the value in discomfort

At first the pelting rain stings my face. I have to blink hard, trying in vain to rid the excess moisture from my eyes. The sharp bite of cold stings my cheeks and I edge my neck kerchief up slightly to cover more of my exposed skin as the water runs down it in streams. My hair is plastered to my cheeks in seconds. The steady torrent of rain obscures my vision making me squint as I begin my pedal slowly toward home. My legs are burning with the effort as the wind gusts, pushing me back. The ache spreads through my limbs until every part of me is aching with cold and exertion. As I pass the last dwellings on the way out of town, I gaze wistfully at the soft warm glow of the windows and the smells of fragrant cooking wafting through the night air. For a moment I imagine walking into one of the homes, welcomed by friends to a hot meal and a warm house. Out of the rain. Out of the cold. But the image vanishes with the last fragments of light cast from them. I flip on my bike light and a yellow beam appears on the trail ahead. The light reflects off the rain like silver shards falling to earth. Sighing heavily with the ache in my limbs, the burn in my lungs, the frozen wind cutting my exposed cheeks, I press with everything I have against the pedals and grit my teeth. I will be home in no time, I tell myself. The 12 hour day I worked today will be a distant memory. I pass a heron rambling along the riverbank, hunting for a meal and my stomach growls as I think of my own dinner. My hair is stuck to my face in clumps and the rain runs in rivulets down my face. I shake my head trying unsuccessfully to free the strands from my face. Suddenly my light sputters and blinks out leaving me in an abrupt void of darkness causing me to swerve in surprise. I slow my bike trying to regain my bearings in the black. Steaming with frustration, fatigue, and cold I flip the switch rapidly on and off but all it does is flicker weakly. I angrily flip it off and squint into the nebulous dark, barely able to make out the trail. Well, this is going to slow me down I think dejectedly. The rain is a hiss on the path ahead of me as I timidly speed up despite my limited sight, visions of a warm house and hot dinner swimming in head. Gradually, the glimmer of the wet concrete emerges from the black. The river appears alongside the sparkling path, as a sheet of hammered silver, the rain like a steel drum on its surface. The beauty steals my already short breath and I stare at the river of silver trying to memorize the scene. The trees come into view next, rising out of the distance like ghosts being washed clean along the riverbank. The rain is so thick that it looks like mist drifting through their slender trunks. The tall grass hangs forlornly alongside the path, pummeled by water, downtrodden yet overwhelmed with relief.  As I speed toward them gaining confidence in my vision, a group of ducks waddles off the trail, quacking and wiggling their tails contentedly.  I can’t help but smile—the ducks are enjoying this long overdue January rain. Turning my face to the gray-periwinkle sky, I marvel at its brightness. The whole world seems alight with the rain; the forest is painted with silver. I cannot believe there was any moment when I could not see the trail; it shimmers brightly reflecting the dark outlines of the trees so that the sky and the path look like mirror images of each other. The tree branches are like dark rivers cast on both the luminous sky and the gleaming trail. The sky is made of amethyst; somehow the rain is able to illuminate the dark but also turns day into night. A trickle of tranquility begins to spread through me as if the rain has washed the ache from my muscles and warmed me from within. I let go of the handlebars, sitting back on my seat, and tilt my head back to see the heliotrope sky adorned with falling silver. I feel each raindrop on my face like a warm caress. I breathe in the earthy scent, elated with the wind against my throat, my head tipped back to the heavens. In this moment, I am reminded that there is value in discomfort, the quickness of breath, the ache of effort and cold. There is a hollowness that can only be filled by the rain against your face and the race of the wind and your heart.

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