The Cat Nights of Winter

Someone at work asked me the other day: Do you like riding in the dark and cold better, or in the dark and wet?

My reply, à la Lucille Bluth, was that I love them all equally.

The winter is fast upon us and it seems like I ride to work in the dark and ride home in the dark. It is hard to remember the dog days of summer when you happen to be in the middle of its opposite.

The phrase “dog days” is an ancient Greek term that refers to the star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens. Sirius was known as Orion’s dog. To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year.

What I find most fascinating though is the fact that people were so much more attentive to the phenomena of the natural world around them to even notice that Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun.  We bikers though, by necessity, find ourselves attuned more to the cycles of sun, moon, and the seasons because we spend so much time exposed to the whims of nature. We are governed by different principles than those who just buy gas and go wherever, heedless of light, temperature, or precipitation.

I am reminded of a speech within one of the funniest scenes in all of Shakespeare, where Sir John Falstaff is protesting to Prince Hal that he can sleep as long as he wants because his life as a thief revolves around different concepts than the rest of us:

“…We who take purses go by the moon and the seven stars, and not by Phoebus [the sun], … that wandering knight so fair. … Let us not that are squires of the night’s body be called thieves of the day’s beauty. Let us be Diana’s foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon; and let men say we be men of good government, being governed, as the sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal.”
Henry IV, Part One, Scene 2

The original meaning of the dog days has now been mostly forgotten and we tend to imagine the term coming from it being so hot that dogs just lay around. Similarly, I imagine the long winter nights are those when cats (and bikers) like to curl up in front of the fire and forget the cold.

But to we who steal under the countenance of the moon, the dog days and the cat nights are just two sides of the same coin, or rather the same Earth. The change of seasons is not a trivial thing to those who travel under our own power (and the power of Diana the Huntress) and it is wondrous!

Like love and loss, you can’t really know one without the other.

Ride on and try to stay as warm and dry as possible!


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