Clouds hang heavy in the sky, plump with a rain which contemplates the opportunity to hurl itself towards the Earth below. I get the sense that we wait for each other, the Rain and I; the rain relishes the opportunity to soak my clothes and skin, seeking to corrode my resolve while I cherish the opportunity to prove to myself that it will not be shaped by such things.
As a kid, I had an illustrated book of Aesop’s Fables. This time of year, I’m often reminded of one fable in particular, that of the Wind and the Sun. As the tale goes, the two are in the midst of an argument over which is the stronger when they spot a traveller on the road below. The Sun suggests that whichever of them can cause the traveller to take off his cloak will be declared the winner. The Wind blows and blows with all its might but the traveller only pulls his cloak closer. The Sun, on the other hand, beams with all its yellow glory, and the traveller soon finds it too hot for his cloak and discards it.
Aesop’s moral was that kindness is more effective than severity, but that sounds a lot like it would require introspection to really digest. Instead, I like to think of myself as the traveller and my resolve as the cloak; the worse the weather, the closer I pull it to me and the more determined I am to hold my course. In fact, this concept extends to any hardship in life; the greater the challenge, the stronger my determination.
So there we are, the Rain and I, waiting for each other; me with my cloak and the Rain with its severity. At this time of year, when the skies have turned grey but the chill hasn’t yet arrived to keep it company, I enjoy waiting for the rain to fall before embarking on my rides. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the questioning looks from the neighbors who descend from their homes in coats and hiding beneath their umbrellas for the journey from front door to automobile; they serve as further evidence that the public still has some distance yet to cover before understanding the Velominatus.
The rain pours down and in minutes soaks my clothes. Rain drops drip from the brim of my cycling cap; when I clench my fist, water steams from the fingers of my gloves. The roads are soaked; both the rain and traffic cast debris towards the gutters. My path crosses between the two and the grit and dirt afloat in the rain water are flung onto my machine and body.
When I return home from the ride, the evidence of my journey is carried in my clothing which is heavy with water and debris. Overshoes and knee warmers, once removed, reveal my Flemish Tan Lines via the clean skin beneath.
Perhaps Flanders is a place not defined by the borders between people, but between wool and flesh. Vive la Vie Velominatus.