me went right (perhaps to Homer Lake) and I turned left, to the north. The road was narrow but smooth and mostly without farm houses (that is, potential loose dogs) close to it.

The bridge over I-74 was simple and without much bordering vegetation.

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Continued north, crossing the Saline Ditch,

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and detecting some roll in the grade of the road.

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Just before heading back stopped to look down into a creek

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then turned back at the road just past Ford Harris Road.

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Came back to Ford Harris and an debated just continuing to retrace my path, but craved a little novelty. At the same time, could not remember this stretch, so took a bold gamble about its safety and plunged westward on Ford Harris Road.

Close to High Cross Road was a cemetery on the side of a little (central Illinois) hill.

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Got a distant shot of a dickcissel

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the calls (which which sounds to me something like “Uru ahim!” (“awake, my brothers!”) from the Israeli folk, song “Hava Nagila”) [Note: the dickcissel recordings I found on YouTube were not exactly like the birds I heard, but maybe you get the idea. Head out on a country road some morning and see what you think.) from conspecifics of which had been accompanying me for much of this trip.

At Perkins Road was a nice prairie planting that included non-native but handsome mullein.

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It was another satisfying 20 miles!

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Friday 29 July 2016. Japan House Cardinal Flowers

At 6:45 this morning it was 66 degrees F, with clear skies.

Was short on time, but needed to connect with the morning.

So rode on Discovery II to the pond at Japan House because I’d seen cardinal flowers there at this time last year.

On the way noticed mushrooms, not unusual ones, but many around the base of a large hackberry tree right next to the street. Actually passed it up and turned back to take a closer look. This apparently looked odd to a passing driver, who stopped to ask if I was ok. “Just looking at some mushrooms” I replied, thanking him for his concern.

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Made a beeline for the pond at Japan House and searched for red flowers, which were not hard to find

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Saw a damselfly resting on a Cardinal flower bloom.

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Walked around the pond and saw Liatris

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as well as more cardinal flowers

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and pickerelweed.

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Spent a little time trying to capture being under a nearby spreading sycamore tree

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then headed back to walk Sparky

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our old Bichon Frise, and head over for day five of the awesome weeklong summer yoga intensive.

Sunday 19 June 2016. Farther West on Old Church

This morning at 5:35 (missed the 5:23 sunrise, alas) it was 68 degrees and mostly clear as I brought out Rhododendron (after almost leaving on Discovery II, out of daily habit) and headed south and ultimately west. Planned to go part of the way to Allerton Park, per directions I found online. Set out to go at least 10 miles out, for a 20-mile ride.

The air was perfect: not too cool or warm and no breeze to speak of. The occasional linden gave its perfume, and best of all, I was awake. Alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic, you might say. And my recently increased attention to my yoga practice since having one less paid job meant the only thing like pain was occasional discomfort in my “bad” right shoulder and neck. For which the internalized voice of my mentor–“Get the dorsal spine in!”–was helpful.

Could see the northwestern corner of Meadowbrook Park as I turned west on Windsor Road.

First stop, not counting turning back to see the rising sun (and activating Strava),

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or pausing to marvel at the speed with which the new Carle Sports Medicine facility is going up near First Street, was the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration Project

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which looked sorely in need of stewardship. But the strange and wonderful lead plants were there in early bloom

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with a jumping spider for graphic interest.

Then rode to Prospect and south, with a stop at the sunken pond at Curtis Road.

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where the bloom was much different than last time: saw no obvious spiderwort or Penstemon, but did see lots of purple coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, and the first purple prairie clover and Monarda. There were some attractive Coreopsis I wasn’t sure were native.

Heard a solo bullfrog, and when I walked closer to the water, about a dozen frogs leapt into the water.

Did not see any ducks on the pond. Around a bend in the shore discovered why: a family of geese.

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The geese move in and there goes the neighborhood.

But on closer examination of the photo realized that the two smaller waterfowl didn’t really look like young geese but actually may have been non-mallard ducks. How quick one can be to judge.

Then went west on Curtis, south on Mattis, and west again on Old Church Road.

There were houses and corn and soybeans with just a little up and down roll of the road.

Was amazed by the “tidiness” of the corn planting, how very bare the ground is under and near the stalks.

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Then reached county road 500E and turned back.

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Got a nice view of the already fairly high, almost solstice sun.

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The relative uniformity of the landscape helped me focus on the breath, just like I had in Pranayama practice earlier this morning. Noticed in detail the “shape” of each breath and how something interesting in the landscape drew attention away from the breath. Have to say, that “boring” corn/bean stretch was really enjoyable with the breath for company.

Rode Old Church to Prospect and north, on the lovely path behind a residential area.

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Thought I might have seen a fox, but it turned out to be a large ginger cat.

Stopped at a produce stand (an interesting place) to buy a pepper plant for my husband for Fathers Day and carried it home, sticking out from my backpack .

