Winter comes just about everywhere. Even here in my Chinese hometown of Jianou, just a short hop north of the Tropic of Cancer, winter comes. To be sure, the very short and mild winter we get here doesn’t bear any resemblance to what most people in Canada would consider winter. Daytime temperatures spend little time below 10 Celsius and even during the coldest of times, nighttime lows are usually 5 degrees or more and only on those rarest of nights does it ever reach all the way down to zero. But regardless of recognition or lack thereof from my thick blooded Canadian brethren, here in southern China, winter does come.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs.
You can see the signs of winter all around you. You can see it in the people as they are dressed in bundles of quilted garments that makes them resemble the Michelin Man. Others wear puffy down coats that early polar explorers would have envied. Students arrive for class so bundled in coats and scarves that little more than their eyes are visible. And the typical greeting at shops and restaurants is, Jintian hen leng- It is very cold today.
You can also see the signs of winter in nature. Like everywhere, the plant life is perfectly suited to the climate and the seasonal adjustments regardless of how minute the change may sometimes be. In fall, when the temperature is still worthy of shorts for me, the leaves begin to lose their green lustre, change briefly to dull red, and then find a resting place on the cooling earth, that grows lifeless, stale, and sere below.
A Time To Plant, A Time To Reap.
Soon after comes the fall harvest. Harvest time is one of my favorite times of year in China. It is a time of great activity and energy. The fields are full of teams of workers hurriedly harvesting, prepping, and loading crops onboard trucks. In other places, small warehouses full of women wrap oranges individually in small, usually red, plastic baggies and pack them into crates for shipping to markets near and far. In addition to the tea and bamboo that the Jianou region is known for throughout China, local oranges are a highly-sought after commodity. I can tell you from substantial experience, they are fantastic. At one point this fall, I had three different varieties of orange in my fridge. And yes, one of them was Mandarin.
When the last energy of harvest fades the once vibrant life-giving earth lies bare. The brown ridges of the field like a furrowed brow under worrying grey skies. Like the multitudes that work its fields, the earth rests. The winter sleep has come. But winter here is short, and soon the multitudes will return to the fields to prepare them for spring planting. As I write on the 27th of February this work is well underway.
To Everything- Turn, Turn, Turn.
The signs of spring are all around. Daytime temperatures have been reaching into the high teens and low 20’s. There are still some cooler days, like the 3 days earlier this week where we had rain and highs of 6 and 7. But the colder days are fewer and fewer, and soon will pass entirely.
The light of the sun has begun to change to a welcoming golden glow, and the lustre is returning to the trees and plants. Soon, the spring rains will come and fill the rivers so full that they push against their banks. The spring crops will break through the crust of earth and breath their first of fresh rain filled air as the farmer tends his crop with the tender loving care of a parent in their perfect symbiotic relationship. Each relying on the other for their life and well-being. What you sow, you reap.
There Is A Season. Turn, Turn, Turn.
And so, the circle continues. Before long will we will be wrapped in the warm, nay, hot, embrace of summer. Fresh fruit and vegetables will available in such quantities and at such amazing prices it can scarce be believed. In this regard, I feel like I am in heaven. Man, I love the fresh produce here. It is to die for.
As I finish writing this post, drinking a cup of Tetley tea, the sun is burning through the seemingly ever present morning fog. At 10 a.m. on February 27th, the temperature has already reached 12 on it’s way to a forecasted 19. I think it is time to pack my camera gear on my bike and head out into the countryside for a look around. See how things are going in the fields today. Winter is nearly over. I can feel it in my bones. I can feel it in my spirit. For not only the earth is filled with life at the onset of spring, we are too.
Until next time.