Saturday 15 July 2017. Meadowbrook Summer Prairie Crowned by Royal Catchfly

This morning at 6:07 it was 59 degrees F under party cloudy skies, the air calm.

Just returned from several days in the Colorado mountains (yes, they were awesome!) and was eager to see what what the summer prairie bloom at Meadowbrook Park was doing.

Rode Rhododendron the road bike southward to Windsor Road and barely stopped before pushing the button and crossing. They seemed to have worked the bugs out of the system, hooray!

Then entered Meadowbrook at the Race Street entrance, passed by the Sensory Garden, and walked the bike toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

On the way, at the edge of the wooded area next to the pavilion were American bellflowers.

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McCullough Creek under the little wooden bridge was low and pooled. Was there some kind of dam upstream? The water level seemed to have gone down quickly.

Out in the prairie, looked for queen-of-the-prairie where I’d seen it a couple years ago but couldn’t see any this morning. Did not walk out into the dew-drenched vegetation to look more carefully.

But saw the early sunlight coming through the thin layer of mist that still lay over the prairie

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and through the condensation on the flowers and leaves of the prairie plants.

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Saw spiderwebs finely beaded with dewdrops.

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There was a gorgeous variety of prairie flowers blooming in synchrony, like a massive bouquet:

False sunflowers, Monarda,

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yellow coneflowers, Liatris,

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Culver’s root.

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Compass plant, with its erect, finger-like leaves,

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large, bursting-yellow radiating flower-discs

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stacked on its outrageously tall stalk,

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alone and in groups,

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was compellingly photogenic.

There were abundant rattlesnake master and mountain mint

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purple coneflower.

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Best of all, the royal catchfly were newly in bloom! They were stunning in bunches,

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close-up,

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and in combination with other flowers.

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On the way out got pretty close to a buck who seemed to have planned to walk right to where I was.

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Was not afraid he would charge me or something, but did have respect for his size, strength, and independence as “wild” creature. So I calmly stood where I was and tried to look at him in a way that conveyed: “No worries, dude, I’m not a threat,” and he veered off to the left.

Got a nice view of the sky over the prairie

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and headed back, stopping first for a view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Was glad to be there for the presentation!

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Sunday 2 July 2017. A Perfect Ride to Windsor Road to Homer Lake Road

This morning at 5:30 it was 65 degrees and clear, with a 2 mph breeze from the WSW, calm enough to head in pretty much any direction. So headed Rhododendron in toward Windsor Road (which I was pretty sure was free of loose dogs) with the goal of going a ways east.

Was glad to get a reasonably early start without sacrificing headstand or Pranayama, and pedaled smoothly through the perfectly comfortable (with the light cycling jacket) morning air to Windsor Road.

And there was Meadowbrook Park, which I hadn’t planned to visit, but thought, why not? and soon was taking a photo of the sun coming up over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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A mud bar separated Davis Creek from its connection with McCullough Creek.

The cup plants on the on the downstream side of the bridge stood vigorous and illuminated with the sunrise.

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A layer of mist rested on the prairie and spread out the light of the climbing sun.

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The air was scented with mint and bergamot.

Wondered if the willowy wet area harbored queen of the prairie but didn’t see any. Did spot a swamp milkweed, but didn’t stop for a photo so I wouldn’t miss the sun rising over the remaining mist.

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Might have gotten a really nice shot of the deer in the mist if I’d arrived at the site two minutes earlier.

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Oh well. Nice enough.

Did get a nice yellow coneflower-misty sunrise.

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Stopped at The Freyfogle overlook and saw fresh Culver’s root with mountain mint,

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spherical pink common milkweed blooms and already-red blackberries.

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Noticed how lovely were the lead plants,
which seemed to thrive despite a recent onslaught of insects.

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Then rode out of the park and straight east on Windsor. The air was calm, except for a “biker’s breeze”, and the grade seemed to go up for stretches (though mostly down), which promised a reasonable return ride.

Was filled with the joy of early morning out in the country in perfect weather.

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Did not expect quite this perfection and tried to let as much of it in as possible. Yes, yes, yes!

Rode past a ditch where I remembered seeing a family of raccoons.

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There were no raccoons today, but it’s always fun to peer down into a stream, a different world from the surrounding farm fields.

Above the creek banks, near the road, were abundant soapwort blooms,

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exotic weeds, but so softly pink and fresh and dewey.

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Even these plantain weeds looked like stately sculptures in this morning’s fine light.

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Farther on, saw a sign I thought was rather humorous

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The dangerous hill actually was hard to detect. Ah, my beloved central Illinois!

