Wednesday before last week was my first autumnish bike ride of 2017. It was 62* and raining; cool enough for long sleeves but not cold; required vigilant cornering and braking; it was fun, not scary. I’ve been caught in the rain before, in the middle of a ride, but this was my first time to leave the house with rain already falling.
Traffic was light so I didn’t have to worry much about splashing or skidding cars. My brakes were mostly ineffective but I was on a familiar route and never felt in danger. It would have been peaceful except I had to keep wiping my glasses so I could see. I tried taking them off but then the rain drops kept hitting my eyes, which added pain to the not-being-able-to-see handicap.
My first thought upon returning home from the ride was this: I need better rain gear. I was wet all the way through and covered in muddy back-spackle. I undressed in the laundry room and stuffed my wet clothes straight into the washer.
“Open up, heavens, and rain. Clouds, pour out buckets of my goodness! Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation; sprout right living. (Isaiah 45:8 MSG)
Maybe I would get tired of it if I lived somewhere else where it rained every, but I don’t, and I never have, so I look forward to rain. And not only to rain, but the coolness of fall. I’m anxious for cooler weather by September (no, really, I’m ready for cooler weather by the beginning of July). I tire quickly of 100* sunny summer days. I’m always ready for fall.
But back to my Wednesday ride - I’ve been reminded by well-meaning friends that there are alternatives to cycling in the rain, namely using a stationary bicycle in the protected comfort of a gym. But a stationary bike is just exercise. I want to move down the road. I want to play in the rain.
One reason I enjoy riding in the rain is the same as why I also I like running in the rain. I like the anonymity. When I have my earbuds in and my iPod playing a great podcast only I can hear, and I’m snuggled into my rain jacket shell safe and cozy, I’m happy. I don’t even mind the rain falling or the cars splashing. I’m safely shielded from the prying world.
Anonymity isn’t the only reason I like rain. As it turns out, some of my most foundational not-giving-up moments happened in the rain.
My first marathon finish was in 1983, the Golden Yucca Marathon in Hobbs, New Mexico, and I finished alone in the rain. The finish line officials saw me coming, ran out from their camper and stood under an umbrella while recording my number and time on a clipboard, then ran back inside, leaving me standing by myself in the rain. I didn’t mind. The rain masked my tears of pride. That race is still part of my life story, and when I talk about running and the influence it’s had on me I always mention it. I went on to finish eight more marathons but that first one was the most transformational. I still wear the effect with pride.
Another example? My first time to hike up Tejas Trail, my first backpacking trip into the Guadalupe Mountains, was in cold drizzling rain. The fog was so thick I couldn’t see down the mountain behind me or down the slope beside me. All I could see clearly was one turn above and one turn below. It was spooky.
I kept stepping in water running down the trail, which was not a good sign. Water seldom runs anywhere in the Guadalupes, so seeing water on the trail meant the rain was coming down even harder up higher, and I was just seeing part of the runoff. Not only that, the higher I climbed, the more the temperature dropped, and the wet ground alongside the trail soon became dusted in snow. Eventually, snow began to cover the trail, and the low spots in the trail were often filled with cold slushy water.
But I was proud of myself for continuing. I had put this trip off for too long and I had no intention of turning back because of a bit of cold snowy rain. It was an amazing afternoon. Although, I didn’t understand how amazing until later while standing under a hot shower back at home.
He covers the heavens with clouds, sends down the showers, and makes the green grass grow in mountain pastures. (Psalm 147:8 TLB)
Cyndi and I both enjoy rainy weather. We usually open the doors so we can hear and smell the rain, especially when we’re sitting in our usual places around the library table working on projects. The sound and smell makes us smile. Both of us.
Sometimes I’ll go out on our porch (or piazza, or veranda (depends on my mood)) and sit in my rocking chair and read and let the sound of rain lull me into peace and quiet. The steady patter overtaking all the noisy chatter in my head. Like Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “Listening to the rain can help the mind come to stillness.”
This week the temperatures have climbed back into the 80’s and 90’s, which is way too warm for October. The forecast hinted rain, but so far, no joy. Bummer. I miss autumn already.
How about you – do you like rain? Does it settle your mind? If not, what does?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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