Day Three Hundred Forty-seven

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Much Better!

My walking heart soared when the meteorologist promised this morning that today’s weather would be much better than the “brutality” of the past few days.

I went back to Frankfort Square, Illinois, and walked a different portion of the Island Prairie and Indian Boundary Park. This is the third time I’ve walked here this week because I love all of the songbirds and appreciate that the paved path is plowed!

Island Prairie-Indian Boundary SouthIt was so nice to be back outside and enjoying it!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

The Horizon, Vastness, and Memories

The Daily Post, in this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon, asks the question, “Is there a particular horizon that speaks to you?” I would have to answer that question, “not really”, but as someone who grew up spending many a summer day in western Michigan along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, I first thought of that horizon. The lake seems more like an ocean than a lake, especially to a child, and the sharp line where water meets sky has always intrigued me.

Back then, the water always seemed so infinite, until the day a brisk east wind took my new beach ball “to Milwaukee” (as my Dad said), and I realized that the lake, although great, was finite. Later, when my dad gave me an old camera of his, it was the lake and the horizon that were my favorite subjects, and I took plenty of overly dark and blurry sunset pictures. My dad took better pictures of us too with that horizon as a backdrop, and those pictures bring back great memories. As an adult, I realize that it’s the people and the memories that I cherish, not just the scenery behind us.

When I thought about taking this challenge, I set some parameters for myself. My gallery of pictures includes only pictures from my walks in 2013. As an ode to the horizon of my childhood, the first group includes pictures taken along the shores of Lake Michigan, from three of the four states that border it: Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

It’s the “things” in these pictures that makes them interesting: the things in front of the horizon, the things that break up the horizon, and the natural wonders like clouds and waves. I’ve enjoyed looking again at these pictures with a new eye and remember those walks well. It brought to mind other, different walks that I also remembered and enjoyed.

One of the things that surprised me most through these past ten months of walking is just how beautiful the flat grasslands of Illinois are. The interaction between prairie and sky is different than the sharp horizon line between water and sky, but has an infinite beauty of its own.

As I look back at the pictures from these walks, I remember the beauty of creation: the colorful fields of flowers, the waves of the grasses, and the vastness of the sky. But, I also remember who was with me on each walk and that we had a nice time, and that’s what speaks to me.

Those memories are as important as the scenery.

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My son, enjoying the vast quietness of a closed road, at the Midewin National Prairie.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

Sea of Grass

Sara Rosso, in the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, challenges the reader with the following: “In a new post specifically for this challenge, share a photo which means SEA to you!”

Since I live on the prairie with no watery sea nearby, I headed to Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area and walked next to the type of seas that I see on a daily basis–seas of grass.

Goose Lake Prairie State

This sea, instead of having the sounds of crashing waves, has different sounds, sounds of grasshoppers, crickets, and cicadas.  This sea, instead of gulls and pelicans, has goldfinches, swallows, and pheasants.

This sea has mostly the sky in which to find blue, but the greens, purples, and yellows of the tall-grass prairie definitely have a beauty of their own.

I took these pictures on Day 247 of my daily walk.

Day Two Hundred Twenty-one

Heron Haven

We went back to a favorite spot on a favorite trail–the Old Plank Road Trail between I-57 and Ridgeland Avenue. This part of the trail runs through an Illinois Nature Preserve and marsh. Last summer we biked through this area a few times, and this marsh was almost completely dry due to drought. We were glad to see the water back this summer and all of the water birds that flock to it.

Heron Heaven 1After seeing, but not identifying, a smaller heron last week, I was really hoping to see one today and brought the binoculars and camera, just in case. We spotted a snowy egret first and then a couple of great blue herons.

We had just about given up hope when I saw something to the north of the trail, and my husband saw something to the south. Both were green herons. They are quite colorful with their reddish-brown necks, but not really all that green!

Heron Heaven 2Now I’m getting greedy; I want to see some of the other small herons that are in the region!

IMG_0867On the way back to the car, I couldn’t resist taking yet another picture the I-57 overpass. Behold the colors of summer!

IMG_0876Good day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Nine

IMG_0796“Midewin” Means Healing in Potawatomi

My husband, youngest son, and I traveled today to the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, in Wilmington, Illinois.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is turning the former Joliet Arsenal back into a prairie.  It is still a “work-in-progress,” but what a beautiful piece of open land!

Midewin

We walked along the closed Old Chicago Road to the Turtle Pond and seedbeds (fenced in to keep out the deer).  We saw butterflies, goldfinches, loggerhead shrikes, and very few people.

Midewin2There is more of this peaceful place to explore, and we’ll be back!

Good day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Seven

IMG_0771New Park Success

Today, my son and I checked out a new park in a nearby town.  The property has been vacant and underused for over twenty years.  For the past few years, the village hosted a community garden on the property, but from what we could see, they mostly used the property to store wood chips.  This year, however, they constructed a park, and it opened this spring.  It’s lovely!

A 3/8 mile bike and walking path travels around the perimeter of the park.  At four spots along the walkway are interpretive signs that explain the different ecosystems of the area:  tallgrass prairie, wetlands, forests, and farmland.  Within the park itself is something for everyone:  a playground, a splash pad, a community garden, a sensory garden, and a basketball court. They did this park right.

At first my son walked with me, but then I sent him to go play while I continued walking.  As you can see below, I checked on him often as I made my way around the park’s walking path (he’s in red, swinging away).

Swing and a WalkIt was nice to give him a little independence; he did great. (He has Autism Spectrum Disorder, but is, thankfully, high-functioning.)   I didn’t end up walking much though before he was ready to go because someone else showed up to play at the playground.  He remained calm, came running over to me, and said that it was time to go.

I’ll put that in the success column.

Good day, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Four

Wetlands and Park

After returning some items to the Tinley Park Library in Tinley Park, Illinois, my son and I walked extensively around the library and the adjacent Freedom Park. The park and the library have some really pretty wetlands along their border.  The park and library share the area with a Metra commuter lot and pay tribute to the Rock Island train line at the park.

Freedom Park

Our weather has cooled off a bit, and we really enjoyed our time here.  We even had the playground to ourselves for awhile, allowing my son to swing and me to try and capture his exuberance by experimenting with my camera settings.  It went a little better than it has in the past. . .

IMG_0733. . . but I still have much to learn.

Good day, good walk!