Stoical cycling, strawberries and post-rain flowers

In a Guardian article on Stoicism, the writer states that stoicism “brings about three specific qualities: the life of good flow; freedom from negative emotions; and beauty of soul. In contrast to all the aforementioned stereotypes, then, stoicism aims for human flourishing in a very full sense, and an ability to find ways through times of crisis”. For cyclists, stoicism is very apt. You need a “good flow” when on the bike e.g. a steady rhythm, whether on the flat or going up a hill. You certainly need to avoid “negative emotions” although this is very hard – sometimes you can convince yourself that a slight tiredness is an all encompassing fatigue or that slight pain in your leg is an oncoming thrombosis. The “beauty of soul” of course, is getting to the summit of a big hill and freewheeling down the other side. cyclists have  many “times of crisis” – in their heads mainly – and many would doubt the use of crisis in these situations. I needed my stoicism this week.  I was getting back on my bike, after having a drink half way through a fairly hilly route. I put my shoe into my right cleat, pushed forward to go off but I was in too high a gear. There was a moment of stillness and motionless and then my hip whacked the tarmac i.e. instead hitting the road, I hit the road. I now sport a bruise, the colours of which would not be out of place in a painting depicting dark purplish, rain-filled clouds. Stoicism finds a way.

For the last fortnight, we have been enjoying strawberries from the garden. It’s a very satisfying experience to go out each evening and pick strawberries that you have cultivated yourself. However, it’s easy to over romanticise this and think that gathering in your own produce is a constant pleasure. For people who have had to grown their own food to survive, gathering vegetables or fruit was a daily chore, not a leisure activity. Despite this, there is a definite feeling of achievement – and possible smugness – in bringing in the fruit. Photo 1 shows today’s crop – and, of course, they taste much better than those for which you have paid.

Strawberries from the garden

Strawberries from the garden

Those of you of a certain age will remember The Move’s song Flowers in the Rain but it’s not just the sound of the rain ( you can listen here for 2 hours!) that I like, but the after effects of the rain on flowers in the garden. Like many other would be serious photographers, rain is a promise of close-up photos. Photo 2 shows raindrops on a begonia flower. Begonias are big, showy, in your face, big bright red flowers and some regard them as rather too showy. Photo 3 is of a more gently coloured geranium. Geraniums look more refined than begonias. You might see a begonia returning from a trip to Spain with a kiss-me-quick hat on, but a geranium would be in business class, with a smart outfit. Photo 4 shows raindrops on the leaves of not yet flowed cornflower. There’s an abstract quality here – can you see a serpent’s tongue?

Begonias after the rain

Begonias after the rain

Geranium after the rain

Geranium after the rain

Rain on cornflour

Rain on cornflower




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