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Despite the drizzle of a dreary day, we decided to walk with the dogs.

Ellis, our youngest, is home for a quick visit, and he chose Lodge Park.

I opened the hatchback, and Cullen, the brown dog, jumped right in. Ursula, the black dog, is showing her age, and she tried but couldn’t make it. Michael hefted her up, where she settled on the plaid dog blanket next to Cullen. My husband is gentle with the aging puppy.

Ellis reminded me to grab a couple of umbrellas, and we were off.

We’ve had so much rain this past week after a dry spell that the world is like a sopping wet sponge. We woke to a thick fog and dripping trees, even though rain was not really falling. It was as if drops were materializing on all the surfaces, including on our faces and hands.

When the fog burned off mid-morning (or not really burning — more like dissolving), the sky was still a heavy gray, and everything was still drenched. We drove through a gentle mist and arrived at the nearly empty park. The dogs hopped down out of the car, and we began our exploration.

Across the lawn, we found the stump of an oak tree with some fungus growing out of it. Could it be Chicken-of-the-Woods? I’m never sure enough to taste it.

Lodge Park is bordered with big evergreen trees of a couple of different varieties. Fairy circles of mushrooms circle the huge trunks. According to my iNaturalist app, these might be Yellow American Blusher mushrooms. I’ll have to wait to get confirmation from those in the iNaturalist community who are more expert than I am.

We walked under our umbrellas, though the mist hit us in the face as we walked. It was refreshing.

The road we take winds through the woods and cozies up next to the river. Sometimes we walk down in the trail that takes us to the river bottom, but the river had breached its banks and spread through the woods almost up to the road.

The trees — great maples, oaks and sycamores — waded up to their hips. The leaves have just started to turn, yellows and pale oranges made brighter against the dark, rain-soaked trunks and limbs. When the breeze shook the branches, yellow maple leaves floated down like giant, golden snowflakes.

I became a little obsessed with the patterns of the rain-slick leaves spread over the pavement and on the forest floor, lagging further and further behind. I followed two of my favorite guys, one under a purple umbrella, the other going bareheaded, a brown dog and a black dog trotting along beside them.

Meanwhile, Ellis showed me a new game on the phone: “Pikmin Bloom.” It’s a walking game that lets you plant little virtual flowers — or maybe they’re little guys that bloom — in a real map.

Anyway, they bloom, and you can later collect them — or leave them there for others to collect. Ellis planted a bunch of them in Lodge Park. I hope I can learn how to play before he leaves.

I’m a little ambivalent about it though. Why do I want to be looking at virtual plants on my phone when I’m walking around in the park with leaves and nuts and mushrooms?

Later, we went to the Indian food market to buy tea, so our boy could show us how to make chai the way his sweetheart does.

At home, he called for a pot. I gave him a teapot, but that wasn’t what he wanted: “Like you boil spaghetti in.” Next, he put half a mug of milk and half a mug of water for each of us, stirred in three teaspoons of tea, “plus one for the pot.” He added some spices and sugar and brought the mix to a boil. He let the milk boil almost to the top and then lowered the flame to let the milk calm down. Following Dev’s advice, he did this three times. Then he strained it into our mugs, and we sat down for a nice afternoon tea.

Walk in Beauty; Visit in Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland letters in The News-Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal-Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can see pictures about this week’s post on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of the Journal-Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856. She wants to thank her friends for writing and will answer you all soon.

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