Monday evening, I went for a bike ride, my usual after-work-end-of-the-day route, 17+ miles to Greentree and back.
It was hot; about 95*F (which was cooler than last week when I rode in 106*F, but still, too hot for comfort), but other than the heat, pleasant enough since the wind was calm.
In fact, it was a great ride, maybe my best in all of June. Until I left Greentree and turned east toward home. With only six miles to go before dinner, I hit a new storm wind blowing from the east, sticking the wind squarely into my chest. It was the sort of wind that makes northerners long for their snow shovels and icy roads and load up the minivan like Grapes of Wrath refugees and head back home. My life descended into a pathetic struggle from that moment until I finally got home.
I should know better by now
As I was feeling sorry for myself because I had to fight the wind, it occurred to me - since I won’t be moving to another less-windy part of the country any time soon, and since I expect to keep riding for a long time, I might as well learn to enjoy it. Stop complaining; learn to own it.
Only a fool complains about the same obstacle over and over, as if surprised each time the same problem comes around. For example, complaining about the crowds at Christmas, or the price of gasoline, or the slow service at restaurants in a town with under 2% unemployment, or complaining about the wind. On the one hand, you shouldn’t be surprised at something that happens repeatedly; on the other hand, you should embrace it and learn to cope or go away and do something else.
The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 11:4 … “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” My choices are to keep my bike in the garage until perfectly calm days, that one week in October, or take on the challenge.
In her book, Long Quiet Highway, Natalie Goldberg wrote, “As I knelt in front of Roshi, about to scoop a ladle of rice into his bowl, he sharply, clearly said to me, “Eat the cold.” I took a deep breath, slowed down, and tried to open to the weather. This man wasn’t kidding around. Don’t run away, not even from cold – digest it, he was saying. And he meant this for all my life, not just the moment I was there.” She was in Minnesota, in winter, at the time. Her teacher was telling her to embrace the hardship and stop making excuses.
Me too. I must learn to think of myself as a wind-fighter, a wind-bender, a heat eater. Stop allowing heat and wind make my decisions for me. Granted, sometimes it is too hot to be safe, or too windy to be safe, but that’s rare. Usually it is about being uncomfortable, not dangerous.
Monday evening, while cycling east into the headwind, on Mockingbird, I was passed by one, then two, then three young flatbelly riders. They were finishing up their group ride, headed to Midland Classical parking lot where they’d left their cars. My first question was – Are they fighting the same wind I’m fighting? – and then my second question – How can every single one of them pass me like I’m stationary?
I don’t know why Monday’s ride was so taxing. I’ve handled worse wind and worse heat and suffered less.
I’ll admit part of me longs for the challenge of wind or heat or cold so I can prove I’m a manly man. The 17th-Century French writer, Rochefoucauld, once wrote how “the wind blows out candles and kindles fires.” Sometimes I need to know if I’ll be kindled like a fire or blown out like a weak candle. And as far as personal testing goes, cycling in the wind isn’t the hardest of challenges I face.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32