Then crossed a little tributary of the Salt Fork (of the Vermillion River)
where I think I always have seen wood ducks whenever I’ve been there, adults and ducklings, no less. Looked into the water, and there they were!

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There is something special about this place.

Then rode to where the road bent to the north

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A little way and then “T’d” into Homer Lake Road.

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Rode east a little way, crossed the Salt Fork, and stopped at the nicely landscaped marker of the historic site of Kelley’s Tavern, where it says Lincoln used to visit.

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The bloom seemed different from what I recall from last year. Lots more milkweed.

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Stopped for a view of the beautiful Salt Fork

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Then turned back and retraced my route. There were horses fenced on the southeast corner where Windsor Road met Homer Lake Road, and the tail of one caught the morning sun as swished and spread wide its long horse-hairs. Didn’t manage to get a photo, but the glittering image stayed with me as I returned home on this pleasant ride, pleasant to the end.

Wednesday 21 June 2017. Sunrise on the Solstice at Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 5:15 this morning of the first day of summer and the longest day of the year!

Was thrilled (and amazed) to have gotten myself going early enough to be heading to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron ahead of the phone weather ap’s promised 5:23 sunrise.

Did as little as possible (alas, no Pranayama!) to get out to witness the Solstice sunrise at Meadowbrook.

Sped to the park and caught the sun at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Over the bridge and around the corner looked to the north out into the prairie and saw a thin layer of mist on the ground, which enhanced the atmosphere of the sunrise.

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Tried not to tarry on the path but noted spiderwort, the occasional lingering Penstemon bloom, black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, lots of purple coneflowers in early bloom, and emerging Baptisia, with its stately white spikes of blooms that play tag-team with the Penstemon’s white flower spikes.

Got another view of the sunrise over the little bridge across Davis Creek

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and a sunrise view of a handsome Baptisia spike.

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But the flowers in which I was most interested on this solstice ride were the lead plant at the Freyfogle overlook.

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Which, against the slings and arrows of insect attack,

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were well into their micro-gaudy deep blue-violet and orange bloom.

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On the bird house to the north of the overlook were perched unmoving tree swallows, and in front of them (not pictured, alas, you have to trust me), a bright yellow and back goldfinch,

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that amazing stimulator of human endorphins. (At least for some humans. If you’re reading this you probably are one–try focusing on a goldfinch for a moment next time you get a chance and see what happens.)

Felt like I stood firmly and with joyful awareness on the summit of the year. Hooray! Let the summer begin!

Saturday 3 June 2017. Greeting the Early Sun and Catching the Abundance of Spiderwort and Penstemon

It was 67 degrees F under mostly clear, mostly calm skies at 5:17 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and toward South Race Street.

Was determined to be present to receive the gift of additional daylight and thus additional time with which to take in the outdoors. I am a morning person but this year have not quite managed to get up with the birds and not squeeze in too many little activities to make it out the door before official sunrise. Until today!

The bike felt smooth and easy, and the morning was fresh and of a perfect temperature, but today I felt very much not quite awake. As an inveterate morning person, this does not happen to me very often, but when it does I think of the night-people who have to be awake early for something unusual and am sorry for my past insufficient empathy for their situation.

Stopped not far into the ride for the irresistible pastel cabbage roses

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and the fuchsia-colored sweet peas

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Looked like there were lots of little apples on “my” tree.

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Saw some Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees,

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but not tons of shiny, new, succulent specimens.

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Saw also a couple individuals of another species,

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which looked healthy enough.

At Meadowbrook Park, was delighted to welcome the rising sun.

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Stopped at several spots to take it in, over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge

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and down the path a little way

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Wondered whether there still would be blue flag irises, and, oh, there were!

Framed by prairie dock leaves,

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and close-up.

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The park was empty, the morning fresh, already mint-fragrant!
the Penstemon

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and the spiderwort

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therapeutically abundant!

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Stopped at the Freyfogle overlook

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to check on the lead plant, which were in bud, but, alas, bearing a collection of robust shiny reddish-brown beetles on their foliage.

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Fervently hoped the beetles were just resting there or at least readily sated with little damage to the plant’s integrity.

Rode on through gloriously abundant white Penstemon and blue spiderwort. The landscape was deeply soul-filling. Was happy to be smack in the middle of another stage of the year that’s anticipated before it comes and missed when it’s finished.

Near the Vine Street entrance to the park got a shot of the abundant serviceberries

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Then rode west on Windsor to check the lead plant at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, which more than ever looked in need of stewardship,

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so overgrown with invasive exotics. But the lead plants looked well enough.

