with the weather so nice, i wanted to get in a day of naturing this week and today was that day. i did some research late last night and originally decided to go to rocky woods in medfield (i've had great luck in the past, especially seeing newts in vernal pools) but found out they recently instituted parking fees at some of their reservations, rocky woods being one of them. now one of the reasons why i got into naturing in the first place was that it was a cheap pasttime, rarely had to pay to see the great outdoors. so out of principle alone i didn't want to go there. instead i picked the arnold arboretum. i haven't been there since 2012, and i heard they had a wintersweet plant growing there i wanted to see for myself. besides, i haven't done solo naturing in a while, this short trip to the arboretum would be the perfect outing to work my way back into the game.

i was in no hurry to leave, google map told me it'd take less than 30 minutes to ride to the arboretum. in hindsight this was a mistake as i found out later. i had a yogurt for lunch and didn't leave until 12:45pm. i went the usual way i'd take to get to jamaica plain. i'm always amazed that the posted speed limit on the jamaicaway ("of death") is only 25mph but everyone seems to be going 45mph or faster. i got to the main gate of the arboretum at 1:15pm, right on time.

i've really come to enjoy solo naturing. i can take my time, not have to be worried about anyone else. if i want to spent 15 minutes taking photo of some pretty flowers using a bunch of different lenses, i can do that guilt-free. i walked from the visitor center (which i've never visited) down meadow road, admiring the tulip and cork trees, and the profusion of colorful flowering azaleas and rhododendrons. i spotted a sourwood, recognized it from it's straight shape.

i took a westerly shortcut before i reached the ponds onto bussey hill road. that's when i smelled something heavenly. i looked around and found a non-descript bush with four-petal white flowers. the fragrance was familiar, smelled like jasmine. there was no tag on the bush. (i found out later through online searching that it's a sweet mock-orange Philadelphus coronarius).

walking counterclockwise up bussey hill, i saw lilac bushes that were mostly spent. there were other bushes with lilac-like flowers but they were all various species of viburnums, which have a different smell (very spicy, like cloves). i didn't have to read the tag to recognize a fragrant fringetree. nearby next to it was a chinese fringetree, less fringe more flower-like and no fragrance.

i continued up the hill until i came to the explorers garden along with the chinese path that featured numerous exotic asian plants. i should've came earlier in the season, to see the flowering plums and cherries and dove tree; now there are no signs of any prunus blossoms and all the petals of the dove tree had fallen, carpeting the floor in white.

here was where the wintersweet bush was supposedly planted. immediately i saw a very small plant with long oval bright green shiny leaves that turned out to be a wintersweet. the tag said it'd been planted back in 2016. this was not the wintersweet bush i came here to see: that one was supposedly raised by seeds and planted back in 1999. i looked around and nearby was yet another Chimonanthus praecox, about the same size, but nowhere did i find the larger wintersweet. i looked everywhere, even bringing up the interactive online map to pinpoint the exact spot but still no luck. after a 3rd pass i finally gave up. perhaps this winter it finally died, that's why the arboretum decided to plant 2 new replacement plants. it's a pity, because i was kind of hoping to score some seeds so i can start some wintersweet of my own. these small specimens probably won't flower until a few more years.

i kept walking up the hill until i reached the summit. i thought there might be a loop back but to return you follow the same path down. instead of doing that, i trampled through the grass and the shady canopy of trees northeast back to the lilac stands. that's when i discovered that bussey hill seems to be a popular spot for couples looking to either have a quiet picnic, sleep in the sun, or makeout. i saw no less than 3 couples, one of them a biracial gay couple, the younger black man seemingly giving his partner a handjob (i purposely didn't look too closely).

i didn't see the paulownia tree in the chinese garden, but here behind the lilacs were a few paulownias. it's one of my favorite trees, and i still shake my head when i think about that large paulownia that used to grow on beacon street before the owners chopped it down. the fragrant purple flowers look like it's made from soft fuzzy felt, even down to the brown sepals. i tried finding some seeds but all the seed pods were already opened and empty. i picked up a few things that looked like seeds but they're actually just parts of the seed husks or spent flowers. not that i could ever grow a paulownia tree, but if i had a large property, this would definitely be one of the trees i'd plant.

