Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch


It's already three or four degrees below freezing. Given how precipitously the nighttime temperature tends to drop here in the dry, half-mile high air, it seems likely that tomorrow's pre-dawn low will be somewhere between 18 and 22 degrees Fahrenheit. I've covered the plants and draped my sleeping bag over the exposed water pipe entering the house. I periodically go outside to turn on the irrigation system for half-hour stretches. And I'm also wondering whether I can hold out long enough to go for a truly cold bicycle ride, nipples be damned.

Once when, I was living in the Bay Area, there was a freakishly hot stretch of weather. Now I'm used to summer temperatures over 100. But back then, I'd had little experience of such extreme heat. So what did I do? I put on a wool beanie, having read that the Bedouins wear wool on the hottest days, and went to Vallejo Junior High to play basketball. It was 107. I played for forty-five minutes. And then there was the time, in high school, when I decided I should take advantage of the highly unusual cold spell in which the Washington D.C. area was mired on Christmas Eve to paint a watercolor of the approaching sunset. I put on my goosedown jacket and climbed the hill we used for sledding on the infrequent occasions when there was sufficient snow to do so. Seating myself on the frozen ground, I proceeded to fulfill my goal, although the resulting art work was not one of my best, given the difficulty of handling a brush wearing insulated gloves and the fact that the water kept starting to freeze. It was below 0 degrees Fahrenheit when I headed home.

The more I think I about my personality -- and the more I see it reflected in my daughter's -- the more I'm struck by the strange synthesis of caution and fearlessness on which it is founded. I'm rarely the first to try anything. I find all kinds of reasons for saying "No" to possibilities, even when I secretly wish to pursue them. And yet, once I've made up my mind to exert my will, I regularly end up doing things that most sane people regard as extreme.

My all-night drives between Tucson and Los Angeles were a prime example. Most people would decide to stop for a rest eventually. Yet I prided myself on making the trip without a break. Only when I recognized that it was foolhardy to keep pushing my luck did I grudgingly conclude that I'd be better off closing my eyes for an hour at a rest area. I suppose there's a part of me that resists the commonness of "common sense," that wants to prove myself the exception to the rule, despite the risk that entails. Nevertheless, I hardly think of myself as an inveterate risk taker. Well, it's time to turn on the irrigation system again. I think I'll head outside wearing only my boxer shorts for the thrill of it!
Tags: autobiography, everyday, weather

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