We try to make the most of our long summer days when the sun rises early. Several times this summer I walked into our backyard at 4:30 a.m. when the sky was just starting to brighten in the east. It still astounds me that we meet the sun each morning not because it is literally rising above us, but because the earth is spinning around so that its curvature swings us toward the star we call the sun. We’re all on this massive ride we call days and night.
A few nights this summer I rode until the sun went down in the west. I love coming home in the cooling hours of twilight. The sweat recedes and the breeze across shaved legs gives a sense of speed.
The months travel by and August rolls around. Those hot afternoons demand a ton of hydration. This year the drought in Illinois made it seem even thirstier out there. The cornfields have begun to turn brown as September barely begins. Farmers will be able to harvest early this year.
Yet every cyclist in the northern hemisphere knows what September means to them. Shorter days. Less evening sunlight. In a typical year, that means less mileage as the evening hours compress the available time to ride.
In time of the pandemic and working from home, there are opportunities to ‘work around’ the typical fall restrictions on riding time. We also have a delayed Tour de France to watch. So it feels a bit like July around the house.
This year’s Tour is more interesting than ever. Several strong teams are competing this time around. Rather than one squad dominating the entire peloton, there are competitive strategies at work. Perhaps it will actually be fun and inspiring this year rather than watching the dismantling by Ineos or Sky or whatever. Of course, it was fun to watch Julian Alaphilippe hang onto the yellow jersey for so long last year. I still believe he would have caught back onto Egan Bernal had the stage not been cut short by a hailstorm and some sort of mudslide.
So it’s not “business as usual” anywhere in the world. But the big wheels keep turning. This morning as I drove our pup to Doggie Daycare, I noticed that the sun was coming up south of Orchard Road as I headed east. By point of reference, our star has moved down the eastern horizon from its most northerly point in late June.
That means we’ll get progressively less sunlight all the way through the winter solstice into the deep, dark nights of December. Through it all, the ‘lesser light’ of the moon reminds us that the sun is always there, somewhere. This morning a bright full moon was still sailing high in the western sky as I walked our dog in the early dawn.
All in all, this ‘following the sun’ thing is both eternal and ephemeral at the same time. That rock band of dark philosophy, PInk Floyd, sang it best:
But you run and you run to catch up with the sun and it’s sinking
And racing around, to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
And shorter of breath, and one day closer to death…
Okay, that’s fucking depressing, I’ll admit. Yet that’s Pink Floyd for you. My actual point here is not that we’re all slowly dying. It’s that living is a matter of appreciating these daylight hours the best way we can. In contraposition to the existential portent of those Pink Floyd lyrics, those of us who run and ride defy that angular descent into death. If we’re lucky, as I have been, we even keep some semblance of fitness about us.
Just don’t take that for granted. Count your blessings, I mean to say, if you have health on your side. Not everyone is so lucky. And if you’ve seen folks go through terminal illness, as I have, you’ll doubly appreciated whatever momentum you can sustain.
Then you can take similar inspiration from your own ‘moments in the sun.’ Celebrate what you do each day in your own mind, if nowhere else. These days are worth our attention. Let’s make the most of them, no matter how short or long they are. Follow the sun. It’s worth it.