Saturday 14 October 2017. Patience Rewarded with the Last Bottle Gentians

It was about 64 degrees F at about 7 am under clouds that were breaking up, occasionally letting the sun through.

My schedule lately has prevented me from biking much, alas, but today there was nothing to stop me from riding to Meadowbrook Park to catch the last of the bottle gentian bloom, if, in fact, there were any flowers left.

So headed off on Rhododendron, riding south on Race Street.

Stopped at the place where Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been abundant for the last three years, at least. But did not see a single one.


And one of the spruce trees looked quite bad. It seems like yet another result of stress from recent droughts. This blog is documenting a little piece of a larger phenomenon. Alas.

At Meadowbrook, there was about to be a walk/run to raise money for breast cancer research and support; pink signs were posted about the trail.


But did not run into any crowds.

Saw water again (at last, rain) in McCullough Creek below the rabbit-statue bridge.


Then rode along the path toward the Marker statue and the bottle gentian site. Looked on the way among the willows where I saw some bottle gentians last year, but today there was no sign of them.

The prairie was still green underneath, and above the tree leaves had not turned color, but overall it was somber. Many goldenrod plants were snowy with seeds and their vehicles .

Saw a deer out where the Liatris had earlier bloomed.

Then at the Marker statue looked for the gentians. At first, there seemed to be nothing but dry grass and flowers gone to seed. And I felt sad; could they really have left no trace after two weeks?

I lingered and kept looking, even though it seemed unlikely that more looking would produce any gentians.

Then spotted a single worn bloom, and was grateful for that.

Keep looking, and in a while found a cluster of blooms, worn but still beautiful, as old gentian flowers are.

Then, for the sake of revisiting a spot where I’d seen gentians before, I checked it, and amazingly found one plant, then another.

Then went back to the first place I saw them and as if by magic, there were more, and fresher flowers.

It was comforting and uplifting to see them all. The end was coming but had not yet arrived.

Then walked Rhododendron onto the soft path (where bikes and dogs are prohibited but where I recently saw both a guy riding a wide-tired bike and a guy walking a handsome chocolate Labrador retriever. At low volume it might not actually be a problem. I walk my bike; maybe that doesn’t count, I don’t know.

Along the soft path were wintry manifestations of flowers: rosin weed,

compass plant

the curled leaves of which were like illuminated manuscript decorations,

stiff goldenrod, I think,

with clouds above, and Baptisia

with black pods but still plenty of green foliage.

Even found an outlying remaining cream gentian bloom.

Note the cropped stem.

Got a closeup of a dry, prickly compass plant stem.

Then crossed the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek and headed back,

feeling a sense of impending conclusion but still nourished by the short- and the longer-lasting forms of the landscape.


Saturday 19 August 2017. First Cream Gentians, Last Royal Catchfly

It was about 64 degrees F, the sky spread with a diaphanous but ragged sheet of cloud this morning at 6:03 as I guided the newly re-born Rhododendron (which has been riding “like butter,” thank you, Neutral Cycle!) toward Meadowbrook Park.

August has been dry and wondered whether any royal catchfly or cardinal flowers would remain. So my quest was to see what they looked like at this stage of summer.

At Meadowbrook walked Rhododendron toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie. To the east, the wooded area looked parched and damaged,


reminding me of some recent events in my life and in the world at large. Is this the direction of everything? Is entropy winning already?

But walked on, over the little wooden bridge spanning a dry bed of McCullough Creek.


As I walked in, there were wingstem,




wild senna,




delicate big bluestem flowers,


the last Baptisia flowers,




compass plant,




tick trefoil,


cup plant


the ever-handsome false sunflower,




And then, cream gentian.


And then, lots of cream gentian!


Just under the “vegetation line” they were in recent abundance, the clusters of pointed white flowers, pristine and vigorous. Wondered whether the recent lack of rain was especially favorable for them.

Wondered whether there were any royal catchfly left; did not see any from the path. But walked in a little where I knew they’d been and looked carefully and there they were, the last of the bright red stars.


Saw a lovely cluster of wild quinine flowers lit by the rising sun


The prairie was resplendent with the early sun slanting through the mist on this floral array! Thoughts of damage were banished.

Close to the end of the soft path, encountered a deer (maybe more than one; it’s getting hard to remember), a frequent, but because of their size always noteworthy, occurrence at Meadowbrook Park.


At the end of the soft path where it joined the paved path near the little arch bridge over Davis Creek were blooming wild sage, in their striking shade of light blue.


On the way to the rabbit-statue bridge saw cardinal flowers, advanced in their bloom, at the recently discovered easy-access location.


Stopped on the rabbit-statue bridge and saw still several spikes of red!


Did not go in; was glad at least I’d been close to the red flowers a little earlier.


They were marvelous, even at a distance.

Then home.

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.


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.


Got to view of the first flowers opening,


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


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


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


Farther along was rosinweed,


Tall Coreopsis,


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


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


Dramatic clouds billowed over the prairie.

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.


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


then flew off.


There was ironweed,


the ever-photogenic false sunflower,


and Culver’s root.


And, lo, there was royal catchfly!


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


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


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.


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


and purple prairie clover.


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.


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.

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.


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


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.


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

Oh well. Nice enough.

Did get a nice yellow coneflower-misty sunrise.


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


spherical pink common milkweed blooms and already-red blackberries.


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


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.

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.


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,


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


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


Farther on, saw a sign I thought was rather humorous


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!


There is something special about this place.

Then rode to where the road bent to the north

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


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.


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


Stopped for a view of the beautiful Salt Fork


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,

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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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.


A little farther on got close to a deer.

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!!


They looked well, maybe thanks to the burn.


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


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


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

img_4922 and also apparently removal of growth from the forestry plantation (not wild but still green), allowing more empty space to view the monotonous (by comparison) fields behind it, across Race Street.

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.


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


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,

img_4930that spring and summer Meadowbrook soundtrack.

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.


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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.


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

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.

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