Thursday, November 13, 2014

In which I explain the radio silence, after the fact

I guess I should say something about where I've been for the past few months. It's no big mystery, really. Shortly after my last post in January, I was offered an interim administrative job in my college. It took up a lot of my time.

That's basically the story. Oh, except for the fact that I really enjoyed it, it was important and meaningful, and somehow, even though I didn't have time to post about gardening, I still managed to get a little in. I'll do a few posts soon to get you caught up. I'll tell you, for example, about my discovery of roses...

I didn't get much cycling in, though. Actually, I got absolutely no cycling in, and had to cancel my planned fund-raiser for the South Plain Food Bank. I regret that, but sometimes very good, very worthy things bump up head to head with each other, and something has to give. I made a hard choice and I believe it was the right one, though I didn't "feel good" after making it.

If we are paying attention in life, this is what we learn, isn't it? That the right decision can make us feel bad. We are programmed to believe that the opposite will occur, but that isn't how it always works. If we learn to embrace this knowledge, though, it can give us the courage to do the right thing. Courage is not usually about running into burning buildings. Courage is more often about making hard choices.

I haven't abandoned the food bank. Someday I'll do another fund raiser. In the meantime, I know that the work I've done this past year has been vital to my college. And that is a good thing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It isn't an adventure without the panic

This is me, scrambling to get some of my container plants into my orangerie ahead of the Polar Vortex.

It's really just a temporary greenhouse that I use for a shade structure, but I like the word "orangerie." It conjures up graceful villas in Provence or Tuscany--which, as you can see here, our humble estate clearly resembles, nutsedge and all.

I took the afternoon off from school because I worked on Saturday, and Sunday was spent draining the fountain and removing the drip timers from faucets so they wouldn't freeze, as well as a few hundred other household chores unrelated to the forecast. So today I took two or three hours to move the plants and pull the greenhouse cover over the frame and secure it. But now everything is snug, and watched over by the Guard Rabbit.

I did this yesterday afternoon, and last night I drifted in and out of sleep listening to the wind howling in advance of the cold front. It filled me, improbably, with a sense of satisfaction and calm--not because my plants and equipment were safe, but because the storm is bigger than me. It is the same feeling I get when I stare at the ocean. I find it a relief to be around something grander than all of my cares.

It is like this every year, isn't it? We stretch out the garden season for as long as we can, and then one day it is time and there is a mad scramble to get it all done before the freeze hits. In years past I was stressed out by it, but this year, it felt right somehow--the rushing around, the urgency. The cheerful panic. It is one way we know that we are alive. We need stress of the fun kind once in a while--it's why we like roller coasters, and skiing, and going downhill on our bicycles. Gardening, like life and roller coaster rides, just wouldn't be as much fun without a few screams.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Seen on the ride

It was a gorgeous weekend for riding. On Saturday I took my new cyclocross bike out to Lubbock Lake Landmark to ride the trail. It was bright, with a light, cool breeze:

Sunday was just as pretty, so I took the Ruby on a long and rambly spin. Everywhere I went, the light seemed exceptionally beautiful, but maybe I was just feeling grateful for the warm weather. Maybe I would have thought the same of ordinary, crappy light, just because it wasn't cold and windy for a change.

Nah. See for yourself:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Allez, pou-pou!

In the cult classic, The Rider, by Tim Krabbe´, the author describes spectators along the side of the road, shouting encouragement to the cyclists in a race. "Allez, pou-pou!" they say as the riders pass by.

Pou-pou is a nickname for Raymond Poulidor, a French cyclist in the 1960s who perpetually came in second in the Tour de France to an unpopular Jacques Anquetil. I suppose the spectators were calling out the name of any cyclist they knew, and Poulidor was one of the famous ones of the day. Or maybe Krabbe´ was dreaming what they said. He dreamed up a lot of things on that ride. The whole book, beautiful as it might be, is something of a hallucination, since it is the closest thing I've ever read that describes what goes on inside a racer's head in the middle of a long competition. In any case, I like the way the exhortation sounds. So...French. Fancy scarves and skinny baguettes, all wrapped up in the sort of funny, lilting endearment you might say to a child.

Allez, pou-pou!

Krabbe´ also recounts this story, during one of the moments when he isn't dreaming: The 1956 Giro d'Italia was so cold that rider Wout Wagtmans climbed off his bike in the middle of the race, went into a cafe´ and stuck his feet, shoes and all, into a bucket of hot water.

I thought about both of these things while I was out riding today, bundled up against the cold and damp. I wore toe warmers on my Sidis, but even so, I could imagine myself finding a warm cafe´ and asking for a bucket of hot water.

I could have stayed inside, I suppose, and ridden on the trainer. But besides finding the trainer mostly a bore, I felt I needed to test myself against the elements. In part, I'm preparing for doing another Bike Garden Challenge in 2014. No trainer miles will count, so I might as well start toughening up right now. Foul weather shall not stay my rounds.

The temperature today was in the mid-thirties, the wind a gentle, but chilling 10 miles per hour from the north. My feet were numb under the toe covers.

"Allez, pou-pou!" I whispered behind my balaclava, because on my bicycle, I am still a child. "Allez."

The Bike Garden Challenge is just around the corner. Get your checkbooks ready.