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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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.

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 6 March 2016. A Proper Loop of Meadowbrook

It was 30 degrees F under mostly clear skies (with scattered patches of fog) at 6:30 this slow morning.

Did not feel intensely present as I brought Discovery II out for a ride to where I wasn’t even yet sure. Just felt vaguely heavy and sad. The only thing to do was to surrender to it, moving forward with a measure of confidence that things would fall into place. Just pointed Discovery II toward the south and pedaled, soon realizing that the destination would be Meadowbrook Park.

Saw the sun-disc large in the spaces between the houses and trees to the east, but there wasn’t a good place to get a good photo. Let that one go, too.

Again was confronted with the changes around Meadowbrook Park, the expansion of Clark-Lindsey Village

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Rode right by the “wonky Christmas tree” without stopping.

Then a small flash of color caught my eye; the shiny green trunk of a sapling (seedling? Is there something in between?) next to blackberry canes.

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Against last year’s thatch
The thorny blackberry canes
Zig-zagged and glowed red.

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Then at the rabbit-statue bridge,

img_4927Meadowbrook Park unfolding on the before me was like smelling salts (which even of my years I understand only from movies). Felt the familiar awakening, the embrace of the landscape and its elements. Lovely peace!

Heard the sound of fairly recently-arrived red-winged blackbirds,

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Also high in the trees were squirrels, so common (and often not especially welcome). But these three so high up looked to me like strange birds.

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Stopped at the Freyfogel Overlook to get a view of this morning’s showing of the prairie.

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A little way down the path saw an unusually shaped plant remnant,

img_4935 the result of a fungus hijacking the plant’s physiology for its own purposes, or maybe it was a wasp nest. A little more investigation would have distinguished between those very different possibilities, and I apologize for being such a lazy biologist, but today was content to appreciate its visual aspect.

And before finishing the loop saw several smallish deer at close range.

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Was glad to have had yet another Sunday morning visit to the familiar and always new and different, beloved Meadowbrook Park.

Sunday 14 June 2015. Inter-Urban: to the Center of the Universe (Philo) and Back

It was 73 degrees F at 5:35 am (still haven’t managed to be out at first light, alas, regardless, it was effectively early), the sky mostly cloudy, but with gaps.

Yesterday’s ride to Tolono inspired me to do another inter-urban–if a near one–to Philo, the (or “a”) purported (according to its water tower) center of the universe.

Did stop for cabbage roses.

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And for the mushrooms,
under the wall of spruce trees, which have been continuing to emerge.

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Maybe they’ll keep coming up till frost. Is this new or had I just not noticed before? Another preconceived notion (the here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of mushrooms) possibly biting the dust.

Sped to and over McCullough Creek (but hit the brakes before the turn) on the rabbit-statue bridge at Meadowbrook Park and came back to get a shot of the rising sun over the high water.

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There were spiderwort, Penstemon, Baptisia, purple coneflowers, and apparently unperturbed deer among them.

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Most exciting was the appearance of the long-awaited lead plant blooms!

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And then on to Philo!

The wind seemed to be coming from the southeast, the direction in which I was headed. Maybe that contributed to the difficulty I had settling in to enjoy the ride. It wasn’t terribly uncomfortable, just not quite “fun.” But was reasonably confident that things would improve, as they always have, to date.

On the way to the crest of Yankee Ridge was amazed at how quickly the corn had become so tall and such a dark green.

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Farther south, a dog barked as I passed a very “architectural” house on Yankee Ridge Road, but seemed to recall this dog and that it didn’t give chase last time, bark notwithstanding, and kept pedaling, without incident.

Took Champaign County Highway 18 east; it was mostly clear of cars. Turned south on State Highway 130, for the short distance to town; it also was pretty clear. By this time felt wide awake and comfortable, enjoying the quiet roads.

Rode into Philo on Fillmore Street and then behind some grain elevators on a road that became rather gravelly, to get a shot of the water tower.

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Which, if it’s too small to read, says “center of the universe” (no “the,” by the way). Which reminded me of the quote (associated, from my Google search, with Nicholas of Cusa, Pascal, and Voltaire, at least) “God is a circle (or sphere) whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” I leave it to the reader to track its actual source.
Turned back as it started to sprinkle. Didn’t expect the rain to amount to much, but tucked the iPhone into some knitting in a zip lock bag deep in the middle of my backpack, just in case.

