Saturday 29 July 2017. Height of the Summer Bloom

It was 61 beautiful degrees under clear skies a little after sunrise (6:15) this morning as I headed south on Race Street toward Meadowbrook Park.

I apologize here for having fallen behind in getting my notes of summer rides (that keep receding further into the past and my recollection of the details less certain!) shaped up to release on the blog. But still want to share these distinctive markers of the seasons, so here they are.

For a stretch of ten yards or so, several newly blooming cardinal flowers (a single plant would have been stunning!) graced the banks of dry McCullough and Davis creeks below the rabbit-statue bridge

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Also were contrasting purple-blue self-heal, aka “heal-all.” It must be good medicine of some kind.

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The cardinal flowers really were in their full glory.

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Farther down the path in the wet (iris, in spring) area Liatris were staring to manifest their blazing feathery stars.

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Noticed nearby a strangely curled stem, maybe a goldenrod.

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And farther on still, on the soft path to the middle of the prairie, was the splendor of the royal catchfly,

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accompanied by lots of rattlesnake master.

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There was Culver’s root, though past its peak bloom.

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Also past peak but still holding forth were purple coneflowers.

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At least three of the “Sylphium sisters” were in bloom there, S.integrifolium (rosinweed), with its simpler leaves and smaller flowers

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square-stemmed, cup-leafed S. perfoliatum (cup plant)

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And S. lacineata (compass plant), the little suns of its blooms stacked high over the prairie, as tall as the emerging big bluestem grass.

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and sometimes topped with a goldfinch

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It was the time of abundant, fresh bloom for yellow coneflower, ironweed,

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and of pink-purple Monarda.

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As I write, it’s been a while already since the prairie was in full bloom, but it’s nice to revisit that time as October draws life inward.

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Sunday 23 July 2017. First Cardinal Flowers and Other Summer Blooms

77 degrees F under very cloudy skies at 6:15 this morning as I headed out to, where else? Meadowbrook Park to witness the summer bloom of the prairie.

At the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek could see a faint spot of red, not quite visible in this photo.

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But I could see it, so today made the trek through the “briars and the brambles” to the creekbed, and was rewarded! Was thrilled to see newly blooming cardinal flowers, on both sides of the creek.

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Got to view of the first flowers opening,

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the stalked bulbs of the buds peeling out into their graceful, majestic bird-shapes.

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Around the corner and down the path were more flowers, starting with purple and yellow coneflowers and Monarda.

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Then was taken by surprise by a deer close to this bench.

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Farther along was rosinweed,

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Tall Coreopsis,

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early goldenrod, the exact identity of which I haven’t been able to figure out,

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and wild quinine, the cauliflower-like white flowers of which were more widespread than I remember from previous years and mostly quite healthy-looking.

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Dramatic clouds billowed over the prairie.

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as I dismounted Rhododendron and walked into the prairie on the unpaved path.

Compass plant stalks with their version of sunflowers rose toward the clouds high above the other plants.

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A red-winged blackbird lighted at the top of one,

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then flew off.

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There was ironweed,

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the ever-photogenic false sunflower,

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and Culver’s root.

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And, lo, there was royal catchfly!

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Which was stunning close-up by itself as well as mid-distance, framed by rattlesnake master,

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or as the red splash in a prairie “bouquet.”

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It was the time of the two red prairie flowers, the zenith of the summer!

Noticed (cropped!) cream gentian foliage with the beginnings of buds but no blooms yet.

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On the way back to the paved path noticed white prairie clover

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and purple prairie clover.

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The progression along the inflorescence from pre-bud to bud to flower to spent bloom of both species looked like a flame moving from the bottom to the top.

The clouds continued to threaten rain, which came as I headed, entirely satisfied with the morning’s presentation, north on Race Street, toward home.

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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!

Saturday 10 June 2017. Worn Flowers at Meadowbrook

It was 66 degrees and mostly sunny at 6:09, on this morning of my father’s 90th birthday, as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and headed south on Race Street.

Stopped for a cabbage rose shot

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And checked the Amanita mushrooms, which seemed to be very much on the decline.

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Rode directly to Meadowbrook Park and stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek for the customary shot.

Farther down, in the willowy wet iris territory, Penstemon held forth, but with more brown than white flowers.

Near The Freyfogle overlook went to check the lead plant, which had been munched and damaged by (not unnatractive) beetles.

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But the beetles seemed to have eaten their fill and mostly gone, though who knows what was going on with their actual eating-machines, the larvae? This year, at least, it seemed there would be flowers.

Rode to the end of the path at Windsor Road and west on the sidewalk along the park.

There was a lot of green; the spiderwort were past the peak of their bloom. Yet there were some remaining fresh blue daily flowers,

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every bit as lovely as the first ones.

Along with the wizened spiderwort were soon to bloom rosinweed

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and green blackberry fruit.

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The early prairie flowers are finishing as summer, with its own anticipated bloom, draws near!

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.

Saturday 23 July 2016. Pink-Purple, Yellow, and a Bit of White in the Little Prairie

It was 72 degrees F at 7:02 am, with the unimpeded sun rays already starting to blaze.

Time was short. Pined for the royal catchfly at Meadowbrook and wondered whether cardinal flower might be starting to bloom there (as it is in my front yard, by happy circumstance!)

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So went as far as the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, which was crowded with tall, blooming prairie plants.

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Included on today’s roster were rosinweed

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and yellow coneflower, false sunflower, and black-eyed Susan, which are not pictured.

Among the pink-purple examples were purple coneflower, (not pictured) ironweed

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wild bergamot

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blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

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and an early-blooming aster

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near which also were white rattlesnake master and mountain mint.

Saw a nice brood of immature milkweed bugs clustered at the tip of a common milkweed pod.

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Then went on with the day!

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!