Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monday Ride

Every year at about this time, the inner Mrs. M begins to dread the approach of autumn. All it takes is a glimpse of these...


...and summer seems all but dead already.

Why do I associate goldenrod with fall? I have no idea. Yet its appearance every August fills the Micawber soul with sorrow. I try to ignore the yellow peril as it spreads across the countryside, covering marsh and field, but resistance, of course, is futile. Summer will end (blogger emits tiny hiccuping sob). Fall will come. And after that, the seemingly never-ending cold of a Wisconsin winter. It happens every year. We're doomed.

All the more reason to ride while I can. :)

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A warm and sticky Monday morning, but there's a strong wind blowing to mitigate the dampness of the air. Though rain is in the forecast, for now the sun shines brightly.

A few miles out of town, small peach-tinted blossoms peep out of green bushes on the far side of the verge. Usually these bushes are hidden by tall grass, but the verge has been freshly mown, giving a glimpse of the tangled growth beyond.

The flowers remind me of tiny speckled orchids. The wildflower book identifies them as Spotted Touch-Me-Not, or Jewelweed. Don't they look exotic?

More signs of impending autumn:

Much better to focus on this cheery orange milkweed, or Butterfly-weed:

(Why do so many of the most beautiful wildflowers have "weed" in their name?)

Miles later, a trio of birches guards the entrance to a shady drive which rises from the road and curves tantalisingly out of view. Where does it lead? I wish I could explore it....

The road climbs up towards the high prairie. If you were sitting on my handlebars and looking back over your shoulder, here's what you would see:

(Red-faced rider, green and gold cornfields, telephone wires stretching away into the blue distance. Not to mention the orange jersey and the purple helmet. Very colourful.)

At the top of the road I have to stop for a photo of the corn, which is taller than I am:

Across the road I spy some orange Hawkweed. This is one of my favourite wildflowers, but I've hardly seen any this season (though the yellow variety has been extremely prolific). I love the fringed, flame-coloured petals with the sun at their hearts, the burgundy-tipped buds, and the bright yellow stamens:

The hawkweed is growing in a large lawn which surrounds a rather nice barn:

Though the lawn has obviously been recently mown, the hawkweed plants have been spared. I think whoever lives here must be a kindred spirit. (Either that, or hawkweed grows really, really quickly.)

Around a few corners, then it's time for a shadow shot:

I had thought the swallows were already gone, but here on the high prairie some remain. They swoop and swirl over the road, or sit on the wires above the ripening corn:

This is the time of year when wild sunflowers and their many cousins smile from the roadsides and shine out from the tall grass:

Miles on, the Queen Anne's Lace is still going strong. I'd never noticed until today that its buds can be pale pink:

Here the verge is covered with QAL:

In the few miles left to go, I think of the flowers I've seen this season, and the ones I've missed. Every summer is different; a variety that takes center stage one year may be barely visible the next. But what a blessing to live, and be able to ride, where so many wildflowers thrive; to learn their names and their various haunts. When autumn comes and the flowers have gone, I'll still remember where they stood. Here was a glorious stretch of Queen Anne's Lace, I'll think, and there a huge patch of wild bergamot. On this road the blue flag iris grew; on that hill I saw the bittersweet. Up there is where I found an apple tree in bloom, and across the way a carpet of violets. The daylilies were nearly solid along this stretch; remember the wild geranium in that wood? The familiar roads will blossom with the ghosts of April and May, June and July; and when spring comes again and the flowers return, it will be like meeting old friends.

A good ride.

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