On the way back, peeked at an awesome garden I saw yesterday on the way home from the official Garden Walk.

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Wow.

Sunday 5 June 2016. To Old Church and Rising Road via the Sunken Pond

It was 63 degrees F at 5:53 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron out of the garage for parts southwest.

First stopped for a yellow (and sure looks life pink in the middle) cabbage rose pic.

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The stalks and pods of the nearby bloomed-out lupines have been removed.

Then checked out the Amanita muscaria mushrooms

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which were reasonably numerous but nowhere near as dense as they are in the fall.

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It looked like they’d been there a while. Also noticed some that were just beginning to emerge from the ground. They have an amazing life force!

Rode along Race Street with my emotions organizing themselves for the day. Noticed something like a pit of sadness ahead but just coasted over it without looking down. Riding was enough to keep things flowing and even for the time being.

Made a quick stop at the edge of Meadowbrook Park to see McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Coasted down and “flew” over the bridge, rounded the corner, and got a nice foxglove Penstemon shot first.

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Then returned for the former picture.

Retraced my path to the official exit rather than going over the longish wet grass directly back to Race Street.

Then west on Curtis, where a light headwind was blowing.

On Curtis Road were many dickcissels singing (many more than were visible) and gorgeous bright yellow goldfinches. They didn’t like having their pictures taken, but managed to document them.

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This was the boldest dicksissel I’ve seen.

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I think he (or she) will go on to have a lot of chicks, as they’re not using energy to flee from a non-threat. Just a guess.

Stopped at the sunken pond at Curtis and Prospect.

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So invisible from the road!

Could hear the sound of frogs–bullfrogs and another species. Just by way of announcement; no sustained singing.

The vegetation around the pond was mowed fairly close to the edge, but there were some lovely flowers: spiderwort,

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Penstemon, new purple coneflowers,

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and purple indigo.

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Was amazed not to see geese and to see a number of ducks that didn’t look like mallards, though couldn’t take the ID any further than that.

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Back on the road, enjoyed the bike lane at that wide open part of Curtis, as always.

Turned south at Mattis then west on Old Church. Was surprised at how many houses their were this far out in the country,
but there was no shortage of corn, either,

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which was almost blue with vigor.

At Rising Road

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turned north toward Windsor. A little way along Rising was a farm house fairly close to the road: dog risk? Just talked to myself about the slightness of that possibility (good old denial) and made it safely along. Whew.

But then saw a form ahead in the road, a dog? Coyote? Something unexpected.

Approaching closer recognized it was a person, which was a bit startling; I never see people this far out on the road (though as I mentioned, there were plenty of houses not far away). He appeared reasonably well and unremarkable; nevertheless was glad that the turn east on Windsor Road came before I passed him.

On the way back enjoyed the bike path on Prospect Avenue with its cultivated, shady green borders.

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Then rode homeward via the whole length of St. Mary’s Road, as clouds gathered.

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Thursday 26 May 2016. Weaver Pond

At 5:45 this morning it was 66 degrees F under thinly cloudy skies.

Absentmindedly took Discovery II (hybrid bike) rather than Rhododendron (road bike) so decided to go for a quick trip rather than a long ride and just check on the “buffalo-wallow” pond at Weaver Park.

Did not really see the sunrise. Funny how riding eastward (on Washington, anyway) is not a good way to see the sunrise. Lots of obstructions.

As I rode toward Weaver Park the clouds thickened and the sky became quite overcast.

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Which drew my thoughts in and down, toward people around and close to me and their various struggles. Care as one might, it’s not always easy to respond helpfully. Sometimes trying to comfort another amounts to urging them to “lighten up” so they stop making one so uncomfortable. Then there is the valid but not enjoyable struggle of, say, a teen who needs a target for their understandable anger. Really, is it humanly possible to absorb that gracefully? What to do but put yourself out there and believe that your flawed presence will have some net positive effect? Abyasa, Vairagya.

Got to the end of the Prairie Gymnasium, at the newly renamed Preston Williams elementary school and approached (with the usual required effort) the “buffalo wallow” pond. In the water were lily pads of a species I don’t know (yes, need to look it up) and, on the other side of the pond, blue flag iris,

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On the banks were golden Alexanders, but saw no spiderwort, which surprised me.

Saw no ducks, though did hear one. Saw several geese on the dry bank of the pond. Those wild geese that make such good use of human habitat, that take over and drive out other species. Takes one to know one.

There were as well plenty of adaptable red-winged blackbirds about, playing the three introductory notes of the theme of the first Star Trek TV series.

Was very dismayed to see garbage in the water.

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Thought with all the emergent plants and irregular shore line, there must be more critters that use this pond than I was seeing in this inspection.

