A Touch of France

A couple of days ago I went out for one of my regular bicycle rides. Cross the bridge from Avignon to l'île de la Barthelasse; loop the island and return over the northern bridge on the northwest side of the Rhône, down to Villenueve and back to Avignon. It is a trip I do often, with variations. I ride for health reasons, both physical and mental; my body enjoys it; it wakens my spirit.

The morning began uneventfully, then I walked out the front door and was greeted with a crispness that sent me back upstairs to redress. Finally, a touch of fall to break the hold of summer. This is good, I'm getting tired of my summer clothes.

Back outside on my bicycle. En route! Within a minute of mounting I became aware of the wind. It was annoying. The wind first attacked from one side, then the other, from the front, the side again, then the back. I was caught in the turbulent swirls of the Mistral as it blew through the streets of Avignon. This random beating was annoying but it mattered not, I was out to work my body, the pleasure would be taken later. So what if I worked it in the wind or not. En route! So much the better; I've been bothered before and will be again, ignore it; there are worse things but the annoyance stayed with me; it was difficult to ignore.

Out of the city the wind straightened to a strong persistent head wind. The ride continues to the end of the island. I look forward to the return with the wind at my back; I'll profit form the push. It is not often that I can put the bike in high gear and pump it up to speed and watch the trees fly past. Profite!

I make the turn, put the bike it top gear and pump. things go quickly with the wind at my back and I reach speeds I seldom attain. It is exhilarating . Profite! Soon I remark the quiet. The air is still around me, there is no sound of the wind in my ears. I hear the wind in the trees, not in my ears. I feel no pressure on my face, my hair lies flat, no resistance; all is still around me, I am in a bubble. The trees fly past, the lines in the road unzip under my wheels. I am flying with the wind. I am happy.

I change direction to climb over the Rhône river. I leave my bubble and the wind attacks from the north; It mounts as I mount the bridge and enter its full force unobstructed be the trees. I enter the full throat of the Mistrail as it howls down the river valley. It becomes difficult to ride; I consider dismounting but no, not yet. Impressive.

So impressive that I stop when I reach the summit. I am not willing to pass through this gale without taking the time to bask in its full force. The wind nearly rips the bike from my hands as I lift it up to the rail. Truly impressive! I face the wind; it rips my hair and pulls on the skin of my face tight; I scream "bring it on! Bring it on!" the wind roars in my ears.

Crossing the bridge from the other side is another cyclist dressed in yellow, he matches his bike. He has the saddlebags of a person that sends days at a time on his bike. He was forced to dismount. Beaten for the moment he would remount once reaching the shelter of the trees. He shouted at me that one cannot get bored, I agreed. He continued and so did I but I continued in place.

I refaced the wind with my arms outstretched to feel the power of God and even to ask if this was the best that he could do . It was in jest; I've seen tornadoes. The blasting of the wind was no longer annoying, it was exciting. It was no longer something to be tolerated, it was something to be sensed, savored and remembered. The noise! The pressure against my body! The water ripped from the river; whitecaps desperate to hold onto the river before being torn away by the wind .

I do not recall he smell or the taste. In retrospect I should have investigated and impressed them into my being as well. I fell into the trap of registering only those items that sparkled without taking the time to touch on the other two senses. So, I got three out of five. I'll do better next time.

I remounted my bicycle recharged, ready for anything. I had survived the blast on he bridge! I was alive! It was the lesser wind that annoyed me and emptied me of energy. Once the wind picked up strength and demanded real focus it annoyed no longer, it opened my senses. Energy began to flow. I was no longer loosing energy, I was becoming fully charged. I was alive!

A little wind emptied me. A grand wind filled me. Funny how that works. Maybe, if I opened my senses to the world more often, the petty would no longer annoy. Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, the Touch of France.

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