Posts Tagged ‘biking’

Bikers in Austin. I am almost this cool.

You are not going to believe what is happening in Austin today. I am sitting in the library by the window, my hands wrapped around a warm cup of coffee, and I am watching the rain drops fall from the trees.

That’s right. It’s been raining for two days now and the world could not be a better place. Life in Austin is looking up.

It’s true that the rain was a bit inconvenient. For example: last night was national “look at the moon night” and when I dragged some new friends over to the lake, we discovered that for the first time in two months, it was cloudy. For the first time in two months, I should say, there was no moon.

And it’s true that I showed up to several important meetings with mud sprayed up my back and my clothes dripping wet, something that used to be standard fare but that hasn’t happened in a long time now. Today was the first opportunity in months for me to perform my “superwoman” transformation, from mud-splattered bicyclist to professional young adult.

(The texans, I should say, were impressed.)

But what the rain lacks in convenience it makes up for in general good will. Biking to campus yesterday, I started thinking that my soul responds to rain just the way a plant does. The grim is washed away, and I can stand up straight again.

I know you’ve been flooded for weeks in New England, and I know that excessive rain leads to mildew and disaffection. But after two months of sun, I’m embracing this chance to curl up in an armchair with a hot beverage and a good book.

Because by next week, it’s sure to be back in the 90s again.

70 degrees and cloudy in Austin. 75 degrees and clear in Somerville.

Hannah: 8 out of 10. If I wasn’t so overloaded with work I’d probably be jumping with joy.

*Photo credit to rkphoto.com


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Back in October of 2008, at the end of the fall season of environmental education, we threw an end-of-year celebration and staff party that happened to coincide with Halloween. That was the year that I wore my most inspired costume ever: a lampshade rigged up on top of my head. Partygoers were invited to pull the cord dangling by my ear. Nothing would happen.

“Oh dear,” I’d say. “I must be burnt out!”

Speaking of burning out, I was pretty exhausted last week after an epic writing run. So I took Thursday and Friday off and put myself through a strick four-day recharging regimen.

Task One: Read a novel. I chose Swamplandia!, which I purchased even before reading all the media hype because of a loose affiliation with the author. Enjoying a luxury I haven’t taken advantage of in years, I read for two days straight, failing to leave my apartment between 5pm Thursday and 9am Saturday morning. It was total immersion in the hot, humid, mosquito-ridden Florida swamps — the perfect escape from a cold winter of writing in New England.

Task Two: Go on an adventure. The final third of Swamplandia! is a hallucinatory near-death expedition into the swamps. On Saturday I got up early and caught a train out to Ipswich, where I rode my bike out to Crane’s beach. For the first 1.5 hours it was sunny, cold, and beautiful to be walking along the beach. Then I rounded the point and found myself in the salt marshes on the windward side of the peninsula. In the wind it was bitterly cold, I was exhausted, and when I tried to find my way into the shelter of the dunes I instantly lost the trail and got lost in the hills. Sand rose up steeply around me, the wind whipped through the narrow valleys, and slick sheets of ice pooled in the depths. I felt a little bit like the thirteen year old hero of Swamplandia!, lost and exhausted in extreme conditions in otherwise familiar marshland — the precise opposite of the Florida keys.

Task Three: Recovery. I slept for eleven hours on Saturday night and woke up feeling fully refreshed. Then I opened my curtains and saw the snow piling up outside. The solution? Fresh-baked chocolate chip scones, which were remarkably easy and delicious, if I do say so myself. (I will save the recipe for a Food Friday.) These particular scones always remind me of my uncle Mike, who lives in San Jose, California. Mike’s rare visits to the east coast involved massive pillow fights at night, and chocolate chip scones in the morning. This time I shared them with a few friends for an impromptu brunch. Glorious.

Today, I’m feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready to keep writing. Even the worst weather ever can’t put me off.  Plus, I had leftover scones for breakfast.


Not my scones. But don't they look good?

Weather: worst day ever. Thirty six degrees and rain/sleet/horrible.


Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the can’t get out of bed to jumping for joy scale.
Anna:  6.5 in her current caffeinated state, but she has a stressful week ahead of her. “It’s Monday. But soon it will be Thursday!”

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Every fall, the squirrels go crazy.

This year, I’ve noticed it while biking to work. They charge across the bike path without rhyme or reason, occasionally squeaking past my tires, other times hesitating in the middle of the road as I approach. It’s highly dangerous for both them and me.

I’m pretty sure it’s seasonal. Since childhood, I have been led to understand that squirrels and chipmunks get super-focused in their autumn search for nuts and berries and, as a result, they totally lose track of the rest of the world. Squirrel relationships are compromised. Roadside fatalities increase.

The same thing tends to happen to me. Each autumn I get really focused on new projects, often to the sacrifice of other things. I get this feeling that I have to get it all done before winter sets in and I start to burrow.

Of course, squirrel mythology tells me that although in the fall squirrels go crazy for acorns, when winter finally comes they forget where their caches are. All that hard work – the mad dashes across dangerous bikeways and careful stashing of valuable nourishment – goes to waste. So, in fall, I always get a little anxious. Is this year that I’m going to carry my projects through to spring, or am I going to slip into a winter stupor and abandon them in a tree trunk, again?

Tragically, the conflict has already begun. This weekend, I started to feel really overwhelmed by the new and super-exciting projects that I have taken on in the last month. Paint my bedroom! Bake bread! Make soup! Start a salon! Learn Russian!

It wouldn’t be the first time that I ended up living for a year in a half-painted bedroom. But this time, with my new-found seasonal awareness, I’m going to try a new tack. My resolution: to pick one or two projects now. And see if I can get them to survive the first snow.

The other lesson I’m taking from this? Until fall fever dies down, I’m being extra-careful when crossing the street.

Weather: A beautiful, sunny fifty-five degree day with light clouds and a gentle breeze. But brutally cold in the morning.


Hannah – 6 out of 10  on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “Jumping for Joy” scale. 4 points off for overcommitment anxiety.

Anna – 8 out of 10 and generally happy because of a perfect combination of feeling well-rested and well-caffeinated (and it’s a beautiful day).

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When Anna and I decided to call this blog “ditch the umbrella,” we both agreed that the title might need some explanation. So I’ll tell you a story.

This past summer, I got really into cycling.

I’ve had a bike for years. As a student, I rode a fixie around campus, which was neat because I could pedal both forwards and backwards. When I lived in Jerusalem, I would commute to work by bike, an often dangerous feat among the Israeli drivers.

But this summer, I took the biking thing to a whole new level. I started biking over seventy-five miles a week – way more than I’ve ever done before. I got a pretty new road bike with real gears and ultra-thin tires. We had an absolutely, stunningly perfect summer, and so I figure I spent at least ten hours a week on my bike in the sunshine. Definitely a good thing for my vitamin D!

In her first blog post, Anna wrote about how as the fall sets in, she’s been feeling anxious. Anna’s anxiety comes from wanting to get up and move in autumn, which is funny because I usually think of fall as a time to settle down and prepare for hibernation.

But this year, I’ve been feeling anxious too. Because I know that my days on my bike are numbered. Pretty soon, this lovely New England fall is going to turn into a lovely, but hideously cold New England winter. The roads will ice over. And my bike will go into storage.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that this fall, I’ve been trying to get as many hours of bike time in as possible. And so I’ve been riding in all sorts of crazy weather: heavy winds, torrential downpours, even the occasional flood alert.

Riding a bike through a tropical storm is certainly “ditching the umbrella.” But the point of this blog is not, literally, that we should spend more time in the rain. The point is that by “ditching the umbrella” I’ve become incredibly aware of changes in the weather, and the complex ways that they impact my life.

Which all means very little for me. Winter’s coming and I still feel anxious. So for me, this blog is about understanding the greater patterns in my emotional calendar, and about learning what to do with this new knowledge. When I say I want to “ditch the umbrella,” I mean that I want to achieve a greater level of seasonal embrace – both physically, and emotionally.

My great discovery so far: rainy days may make us feel under the weather. But riding a bike through a storm? That’s exhilarating.

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