next to the paulownias was a farges catalpa. i've seen catalpas around the neighborhood (off the top of my head i can list at least 3 trees). regular catalpas have white flowers that resemble paulownia flowers. the farges has pink flowers with a maroon center and spots. it has no scent.

i continued on my way out of the arboretum, making sure to pass by the sweet mock-orange one last time. at the main gate i packed up my things, put on my jacket (which had been stuffed onto the back seat rest), and finally left.

the problem with leaving so late is coming back late as well. by the time i left it was almost 4pm. first obstacle was i was parked on the southbound lane of the arborway, and the nearest place for me to do a u-turn (to head north) was about a mile away in near bumper-to-bumper traffic (next time: park at the centre street entrance). once i was properly turned around, all was well until i got to the BU bridge where i ran into my second obstacle, a massive traffic jam which started well in advance at mountfort street and park drive. it was warm and even though i wore a long-sleeved pullover with a jacket, i wasn't that hot, more uncomfortable than anything else, having to sit in the sun in traffic, a rumbling engine between my legs, my gloved hands numbed from holding the clutch and brake levers for so long. i could feel people getting testy, as a minivan behind me pulled up ahead of me running red lights through an intersection to get to the other side of the street, only to get stuck in traffic. fortunately i was able to squeeze into some tight spots on the motorcycle, which saved me a few minutes but not much. the closer i got to the bridge, the more honking i heard.

even after crossing the bridge into cambridge, it was a traffic nightmare. instead of taking memorial drive, i rode into cambridgeport and got onto putnam avenue to get back home. putnam was okay until i got to the stretch between river street and western avenue, where all the cars heading north were making left turns at the intersection to get onto western avenue (and probably the turnpike). once i got past western avenue it was smooth sailing. but the lesson i learned here is always take into account rush hour traffic. having to cross through boston during that time is not fun at all. on a few occasions i thought about just dumping the motorcycle and walking home instead, which seemed faster. i envied people on bicycles, who could weave between the standing cars. i didn't make it back home until well after 5pm, more than an hour later.

first thing i did was to take a shower. all that trampling through the tall grass made me itchy with thoughts of phantom ticks (there were none). i weighed myself beforehand, i was down to 147 lbs., lost a few pounds from all that walking. earlier in the day (before i left), my $5 weme 4 USB 3.0 hub arrived. it worked as expected, no complaints. it also has a microUSB port for those times when a hub needs to be powered (like connecting to an external hard drive). why do i need a USB 3.0 hub? because the 2 side-by-side USB 3.0 ports on my macbook pro are spaced too close together. other than straight-up USB cables, anything else i plug in - thumb drives, card readers - end up taking up so much space that i can't access the second USB port. it's a minor annoyance, but when i saw the hub on sale, i decided to get it. if anything, i wish the hub was even smaller to be nearly inconspicuous.

i timed dinner so i could be watching another new episode of the expanse at 9pm while i ate. my father gave me a bag of 29 frozen chinese dumplings yesterday, i cooked up 20 of them. i wish i knew how to make dumplings (from making my own dough to forming the dumplings), there seems to be a lot you can do creatively with regards to the filling. usually the filling is either ground pork with garlic chives, or ground pork with cabbage. but you can really use any kind of meat. how about ground sausage? or ground mutton? i had to watch the expanse on my phone (like an animal!) because it's the only way i can live stream syfy. but tonight's main event was the series finale of the americans on fx. that i could stream via roku through the FX channel. it was nearly 1-1/2 hours of suspense, as many viewers (myself included) figured either philip or elizabeth would get shot or captured, or maybe agent stan beeman, or possibly one of the kids. that ended up not happening, it was a rare episode when nobody died, but a family was destroyed. that confrontation scene in the parking garage between the jennings and stan was so good, the culmination of all these past 6 seasons since 2013.