Monday, July 10, 2023

Dog Days

The title of an early Edna O'Brien book was

 "August is a wicked Month."

 I don't think it had much to do with meteorology but what a perfect description of August's weather, and July's too, here in Florida! Back in the first flush of my current biking enthusiasm (February? March?) I didn't think I'd still be peddling in mid-summer so call me surprised! That I am. These last few weeks we've moved into the dog days - high nineties, even a hundred some days with humidity to boot. Five minutes outside and you need a change of clothes. But, somehow, once on the bike, moving through the air, it doesn't feel so hot. Even with the long sleeves. As long as there's room for air to flutter between them and my skin. 

So. Another Monday morning of wicked weather.  Climb into the shorts, down the coffee, climb on the bike. Helmet? Check. Gloves? Check. Water bottle? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Off we go. With ever creakier knees, I'm not much of a long haul walker or hiker these days but put me on the bike and I'm ten again, climbing Cratloe hill with my dare devil friend, Mary G, then freewheeling back down at gravity-induced speed, hair flying (no such thing as a helmet back then)

 "Look Ma, no hands!" 

Our mothers would've killed us.  But we had the run of the countryside back then, especially in summer, free as the day was long.

On our way back, in along the Ennis Road, there was an old ruined castle that stood out in a field full of cowslips and thistles and lazily munching cattle. No question, of course we stopped, leaving our bikes in the ditch, off to climb and pick wild flowers. We had such fun, in that ruined pile of rocks, trying to get up as high as we could on the rickety steps, half of which had tumbled to the ground decades before we were born. 

Best that our mothers couldn't see us. Helicopter  mothering hadn't been invented yet. Ours made sure we knew the rules and woe betide us if we broke them - there would be consequences. I think they trusted that we had enough brain cells, not to mention fear of those consequences, to stay out of trouble and danger. But adventure was another story, even if it involved the possibility of a few broken bones. 

Hacyon days.

*   *   *

There was, mercifully, a little cloud cover this morning. And a breeze. Rain predicted for later. Wrestling with the wind slowed me down some but there were places the wind missed where, in spite of the distant moan of a lawnmower, it was so still you could hear the sun shining and the sound of a leaf hitting the ground. 

There was a flock of ten wild turkeys in the drive way and on the lawn of a house I passed. Nine of them were doing their turkey business, beaks to the grass, munching on worms and bugs, a few kicking up flower-bed mulch in search of more exotic fare. The tenth, though, was on a different mission. A pick-up truck was parked in the driveway and number ten was pecking at its shiny crome bumper. He could see his own reflection and had fallen in love. He pecked at it again and again, talking to it in turkey-speak (gobble-gobble) hoping maybe that his new "friend" would come out and help him search for grubs?

I don't pretend to understand a lot of Rumi quotes but  there was one on my calendar a few months ago that spoke to me.

"Anything you do every day

can open into the deepest spiritual place

which is freedom."

I'm not looking for danger, trouble or even adventure these days, but the peace I feel peddling along, blue sky above, trees all around, is truly a pearl without price.

And now the rain is hammering down outside, just as predicted. This being Florida though, it won't last long. Chances are good that, in another hour, the sky will be blue again, the sun shining, the ground steaming and the dog days here to stay for a while.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

The Wheels on the Bike go Round and Round

I seem to be on a three month rotation here - December, March and now June - already! There was a time when I posted every week, even a month when I posted every day - anyone remember NABLOPOMO? 

Life rushes by, I mean to post something but then, in a blink, three months have passed.

Time for an update.

 We dusted off our bikes in January and have been riding ever since. The OC bikes every day - going for land speed records! He never does things by halves whereas I, apparently, do, as evidenced by all those half-made quilts. Finishing them has become my mission. The clock is ticking and the thought that they'd be carted off to the nearest thrift shop upon my demise fuels my determination, this year as never before. So I half-ass the biking too, going not every day but every other day. Which not only keeps it relaxing but leaves time between for quilting, reading, gardening, yoga, navel gazing and, at least once every three months, blogging. 

In the early months the weather was perfect, short sleeves the order of the day. I went out early yesterday in long sleeves, even though it was already eighty degrees. Having spent my childhood in raincoats and wellies, I love the sunshine here, but I burn. And freckle. And wrinkle - and how! And this in spite of slatheration with high SPF sunscreen. So - long sleeves from now 'til cooler days return.  I like and respect Dr. Dermatologist, but I'd rather not give her any more business.