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Did not want to walk through the overgrowth to check for beetles on these.

Rode south on First Street, which felt mostly uphill! My hip muscles were starting to tire though knees and shoulders were happy enough. At 900 S, turned back.

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On the way back stopped at the roadside prairie garden, which featured spiderwort, lace-edged (not an official name, just a description) cup plant,

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butterfly weed

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and a small, less showy milkweed.

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Spied a great blue heron while crossing over a creek on First Street. Parked the bike and carefully walked back to the bridge, Just in time to see the heron take off.

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They sure are wary.

Got a shot of a dickcissel (had been hearing lots of these “mini-meadowlarks”) on a fence post.

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The way home was mostly downhill, which I gratefully enjoyed!

Friday 14 April 2017. Glorious Meadowbrook Spring: Shooting Stars, Bluebells, Jacob’s Ladder

It was 51 degrees F at 6:15 this morning with the sun about to rise. Had planned to swim but when the guards were late and the pool not yet open just opted for a bike ride to Meadowbrook Park to see if the prairie was starting to awaken.

(It was!)

But first saw the neighborhood’s madly-flowering trees,

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Like this crab apple.

At the Vine Street entrance of Meadowbrook Park saw serviceberry (what’s the story behind that name?) with cottonwood catkins dangling above.

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Crossed the Vine street bridge over McCullough Creek and saw frogs and fish stirring under the surface of the water.

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Then rode on the path that paralleled the creek and in the recently managed area south of the organic garden plots was surprised to see Jacob’s ladder (thought fewer than in previous years) still there and almost in peak bloom.

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Was drawn in by the more common but lovely ephemeral Virginia bluebells on the “forest” floor.

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Toward the west end of the organic garden plots saw a full, beautifuly blooming (crab?) apple.

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Turned south along Race Street toward the sunrise over McCullough Creek at the customary viewing spot,

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as well as the early light shining on the nearby rabbit-statue

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Rode down to the entrance to the “soft” path and saw shoots of rattlesnake master, edged with dew drops, emerging through the thatch of last year’s prairie growth.

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A little farther on got close to a deer.

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Actually there were two deer, the other not visible here.

The area around the path to the inner prairie had been burned, and it was easy to see from a good distance the patch of shooting stars near where the path split into three.

Welcome, welcome shooting stars!!

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They looked well, maybe thanks to the burn.

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But farther down the path where I used to see pink shooting stars there were none, alas.

The little compass plant shoots were, however, making the their way up from the ground

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Then rode homeward, admiring the line of blooming crab apples across Windsor Road.

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Was glad for today’s change of plan.

Sunday 25 September 2016. Mushrooms, Bottle Gentians, Goldenrod

It was 66 degrees F at 6:45 (missed official sunrise (6:44 am, which, according to the phone weather ap, today exactly mirrors the predicted sunset of 6:44 pm) by a minute, the sky with some big, puffy clouds and a bit of distant fog.

Was eager already last night for this morning’s ride with anticipation of bottle gentians and whatever today’s manifestation of the leading edge of autumn might be.

Rode Rhododendron south on Race Street, headed for Meadowbrook Park. Cast a cursory glance under the spruce trees where there had been not a single mushroom two weeks ago and was amazed to behold a well-developed population of Amanita muscaria!

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When did they arrive? Was glad to see them again!

Tried to content myself with a couple of shots,

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but it was so difficult to not continue to try to capture their delightful arrangements.

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Made me wish that fairies could make use of the luxurious accommodations.

Rode onward thinking of large white mushrooms I’d seen from a distance last week and just wasn’t able to stop for them. By the time I could return, they were gone. Also thought of the pawpaw trees in our BACKYARD, for crying out loud, whose fruit I’d lovingly observed developing up in their branches earlier in the season, picked up the first one to fall, anticipated pawpaw cream pie, and then saw not a one the next time I made it back there to check on the crop. There is so much to miss out in the world! Which is just to emphasize how precious are the things we catch, when we can catch them. I wonder if the treasures of the past become a burden when we expect them to return, when we seek to repeat some special event, to fit them in among new experiences. Maybe their true value lies in being unique and unrepeatable. Still, the unexpected return of something missed (like the Amanita mushrooms, is a special joy!

Saw the sun disc while waiting at the annoying stop light at Race and Windsor.

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Getting used to the new generation of traffic signals is proving to be ridiculously challenging to my patience. As such, a good spiritual exercise, if I stay with it.

