There is nobody so easily deceived as a cyclist riding with a tailwind. It’s so easy to become convinced that the strong, effortless pedal strokes, the blazing speed, the sustained uphill power, are all a result of one’s own cycling prowess, not of that steady, strong wind rushing past from behind. The internet purveyors of Nigerian multi-million dollar bank accounts could get my money if they could harness my willingness to be deceived by a tailwind. Today I got a free ride on the outbound loop. Could have sworn those dry leaves scuttering along in front of me were just going my way for the fun of it. At turnaround time, though, the full truth became immediately apparent. I’d have to grind for every inch coming back. The winds were basically WNW but swirling and eddying, bringing down new autumn leaves and rearranging those that had already fallen. And not only did I have to ride into those eddies, but uphill to boot. I’ve always claimed that my forté Is riding downhill in a tailwind, so the home-bound leg today was my anti-forté, I suppose. Still, on a bright fall day the pleasure of light, color, and energy made for a great day out on the bike.
Weather like this during the lead-up to the Christmas season surely inspired the poet Clement Moore. His poem “A Visit from St. Nick,” said to be the most famous verse ever written by an American, uses a sort of mini-epic simile to describe the approach of St. Nick and his sleigh. Moore compares the action of the miniature sleigh and reindeer in reaching the roof of the house to dry leaves swirling in a high wind:
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too.
Moore observes that the dry leaves swirling in the breeze fly upward when they, and the wind, reach a barrier, because they cannot continue on without doing so. What makes the simile “epic” is that the action of the leaves is so graphically portrayed that it has an interest and a life of its own, not just as a descriptor of the main subject, St. Nick’s visit. Most interestingly, it would appear that the “right jolly old elf” and his vehicle are approaching at or near the ground, and only at the last minute “dash away” to the porch roof and the wall top before they “flew . . . up” to the roof-top. Yet at the end they fly away like weightless thistle-down, perhaps near the ground again until they once again “mount to the sky.” Hmmm . . . is there an article for The Explicator in this?
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.