Then did hear, toward the other end of the pond, a bullfrog, then more, then a whole Georgian chorus (minus the high voices) of them. They didn’t sing very long at one time. But the music was stirring .

And before shifting back to rest-of-the-day mode was attracted to some peonies on Washington Street that were past peak bloom but of an unusual color combination.

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Voici.

Saturday 2 January 2016. The Sun Returns: The Pond at Japan House

This morning at 7:30 it was 25 degrees F, the sky clear, showing a high and slightly less than half-moon, the air calm. Was happy to see the sun, the blue sky!

After preparing for this afternoon’s yoga class (including working out ways to use the trestle to support straightening the knees in Supta Padangusthasana) went for a short ride on Discovery II to Japan House. The air was brisk, but was dressed for it and exhilarated in moving through it on this sunny morning. 

The welcome sun made me think about the difference between painting a happy face over troubles vs. choosing joy in the middle of hard times. My view is that nothing is solid: there alway are gaps in the struggle, moments of true peace. So why not be alert for them and use them to refresh our efforts to confront our unpleasant but perhaps necessary battles?  Seems from here that engagement with our demons can be exciting, but over time fatigue can make it less so….

Arrived at the entrance to Japan House  

 and rode just long enough to see the pond, where softly peeping pine siskins (my best guess) came to drink.  

   
The sun was rising over it and ice was beginning to form on its surface. 

 

Rested here, if so briefly, in the peace and beauty of the scene. 

Turned to go back, passing many potential images.  Especially with the smaller visual pallet of the central Illinois  winter, this is and will be a good place to visit and revisit. 

Saturday 1 August 2015. Weaver Park and North High Cross Road. 

At 5:35 this morning it was, according to the phone weather ap, 61 degrees and clear, the just-past full moon getting close to the western horizon. But the air felt warmer than 61 and didn’t bring a jacket. Hoped I wouldn’t get cold.  

  

Today the destination was north High Cross Road, by way of Washington Street and Weaver Park. 

Thought this sign at the entrance to Weaver Park was humorous, if a bit sad. 
  

At edge of the “buffalo-wallow” pond caught the clear western sky behind a group of three of the “Sylphium sisters”: cup plant (S. perfoliatum), compass plant (S. lacineata), and rosinweed (S. integrifolium)
  

And prairie grasses were starting to bloom: the first big bluestem, I believe,

and, I’m guessing, switchgrass (Panicum virginiana–there actually is a group called “panic grasses,” must be a story behind that!). 

  

It really is time for me to get serious about distinguishing at least the common prairie grasses beyond big bluestem and Indian grass.   

Zoomed in a little to the pond, largely covered with water lily (I guess) pads and cattails. 

  

Saw these pads move, clearly, but didn’t spot the creature responsible for the movement. 

Then cut across Dodson Drive and east on Main, across University through the Beringer subdivision and North on High Cross Road. 

Passed the site on the northeast corner of the bridge where I used to follow the breakdown of a possum road kill and stopped to see whether any evidence of possum bones remained.  None did, only new garbage. Could probably have found some with a bit of effort but overruled that notion and went on. 

Out in the country on High Cross Road, the air was cooler than it was in town.  The temperature reading this morning must have come from outside of town. The change was pleasant. The ride was pleasant. It was not high exhilaration but reasonable comfort, with an awareness of how much better it was than so many other possible states or situations. 

Rode on and stopped at the edge of Brownfield woods for a shot of pale jewelweed 

  

and Joe Pye weed. 

  

Joe Pye weed (another provocative name with a story I don’t know) for some reason doesn’t tend to make me stop and photograph it, but got pulled in by this amazingly full clump. 

Continued north on pleasant High Cross Road and had to document the absurdly vigorous corn

with its absurdly tidy edges and extremely close proximity to the road.  Welcome to the  central Illinois, the icon of fertility!    

Thought the sight of morning glories on corn stalks had gotten mundane and not make me want to stop, but these were hard to resist. 
  

Then High Cross jogged where it crossed Leverett Road, and on the other side of Leverett was greeted by a male red-winged blackbird that hovered over me and made a cheep (complaint or warning, I guess) I hadn’t previously associated with red-wings. 

  

And it followed me a while. It was fun to imagine that this bird was trying to tell me something or was sent to protect me, though I think it simply didn’t like my being in its territory.  

There also were a number of dickcissels, those “mini-meadowlarks” with their distinctive call, in this area. 

Rode as far as county road 2200 N and turned around.  The red-winged blackbird near Leverett Road hovered over me when I passed through its territory again. 

On the way back saw spiderwort (a different species than the prairie one, I think) at Brownfield Woods. 
  

Also saw American bellflower, another favorite, which had completely escaped my notice on the way out. 

  

Returned via Main Street and stopped at the wildflower garden across from Weaver Park to see the royal catchfly. 
 

Was glad for the miles and the colors of summer!