#4 at Indian Creek Nature Center

Whether you love or hate the biannual clock changes, this is a good time to visit the analemmatic sundial. All you need is yourself and the sun. It is a fun reminder that time is a measurement of ourselves on our planet rotating around the sun. With the analemmatic sundial, you become the gnomon, and your shadow tells you the time. No watch or cell phone needed.

I am standing on the center stone, on the “March” spot, and it is indeed 9:45 on a bright but chilly morning.
Laying out the sundial requires aligning with true north, which is the fixed end of the axis on which the planet rotates. Our compasses indicate magnetic north, which fluctuates a fair bit in its precise.
Setting the stones in the right location involved the help of dedicated volunteers.

This sundial was created in honor of long-time volunteer Tom Cleveland. Tom loved sharing his passion for people and for nature, and time often slipped away when you were talking with him. Creating this nature-based interactive element that is both fun and educational is a fitting tribute to a great person.

#3 at Indian Creek Nature Center

Watch a sunrise. Each one is unique. Some are dynamic, some are subtle. You might hear the driving rain and thunder, or you might hear the geese and swans waking up along the river. Right now, the red winged black birds have returned to the Lynch wetland and are calling. If you get out of your car and go further into nature, you will find that you are surrounded by songbirds, and you will feel the tiny air currents their wings make as they fly past you in the predawn darkness. You will see the frost form on the prairie grasses. You will wake up with Nature. It is a transformative way to start the day.

#2 at Indian Creek Nature Center

Curl up with a good book and a cup of tea or hot chocolate in the bird room. The chairs are comfy, the bird feeders are full, and you can listen to the birds while you read. If you have already read Katie Mills Giorgio’s 100 Things to Do in Cedar Rapids Before You Die, I recommend reading Connie Mutel’s book Tending Iowa’s Land: Pathways to a Sustainable Future.

Connie shares a collection of essays from thought leaders in the convergence of agriculture, people, and nature. Iowa is one of the top agriculture states. Along with the money that sustains our economy from the corn, soybeans, pigs and chickens comes eroding soil, contaminated water, and habitat loss. Connie recognizes the real agriculture challenges that brought us to the place we are now and explores how we build a future that sustains the land and the people.

#1. Explore how others live in the snow

We play in the snow and plow the snow and watch the snow fall, but we don’t actually live in the snow. This is the perfect and ephemeral opportunity to check out the lifestyles of those who call the subnivean zone home. The zone is the band of snow that lies on top of the ground, creating just enough space to provide warmth and safety to a surprising variety of wildlife.

The subnivean landscape. The etymology of the word comes from the Latin roots for “under” and “snow”

Throughout the year, we frequently see the larger mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels and opossums. The littler critters, such as mice, typically scurry beneath our notice unless they enter our houses. This time of year, we can see exactly where the voles, shrews, moles and mice are going. They tunnel just above the surface of the ground and beneath the snow, leaving evidence of their routes and habits. A special thank you to Indian Creek Nature Center Executive Director John Myers for sharing this adventure. 100 Things to do at Indian Creek Nature Center

100 Things to do at Indian Creek Nature Center

Late last year I attended a party to celebrate the launch of my friend Katie Mills Giorgio’s new book, 100 Things to Do in Cedar Rapids Before you Die. I asked her if the whole thing took place at Indian Creek Nature Center. Spoiler alerts: Katie shares more than 100 cool things to do in Cedar Rapids, and the Nature Center is only featured on one page in the book.

The conversation made me wonder, just how many cool things are there for guests to do at Indian Creek Nature Center? We are going to find out. Because this is a blog written in brief snippets of time and not a well-organized book, cool nature experiences will be in absolute random order. They will probably be tied to the seasons, because, well, seasons are the basic themes of nature. Feel free to share your own ideas, and if you don’t live close by, there is probably a natural area near you at which you could do cool things.

Pagodas in Iowa

The pagoda dogwood is a shrub with an exquisite form, if given the space to grow freely in the sunlight.

Its Latin name Cornus alternifolia describes its leaf patterns. Almost all dogwoods have opposite leaves. The pagoda dogwood has alternate leaves, though the leaf shape and texture maintains a strong resemblance to other dogwoods.

If you want to see some of the wide variety and beauty dogwoods can come in, visit: https://vovazinger.wordpress.com/2022/05/21/cherokee-brave-flowering-dogwood/

Just make sure the dogwood you are planting and encouraging is native to your area.

April 2022: May 6 skunk cabbage walk

This should really be called “what’s happening up Bena Brook” because there is a lot of awesomeness in the woods right now. Some treasures were experienced but not captured digitally, including the four-leafed prairie trillium; the young equisetum; the violets, the iron bacteria in the brook; and, the gray catbird tending the skunk cabbage meadow.

April in the Bena Prairie (2022)

Over the past year, I have enjoyed this commitment. Showing up once a week, more or less, at the same place to take the same picture.

The prairie shifts. The wind sways the grasses in and out of frame. Green stubble emerges from the black and grows up tan. Clouds form, dissipate, and reform. I love the clouds.

It is a place I love, and will continue to visit regularly. There are a lot of other spaces vying for my attention, and it is time for this project to come to a close. I hope you enjoyed the journey with me.

April 2

April 7

April 10

April 23

Early Spring 2022

As if aware of the equinox, the first snow trillium of the season has flowered. It is usually the second native woodland ephemeral to emerge, after the skunk cabbage.

The mullein has also emerged. While the plant won’t flower for months, its big fuzzy leaves have a great deal of medicinal value. It is not native, but grows readily in disturbed, barren ground, helping stabilize disturbed soil.