On the way back saw a goldfinch in the middle of Yankee Ridge Road that did not fly away when I approached. It was obviously injured, maybe dead. On closer inspection could see it was alive

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and wondered whether I should move it to the side of the road so it wouldn’t get run over by a car. Had nothing and could see nothing with which to pick it up so just grasped it with my hand to move it. Well, it didn’t seem to recognize or appreciate this “gesture of kindness” and squawked and struggled to escape with all its remaining might. Wondered whether it actually might have been more humane to let it get run over. I thanked it, futilely, for its beauty and rode on.

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On the way back stopped for a shot of the edge of a cornfield at Old Church Road near Philo Road.

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Liked how it defined the slight roll of the land, which is so lovely but hard to convey in an ordinary photograph. In central Illinois, the landscape is all about subtlety.

Planned to ride past Meadowbrook without stopping on the way home but had to catch the “bouquet” of flowers near the northwest corner, next to the new Clark-Lindsey houses.

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I hope the people who live there are able to enjoy the gorgeous landscape just outside their door.

Thursday 11 June 2015. Oriole and Baptisia

It was 70 degrees F this morning at 5:30, the sky spread with a thin layer of cloud.

Went for a quick spin to Meadowbrook Park on Discovery II.

Observed the abundant yellow and the few pink cabbage roses and apple tree but did not stop for photos.

Did stop to check on the Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees.

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There were a fair number of them but spread out, not in large clusters or rings, and many seemed rather beat-up. Not like the amazing display of last fall.

Rode to Meadowbrook, sped over McCullough Creek on the rabbit-statue bridge and came back to see a Baltimore oriole on the point of land just above where Davis Creek empties into McCullough.

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Not a great photo but still documentation.

Rode on the path with abundant spiderwort and locally abundant Penstemon to my left and right. Saw a deer up rather close to the left any a little farther down there was one to the right.

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They did not mind when I stopped rather close up and looked at them. In fact, the second one (no antlers but large like a buck) dropped his head into the vegetation, presumably to eat, without worrying that I might be a predator. Thought of the word “unperturbed.”

Farther down the spiderwort were so lovely I just had to have another photo of them.

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Just to the northeast of the little arched bridge over Davis Creek caught sight of a stately common milkweed just coming into bloom.

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Checked the lead plant near the Freyfogel Overlook, but there still were no dark blue-violet flowers.

Did get shot of sun-dappled spiderwort, however.

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Close to the Windsor/Vine bridge saw Meadowbrook’s first false sunflowers of the season.

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And along Windsor road, where the prairie had been burned, were abundant flowers: Penstemon, spiderwort, Baptisia (whose spikes of white flowers were just starting to appear across the prairie) and purple coneflowers.

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Could also see leaves of prairie dock, tall Coreopsis, rosinweed, and rattlesnake master.

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Summer approaches!

Friday 5 June 2015. Under the June Fog

This morning at 5:10 it was 66 degrees F, the sky with wide, thin streaks of clouds, many tinged with pink.

My scheme to meet the sunrise every morning in June has not gone exactly according to plan. It’s harder to get up and squeeze everything in than I recall it used to be; what can I say? Observe, accept, move on.

Rode Discovery II and headed to Meadowbrook Park.

Saw the cabbage roses

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and “my” apple tree, which had, along with lots of little apples, some dead branches, alas.

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Noticed a discrete patch of fog at Race and Florida, like a little cloud that had landed. But didn’t get a photo.
Saw another patch behind the spruce trees where the many fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms had been last fall.

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Was curious as to whether there might be some spring mushrooms there, and in fact, did see a mushroom.

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But it was a fly agaric, the same kind as
carpeted the ground under the spruce trees last fall. And then saw more, some quite good-sized. Was surprised; thought mushrooms were restricted to a certain season. It was like seeing Christmas decorations up in June. Wondered if they just weren’t finished with their fall emergence when the cold weather came and were determined to complete it.

The fog was patchy and thick in places.
At Meadowbrook, it made for dramatic views of McCullough/Davis creeks

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and of sunrise over the prairie.

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There were several enticing views.

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Quickly got a photo of a dew-spotted blue flag iris.

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And then of a deer standing back in the fog among the spiderwort. Mysterious.

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Checked the lead plants (Amorpha canescens) by the Freyfogel Overlook.

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The flowers still were not yet open, though the clusters of spikes in bud were an attractive pink themselves .

So on this June morning was priveliged to witness the green prairie, sprinkled with blue and white flowers, and resting over it was the fog, like a comforting blanket.

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Felt comforted being out in the June fog.