Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Autumnal Longings

Autumnal Seven
Every year I am caught off guard by the suddenness of Autumn. Winter's many false starts herald its arrival well in advance. Spring approaches with the tentativeness of a fawn. Then Summer rolls in with a lazy insistence. But Autumn just is. One day I wake up knowing that yesterday it was summer but today it is Fall, and there is no undoing it. The smell in the air is different. The light is different. The mood is different. It is done.

I cannot explain what causes the overwhelming bouts of sentimentality and nostalgia (for nothing in particular) that grip me during this season. And I am hardly alone in succumbing to this clich├ęd state. A film director need only show a scene of a park strewn with golden foliage, throwing in a Chopin prelude for background music, for the audience to be filled with a delicious sense of longing - for what they do not know. 

But I know what I long for when I smell that crisp scent of dry leaves and behold the slanted light. Cycling. Yes, cycling cycling cycling. And after that, cycling. Monsieurs Chopin, Satie and Tschaikovsky, ready your soundtracks: I'll be playing them in my head as imaginary background music, while cycling.

Many feel that summer is the optimal cycling season, but for me it's a sluggish time when I am just not in my best form. Not that I haven't been riding. If anything, this summer I've learned to deal with heat much better than I thought myself capable. But honestly I just wasn't enjoying cycling as much as I did over the winter and spring. In 95° heat with high humidity, my legs felt as if they were perpetually pushing through molasses. The pressure and stickiness in the air were oppressive. 

Then one morning I awoke to find the oppressiveness gone. It was still August, but no matter: Autumn was here. Sensing the ever-so-subtle change, it was as if my body snapped to attention and pulled me toward my roadbike while I struggled to focus on making coffee. On that day a friend took me up a little mountain and I hardly noticed I was climbing it until we were halfway up, so filled I was with this new energy. On that day my cycling season began. 

33 comments:

  1. Amen, autumn cycling in New England is where it's at. It's probably sweet elsewhere, too—but doesn't New Enlgand have a monopoly on foliage and crisp air?

    Nice tip on the soundtracks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've visited my sister's place in Nantucket a few times mid-September, early October.

      Still a few days even see people swimming.

      Afternoon and night time though - just incredible.

      Her place is on the south side of the Island away from what lights there are in the more built up north. After a nice ride around the island I set up the telescope. The sky is so clear some nights it is hard to believe Boston, Providence and New York City are close at hand.

      Delete
  2. Thought you'd might like this:

    http://singletrack.competitor.com/2012/09/photo-gallery/worlds-pro-bike-mary-mcconnelougs-seven-imx-29-sl_34882

    ReplyDelete
  3. William M. deRossetSeptember 5, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Dear Velouria,

    You're hardly alone in finding the late season a joy. Mid-summer always drags for me, though I know those who flourish in the heat. I wilt.

    Give me spring (through, say, mid-June) and especially fall into early winter (whenever the weather really closes in) every time.

    Interestingly, I think of bringing a camera on many rides; I remember it in September and October.

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts and images.

    Best Regards,

    Will
    William M. deRosset
    Fort Collins, CO

    ReplyDelete
  4. With you 100%.

    Except for a couple spent in Southeast Asia (where it is worse) all my Summers have been in the Midwest and I still can barely tolerate heat and humidity.

    Nice cool weather with the sun lower in the sky is perfect riding weather for me. Also - a bit selfish I guess, but hey! - with so many of the road warriors hitting the CX trails, the better Chicago area road routes are that much less crowded for those of us who do not cross.

    Last year Chicago's fall extended almost to the middle of January. Not sure if this was a one time only thing or climate change. We shall see.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just noticed a slight change, also. Though N. FL is still getting afternoon rain and hot weather, the mornings have been cooler longer.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A couple of days ago, I felt fall coming on -- in Florida yet. The feeling was so strong, even though the evidence was at best homeopathic, that I emailed a friend about it. She dismissed my intimations of autumnality out of hand.

    Upon reading today's entry, I immediately forwarded a link to my friend who is not at all interested in cycling but can be influenced by a good read.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, that was good. For me it's not until October, but otherwise pretty much exactly like that.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The L.L. Bean Fall 2012 catalog postally arrived here today, to the hot very humid Southwest.

    Tensing for November/December/January/February...

    ReplyDelete
  9. A minor thunderstorm early this am, the deciduous trees starting to turn a little gold at the edges, and smelling a hint of woodsmoke already. Still hitting the 70s, and likely to have a glorious Indian Summer out here.

    The bikes do call.

    CK

    ReplyDelete
  10. My bike seems a lot like my dog who is always near the front door with tail wagging, eager to get outdoors, no matter the weather, no matter the season. Run, walk, stop, run...No matter, just go!

    Enjoy your New England fall and miles of cycling adventures :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment relates nicely to a book I just received in the mail today entitled Science Set Free by Rupert Sheldrake, in which he posits that all matter, not just humans and other animals, may in fact be conscious or have consciousness. So your bicycle may very well be attracted to the fall weather, just like you and your dog.

      Delete
  11. "...by the suddenness of Autumn." I have no clue what that is. Today is the third day in a row of a predicted six to reach 103.

    Autumn is a stubborn mistress that is all too elusive down here.

    That being said, the week of fall-ish weather we do have is my favorite as well. It is without a doubt the time of year I ride the most. It has even seen me play hooky from work just so I could ride the whole day in great weather.

    Thank you for the post. I have never seen New England. I must plan a tour there and experience a true autumn.


    ReplyDelete
  12. Look, Autumn is only a metaphor for the dwindling number of days one has left on this big blue marble.

