Summer essentials: Shade, watermelon and resilience
Today it’s the second day of the second month of summer and it’s hot. As December came to a close and the first month of this experiment was completed, I began to realise how quickly this season will pass and soon it will be autumn. I found myself wishing for summer to slow down so I can milk more of its warmth and intensity. Summer delivers the most extreme conditions that the weather here will bring and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity it offers this experiment. I needn’t have worried. Today it’s hot. I mean hot hot.
It’s the sort of day when bodies overheat from too much sun, when thirsts can’t be quenched and when fair skin can end the day scorched red from sunburn.
It’s the sort of day when I smear sunscreen all over my face and wear a long loose white shirt to cool and cover my skin. It’s a day when I look for trees to bring me shade and creeks and pools and oceans so I can soak in their cool waters. It’s a day when I drink water often, and when I get home again, sip on hydration ice-blocks and if I’m lucky enough, as I was today, eat great quantities of chilled sliced watermelon.
Riding on a day like today is something I’d normally avoid. Better to stay home, stay still, stay cool by swimming showering and, yes eating watermelon. But today there were other plans. We were meeting friends for breakfast at 9am at a café, eight and a half kilometres from home.
…if I’m more resilient to the changes in the weather, then perhaps I’m more resilient to changes more generally.
The good thing about being on my bike is that, even if there is very little wind around, moving along surrounds me with a breeze, simply created by displacing the air in front of me. So riding works quite well for staying comfortable and it’s even better when the street wears large trees, particularly Poinciana trees with their branches laden with soft lace-like leaves and vivid red flowers, reaching over the road, casting shade that lowers the temperature so dramatically that it’s worth slowing down to linger even momentarily to feel the cool of its underbelly.
It’s when I stop, at intersections waiting for traffic lights to change, standing beside cars hot with their engines running and their metal skins reflecting heat, or at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the little green man to tell me it’s okay to cross and the cars are buzzing past and the bitumen is radiating with heat and the concrete reflecting glare, that I feel the heat and sweat, accumulated from the ride.
When I reach the café, the grace of trees sweeps me under its cover and I’m cool again. I can never understand how people, in their homes, businesses, companies and governments can so easily free the landscape of trees. I don’t think they spend enough time outside.
Outdoors, is where this experiment is ushering me. I’ve always been one to spend a lot of time outside but now I’m out there more often. Being outside, interacting with the elements – the sun, the wind, the rain, the storms – changes my experience, perhaps even changes me. It gives me more information about what’s going on. As I ride along, I’m not cocooned by air-conditioning. It causes me to feel what is there, even if it’s uncomfortable. It makes me know more intimately what each condition brings. I adapt. I adjust. I become more resilient to the changes. And if I’m more resilient to the changes in the weather, then perhaps I’m more resilient to changes more generally – in my self as I age, in my work as I discover a new career, in my friends, in the ones I love as they struggle or thrive, in a world that’s crazed with inevitable change. Can riding my bike do that? Can it be that transformational?
If I believe it can, if I follow this through, perhaps it will be.
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