Knew the cardinal flowers would be finished (except maybe for a few blooms, to which one would have to get very close to see) but stopped for the customary view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Hard to believe that two weeks ago the same place was full of color.

Proceeded to the “upland cardinal flower site,” where there probably still were turtlehead. Knew the cardinal flowers would be gone but was greeted, as if in consolation, by bright sneezeweed.

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Walked in toward the turtlehead and saw pink New England asters

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Purple New England asters against goldenrod,

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and turtlehead against goldenrod

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Saw strange little pink flowers at the end of thin stems

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which, per the suggestion of my husband, appear to be cinnamon willow-herb (Epilobium coloratum).

And then, to my amazement, saw gorgeous blue, healthy-looking bottle gentians!

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pretty as a picture.

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A world with cardinal flowers and bottle gentians surely can’t be hopeless.

Caught the unmistakable scent of mint (still!?!) and sure enough, there the mountain mint were,

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thought for some reason the white flowers were hard to get into focus.

Got a view of the still-lush common goldenrods with the fog-softened sun rising above them.

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Just across the little arch bridge over Davis Creek got a view of the blue wild sage, few flowers of which remained at this point, but still the plants were stately and healthy-looking.

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Close to the Marker Statue were different shapes and shades of yellow.

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Seem to have missed the peak of the tickseed bloom, but the remaining flowers still shone like little suns.

Looked with a little trepidation, (recalling the chewed ends of the plant’s from last time) for bottle gentians near the statue (gentians just don’t jump out at you–you have to go look for them at the foot of taller plants) and eventually did find some.

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They were not so vigorous-looking as the ones At the devious site, but there were a fair number of them,
and there were plenty of developing buds.

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Still, a lot of them looked ravaged,

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which I don’t like to dwell on but did want to document.

Also documented the trailing edge of the cream gentian bloom.

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Got another view of goldenrod, this time amid Indian grass.

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Goldenrod draw one in to their foamy, feathery, shapely yellowness. They are invasive (but native!), yet they can make a disturbed patch of land look glorious for a few days. Was glad to have been there or to miss the prairie’s last golden hurrah!

Friday 5 August 2016. Not One but Two Meadowbrook Cardinal Flower Places!

Actually made it out a little before (5:35) the sunrise this morning,

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when it was 70 degrees F, the sky party cloudy, though the phone ap claimed, erroneously in my exact location, that it was raining (?).

Rode to Meadowbrook Park to see whether the cardinal flowers had appeared and also whether the cream gentians (of which I’d seen the beginning of buds) had started to bloom.

Took the Vine Street route and saw the bifurcated ash tree at the edge of Blair Park,

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which was still mostly leafy. Close to it was a newly planted tree. Was not sure that it wasn’t another ash. Ashes, ashes, so many are falling down….

At Meadowbrook took the loop around the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie

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in a clockwise (not my usual) direction. Was happy to see the colors of the dawn sky over the prairie again, after what seemed like a long time.

Rode fairly directly to the Freyfogel observation deck, where there were tick trefoil

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and a bumble bee getting what it could from an old wild bergamot flower,
full green pods of white wild indigo

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as well as dark, ripe ones,

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aging Culver root,

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tall Coreopsis and two of the “Sylphium sisters” (compass plant and prairie dock) in the same frame,

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and foliage but still barely buds of cream gentian.

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The false sunflower were present and photogenic as ever.

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Liked the human-like forms of rattlesnake master flowers.

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Noticed a lot of “browning” in the flowers;

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wondered whether it was more than maturity, maybe disease.

The sky over the prairie was gorgeous and dramatic this morning.
and it was hard to resist taking lots of photos.

Got a modest shot of the Marker statue with a good sky behind it.

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Whether or not you like the sculpture, I think one has to admit that it really interacts well with its environment.

Saw gentian leaves near the statue

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but wasn’t sure whether they were of the cream or (blue) bottle species. Soon there should be flowers that will tell.

There was more dramatic sky farther along the path

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and then, when I went to get a close shot of the Liatris by the two little trees, saw some blue vervain and, wonder of wonders, in the place they had been for several years, then not for at least the past two, there were cardinal flowers!

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There were at least two different plants with the red flowers!

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Ah, the joy of having let go of something loved and then for it unexpectedly, against hope, to have it return!

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Yielded to the draw of another shot of the sky

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then stopped briefly at the rabbit-statue bridge to check the cardinal flowers there.

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There they were (if you look really carefully!). But was content not to get into the stickers to be close to them; was just glad they were there.

Felt overflowing with the abundance and generosity of my surroundings, this place, this day!