    Feelings? Soon they will be gone.

    Forget those composers. Four Last Songs.

    ReplyDelete
  13. As a very fair-skinned Australian, Autumn is also my favourite time for outdoor activities. The combination of gently sunny days and crisp evenings is invigorating. And perfect for a warming little sprint at the end of a ride :)
    I often think that I must have reverse SAD because the hint of another long Summer always makes me feel oppressed. People dream of 'chasing the sun' but I'd much rather chase Autumn!

    ReplyDelete
  14. In the UK, we have had our world turned upside down; where once there was autumn, we now have summer. Spring is now winter and summer is a combination of all four.

    We have daffodils in December, buds opening in January, bees buzzing in February and hosepipe bans in March.

    There is, of course, a more important issue at play here, but it makes choosing what to wear a bloody nightmare...

    Nice piece, by the way.

    David
    www.andbike.cc

    ReplyDelete
  15. Here in Ireland, it has been Autumn since Spring, which came for a week in March.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Looking at the other pictures from the set, I really like the classic fit of your Seven. Was the level top tube your idea, or theirs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I stated it as a preference, but wasn't going to insist if they thought it made more sense to slope it. As is, there is actually a 2 degree slope.

      Delete
  17. Its hard for me to get over thousands of years of imprinting that with winter coming, life gets much harder. People die for lack of food and warmth. The native Americans knew that not all the tribe would last.
    I love the Fall. Colors and smells and most of all the lighting. New England Indian Summer is something every cyclist should at some time experience. Getting set for a winter that we are not so sure about is a whole other story!
    As a cyclist lets hope for the carbon copy of last year! Just don't let the skiers know I said that!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm looking forward to the crispness in the air, color in the trees (a little ways off just yet) using my lights (and fenders). And mostly, to riding again (I'm recovering from a car hit that lead to a hip replacement).

    I've lived in the MW and the NE all my life, and Spring and Autumn are the two great riding seasons ATMO.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I suspect the changing of seasons represents something different to everyone. Changes in schedules, emotions, workloads, eating habits, any number of things really....Some even get depressed when fall rolls around but I'm glad that cycling remains a constant and connections can continue between folks who enjoy the experience and who support each other throughout the changes. The trade-off in my neck of the woods as Fall approaches is more vehicular traffic as thousands of students return with their cars!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Living out here in Western Mass, I couldn't agree with you more. I feel all the more that way since moving here from the Boston area (Arlington, Meford, Watertown). This is the time of year we're literally the best place to be in the world.

    I try to have fun in the heat/humidity, but it's closer to a chore. The first morning the heat lifts and the crisp air greets me, I go out and do way too many miles, way too hard.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Autumn is a season that arrives very late in Southern Arizona and it is heralded by more subtle changes than those in more temperate climates. Unfortunately, September in no way reflects those changes.

    Sometime in late October, however, the leaves on the cottonwood trees are golden, and the air in the mornings has a bit of crispness.

    I await that seasonal change very eagerly, as summer grudgingly hangs on, seemingly forever...

    ReplyDelete
  22. We are cut from the same cloth. Autumn is my favorite season by far and especially so for cycling, though I enjoy it year round.

    To those who have never been to New England for a foliage tour, it's something you will never regret. Be sure to include it on your "bucket list". Vermont is truly afire in October but the other states are nice as well.

    ReplyDelete
  23. The spark of autumn always brings saddness...sometimes even in mid August i feel it. The definite shift in light, the quickening of shorter days, and the cool nights. The closing in of darkness always pains me, but I do always enjoy autumn, the shifting light, changing leaves and scent in the air. Oh and fall harvests of pumpkins and winter squashes!! It has been a gorgeous summer in the pacific northwest once it started going, and apparently going to keep on going for awhile yet. At least once the weather cools down I will not lament being unable to get to swimming lakes! The ocean has been frigid lately with no end in sight.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Yup! The summer slog is almost over (though its still 85 degrees and about 97% humidity today) and cool days are just around the corner. I'll take it even further, early autumn's nice but my absolute favorite time to ride is mid to late November. Most casual bikers have long since hung their bikes in the garage leaving the bike paths and back roads to us more dedicated riders. Nothing better than riding alone on a gravel trail alongside the Schuylkill River beneath a grey late Autumn sky, coldish 57 degree air whistling in your ears.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Never heard falls arrival described better.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Autumn is also my favorite season. The smells remind me of my childhood visits to my grandparents in Canada. I live at the bottom of a hill and when riding home I can see the leaves just starting to turn first to a hard green then little by little to all the fall colors and then they're gone. The sunlight is somehow perfect at this time of year. I recommend Satie's Gnossienne #5. Just the right kind of fall music. I'm trying a clarinet version right now.

    ReplyDelete
  27. So glad you've chosen to refer to the season as "autumn" (well, mostly so, anyway). "Fall" is just not a good word to use when discussing cycling ... in any season.

    Enjoy the pretty leaves ... I sometimes miss them here in SoCal, having grown up in Michigan. But then, just when I feel that I've been completely robbed of the beautiful seasonal changes, I realize it's mid January ... and I'm riding near the ocean ... in shorts and a t-shirt.

    Nice post ... thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...I debated whether to title this post "A Sudden Fall"

      Delete
    2. Ahh ... too funny. People would have been calling to see if you were okay before even reading the post!

      Delete
  28. Autumn feels, to me, like the used book store of seasons--the smell and touch of time, of death, the invitation to slow down, curl up, reflect, prepare for the long night. And of course, to ride--ideally through a crunching leaf-pile!

    "Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower."
    -- Albert Camus

    ReplyDelete