Thursday, June 25, 2015


My last post opened with a rather shamefaced apologia for writing yet again about cycling and wildflowers. "Defaulting to the easiest topics", I called it, while bemoaning the general crowdedness of life that kept me from writing "something more". I felt, you see, that I was somehow settling for second-best by posting so often about things I enjoy.

But since then I've been asking myself: why shouldn't I write repeatedly about the things that give me joy? Why should a post seem inferior or less thoughtful because the subject matter is not new? Does quality require novelty?

In this age of perpetual distraction, some might answer "yes". But I tend to disagree. Many of my favourite authors write what is essentially the same book again and again, and I enjoy them for their very reliability. The same holds true for many blogs that I follow.

To take it a step further: do we blog for ourselves, or for others? I suspect that for most of us, it's both. If for ourselves, what could be more natural than to focus on what we love? If for others, then again - what could be more natural than wanting to share the funny, the beautiful, the interesting, with our friends? If that which we find lovely or amusing tends to follow a certain pattern, our friends are aware of it, and like us in spite of it (or perhaps because of it).

In Dorothy L. Sayers's Gaudy Night, the protagonist Harriet Vane is a writer grappling with conflicting desires. Emotionally scarred, precariously self-reliant, she finds herself drawn towards a new love, but distrusts her own motives. Desperately wanting to be sincere to herself, to her work, and to the man in question, fearful of making a wrong decision, she asks an acquaintance: "How is one to know which things are really of overmastering importance?"

"We can only know that," says the acquaintance, "when they have overmastered us."

Harriet reflects on this. Was there anything at all that had stood firm in the midst of her indecisions? Well, yes; she had stuck to her work.... She had written what she felt herself called upon to write; and, though she was beginning to feel that she might perhaps do this thing better, she had no doubt that the thing itself was the right thing for her. It had overmastered her without her knowledge or notice, and that was the proof of its mastery.

When I started this blog I had no idea that along the way (and due in part to the kind influence of blogging friends) I would re-kindle an old love for cycling, or discover in myself an absorbing fascination with the natural world in general, and wildflowers in particular. But it has happened. And now, as long as ever I am able to get out-of-doors, to walk on two feet or ride on two wheels, I will be watching sky and earth, noticing trees and flowers, wanting to record their beauty and learn their various names. As long as I have a camera and access to a computer, I will be wanting to share these delights with my friends (that means you). To quote Miss Sayers, these things have overmastered me without my knowledge or notice - and that is the proof of their mastery.

So I'm beginning to realise that when life gets crowded, and I find myself posting largely about rides and flowers (or in cooler weather, walks and trees) - and spending precious time researching those flowers or trees in order to get their names right - it is not, as I feared, a settling for second-best, or a falling-back on the safe and predictable.

Instead it's a sifting, a getting down to essentials. It's a laying aside of the things I'd like to write about (if time allowed) in favour of the things I must write about (whether I have the time or not). It is writing what I feel myself called upon to write.

More than once I've said to a blogging friend, "It's your blog - write what you want!" Seems I need to learn to take my own advice. The recipes and patterns will keep, after all. Today it's the flowers that matter.

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Do you blog, or post photos on Instagram or Facebook? Do you strive for variety, or can you happily post whatever you want, whenever you want?

Do tell. :)

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Monday, June 22, 2015

More Rides, More Wildflowers....

To read my blog at this time of year, you might get the impression that all I do is ride my bike and take pictures of wildflowers (and come home and research them on the computer before blogging about them). Of course I do other things too - but life seems rather crowded just now, with not much room or creative energy left over for blogging or blogreading. I'd love to write more thoughtful posts, more recipe posts, more crochet posts - but to do that I'd have to give up some of the essentials, like sleeping or working for pay or spending time with Mr. M. None of these options being viable, I'm doing what I think all bloggers do at times - defaulting to the easiest topics until time and energy allow for something more.

(There will be some free patterns posted soon. I hope.)

Meanwhile, here are some photos from recent rides.

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Sunday, 2 weeks ago - An evening ride.

There's a fugitive sweetness in the air that I can't identify. It doesn't seem to belong to any of the flowering trees I'm familiar with. Perhaps it's the sweetness of summer-to-come - the earth breathing out thoughts of warm days and balmy nights when the garden plants grow an inch or two before morning, and flowers blaze like small suns from every roadside.

Tonight I am riding down several side roads I usually pass by. Dead-end roads - though each and every one turns out to be longer and more interesting than that name would imply.

On one of them, a flurry of feathers. Relics of an avian battle? I wonder:

Up the road, some new-to-me white flowers are glowing in the shade of the trees and shining out from the verge. I think they may be hawthorn! (Which may not seem exciting to those of you across the pond who see it all the time - but this is the first time I've come across it.)

The last of my dead-end roads ends here, where grey clouds are massing over the lake in dramatic fashion:

Then I turn and head back in the other direction, towards skies that are still mostly blue, with peachy-white clouds piled like mountains on the horizon:

Here there is a long marshy pond edged with wildflowers - some showy, some not. The most easily spotted is the vibrant Dame's Rocket:

Not so easy to see is this tiny Pineapple-weed, a close relative of wild chamomile:

Its blossoms look like chamomile flowers without the petals, and its leaves when crushed give out a pleasant, pungent scent that reminds me of chamomile tea.

