Sunday, August 31, 2008

Draining the Dregs of the Summer Cup

When the cool of the pond makes you drop down on it
When the smell of the lawn makes you flop down on it
When the teenage car gets the cop down on it
That time is here for one more year

And that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life

- Jonathan Richman
Riding in my new surroundings of Western Massachusetts has been extremely rewarding. Even with starting my new job and being out of town five of the thirteeen days we’ve been based out here, I’ve managed to squeeze in just over 145 miles of riding, and I have to say, nearly every one has been more beautiful than the last. It seems we’ve got the best of New England right outside our new door. Well, all right!

I’m also becoming a little more proficient on the hills, which is a relief. I’ve found some long, steady climbs on which to build my strength and technique. I no longer hate the idea of serious hills quite so much. I still have a long way to go before I can scurry up them with confidence and pleasure.

All this pleasurably strenuous riding is bittersweet, though: Tomorrow is September 1. Just as last year, I feel like I’m hitting my stride just as autumn and the rigors of the work world kick in. I find myself worrying whether my new job will allow me to ride as much as I have in the year since I got back on the bike. So far, when I’m high in the hills on a beautiful day (like today – high 70s and clear blue skies), I’ve managed to force the question to the back of my mind and focus on the satisfying work at hand. But there’s no denying the larger point. I once wrote a song about this time of year, and one of the lines is, “Summer’s not gone, but it’s gone too far.”

I hate that feeling. I’m not one of those “eternal sunshine creates a desert” people. I like the desert; I lived there and loved it. There’s no such thing as too much sun and sweet, warm weather, green trees, lake-swimming and campfires.

Yet “bittersweet” means there’s also a nice side to it, right? On the long, flat section of my ride today, from about 50% to about 80% of the way through my route, I was inspired to really look around me and use my senses to squeeze the drops of beauty out of one of the last classic summer days this year.

I noticed the way the snakey sound of the bearings in my hubs bounced off the walls of the long barns I rode by, classic brick-red paint faded by years of sun, set against a perfect backdrop of shimmering river or fields stretching out for miles.

I noticed the lift in my spirits as the small mountain range near my house hovered into view, like great whales drifting on an ocean of tree tops.

I savored the sweetness of the cool, earthy breeze emanating from the forests along the road on a warm day, how the trees almost seemed to want to help me along by offering a little refreshment.

Friends, don’t miss the dregs of that lovely summer cup; it’s playing right now, on a long stretch of road near you. Get out there and notice and savor; roll it around on your tongue. We’re not kids anymore, and summer doesn’t last forever like it used to.

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