So there I was, a sight to warm the hearts of alien children in search of their mother from whom they'd been separated when their UFO landed - There she is! There's our Mama - in that driveway over there! But they're wrong, of course. I'm not an alien, I'm not their mother, I just look like her.

 It's the helmet.

 The OC insists I wear it even though it flattens my hair. He also makes me wear fingerless biker gloves. At lycra though, I draw the line.

As I peddle down the driveway I note that we have clouds this morning, piled high on the horizon, soaring above the trees, mountains of woolly grey with silver tipped tops reaching up to where there is nothing but blue. I'm glad of them, they'll keep me cooler. There's always the chance,of course, that they'll blot out the blue and dissolve and I'll come home like a drowned rat. But I'll take that chance.

The OC rides for at least twenty miles, even on days where he says he's going to take it easy. The man can't help himself. Habits of a lifetime. And me? On my every-other-days? I peddle faster or slower depending on how much, or not, my knees ache. And when I come to a hill I downshift, and zig-zag, which always brings to mind The Mag. Sr. Margaret was a Kerry woman. She taught us Irish and in one lesson we were reading, in Irish, about a donkey and how, at a hill, he would, as the Irish phrase put it "take both sides of the road with him" meaning he was doing the same zig-zag as I was doing now because he was a clever fellow and knew he'd climb more efficiently that way than if he tried to go straight up. I take comfort in knowing I'm at least as smart as a donkey, and I'm sure The Mag must smile Up There to know that I still remember that long ago lesson.

And now the driveway is in sight again. It's been an hour, give or take five minutes. The clouds cleared. The long sleeves protected me from sun and wind. I don't feel like a drowned rat but I do feel like I'm melting. I glug some water, remove my helmet and stagger inside.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Blessed by a Little Grey Frog

    The newly green trees are crowded these March days with a vatican-load of cardinals - not the red-hatted ones but the red-feathered variety.

 It was Sunday - we were planting basil and tomatoes. The blue dome of the sky arched over me, the sun was warm on my back, while the cardinals serenaded me from the bamboo. They sang their lungs out, full of the joys of Spring. As I eased a basil plant from its nursery pot, a little grey frog jumped to the ground. 

"Well, hello there," I said. 

There was dirt on his back, dirt on his head, dirt between his legs and his torso - he must have been hunkered down and cozy in that litte pot before this lummox of a human so rudely dislodged him. He wasn't holding grudges though. He didn't object when I nudged him onto my wrist, wiggling his hind quarters and sending crumbs of soil flying. He settled down, in no hurry to move away. He wasn't a military fellow - too tiny for one thing - but he was wearing grey camo (under the bits of soil) But then, my new friend and his ilk were probably wearing camo when we were still living in caves.

I don't often go to church these days, which sometimes causes me an uneasy twinge of guilt - the nuns are still very much alive in my head. Looking at this little, trusting creature though, it occurred to me, that God is found, not only in cathedrals, but in gardens, in birdsong, in seashells and flowers and in the littlest creatures with whom we share our spaces. Here was this little fellow, doing and living exactly as his maker intended for him to do and to live, unconcerned with all the problems us humans invent for ourselves. I was glad I had used my hands, and not the trowel, to dig the basil out. He did finally jump from my wrist and settled in close to a nearby clay pot.

 "Stay awhile," I told him, and went back to planting. 

The OC wandered by and I introduced him to my new friend, explaining that we'd been having a chat. He smiled. He knows that when you get helpers in the garden it's wise to humor them no matter how daft they may be, but then he smiled again (this time not his " humouring the crazy lady" smile.) 


He pointed behind me to where two elegant cranes were stepping daintily through the trees. "Ladies" is how I think of them when they're earthbound. They sound more like drunken sailors on a bender when they're airborne, raucously honking across the sky. I was relieved to see Froggy had taken to his heels - just as well not to become a tasty morsel for the "Ladies".

My sister goes running in Cratloe Woods. It's a peaceful, piney place on a hillside out in the country,  a few miles from where we grew up. I've been there with her. In fact the OC and I got married in the tiny church there, so I completely understand why she calls those woods her cathedral.

I am too far removed from Cratloe now so I content myself sitting in pews of grass and mud along with frogs, lizards and sand hill cranes. Sometimes a tortoise wanders in and delivers a soundless sermon. And all the while the cardinal choir sings boisterous psalms in the bamboo soaring over our heads.