Also blooming here are the miniscule white flowers of Common Chickweed, or Stellaria (their much lovelier Latin name):

And Common Cinquefoil, with its delicately lovely heart-shaped yellow petals:

These small and insignificant plants (Pinapple-weed, Stellaria, Cinquefoil) are common to roadsides, gardens, and lawns. Often they're treated as weeds, and plucked up to make way for the more favoured plantings of grass or nursery annuals. But they have a beauty of their own that is worth recording. Someone has to hymn the humble flowers....

Speaking of humble flowers, here is one that I've been misidentifying for a few years now. I thought it was Mouse-Ear Chickweed, but turns out it's actually Hoary Alyssum. Toxic to horses, invasive, but ravishingly lovely all the same (especially when viewed up close):

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Tuesday, two days later. A bright and beautiful day, abounding in wildflowers.

Yellow hawkweed and wild grass under the blue sky:

Flowery plumes of Meadow Rue, just beginning to open:

The extraoardinary colours and delicate beauty of dock blossom shading from green to red:

Golden Alexanders, the cheeriest of tiny umbellifers:

The exotic beauty of a simple red clover:

And another new one for the list, Northern Bedstraw:

The first Orange Hawkweed of the year (and it's a good thing I photographed them when I did, for the next week they had been mown down):

A fascinating patch of reddish grass contrasts strongly with the green field behind it:

Anybody know what this is?

The rest of this Tuesday ride is spent in actual exercise (as opposed to flower photography). :)

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The following Sunday, I'm back on the bike for an afternoon ride. The Meadow Rue is now in full bloom, with multiple tiny stamens tossing in the breeze:

And as a change from looking down, a red-winged blackbird on a wire:

A lovely barn and outbuilding (the barn has a new roof since I've seen it last):

The last of the Winter Cress:

When we stop for a snack, Tallulah takes a whiff of banana, but decides to give it a miss:

Miles on, I fall in love with this adorable barn that looks like something out of a story book:

Here's a more upstanding barn, rugged and weathered:

And one last shot. The Meeting of Two Turtles:

A glorious ride on a warm sunny day.

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The 2015 wildflower count is up to 67. (At this rate, I may end up with more wildflowers than miles.)

Now that I've nearly caught up on cycling posts, maybe I can work on one of those free crochet patterns.... :)

How are you?

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Three Rides

At last, at last, the cycling season is picking up speed. Though we're still having our fair share of thunderstorms and rainy days, betweentimes the sun is shining and I'm getting out on Iris (my vintage bike) whenever I can.

The wildflower count is steadily rising - over 50 varieties spotted already, and it's only early June! I wonder if there's any chance of reaching 100? If I can't ride a century this year, the next best thing would be to log a century of wildflowers....

Here are some photos from last week's rides.

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Monday mornng: Sunny but with an icy wind blowing. I set out to do a snappy 20-miler, but since it happens to be a beautiful morning ... and there happen to be new flowers blooming ... and I happen to have my camera with me ... the ride is somewhat shorter than planned. But that's okay.

Salsify, or Western Goatsbeard:

(Marigold, have you been to Wisconsin without telling me?)

Daisy Fleabane, a tiny pink-to-white aster, just opening up:

White yarrow:

First spiderwort of the year (look at the lovely shadows cast by the stamens onto the top petal):

Spiderwort Outtake, or, What Happens when the Camera is Held Upside Down and Focuses on the Wrong Thing:

Up the road are the piggies-at-pasture (a rare breed being raised by our egg supplier's nephew). When they see me go by, they come running over for a look. I stop for some photos, and they stand grunting in a friendly fashion while I snap away:

Across the road and up the hill, the Swamp Buttercup is blooming:

Bucolic farm scene with Salsify and Dame's Rocket in the foreground:

And, as a break from flower photos, a shadow shot. Blogger and Turtle on a Bike:

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Tuesday is balmy and bright. Sun and wind are much warmer today - perfect cycling weather.

The sun is warm enough, in fact, to send all these cattle huddling into the shade:

Windmills on the high prairie:

Today I am riding a new stretch of road. It dips into a shady valley lined entirely on one side by huge Cow Parsnip in all stages of bloom. The plants are as tall as I am (some taller), and grow right up to the edge of the road.



And fully open:

The statutory shot-from-beneath:

Honey Locust trees are blooming, sending drifts of pure sweetness through the air:

The first wild roses of the year:

Cattle in silhouette:

I think this is a gravel pit (though "quarry" sounds nicer):

A long and pleasant ride.

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One Friday we're back to gloomy and cold. This is a duty ride (to help burn off a high-fat dinner from the night before). I take the camera just in case, and a good thing too.

Kitty in the ditch:

In another ditch, an entirely new-to-me flower:

Hoary Puccoon. Another one for the list! The flowers are bright gold and trumpet-shaped - so pretty they deserve a more euphonious name. But Hoary Puccoon seems to be the only one available, so we'll have to go with it. (The Latin name, Lithospermum canescens, doesn't sound any better.)

One last shot of my favourite almost-tumbledown shed:

A busy week, so I feel very lucky to have gotten three rides. Short and sweet seems to be the motto for this year's cycling. I would like to be putting more miles in, but better short rides than none at all.

What's your favourite form of exercise?

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