Back in Beijing after twelve years.
July 1st, 2019
It has been six months since I was home in winter. Winter here and pretty much in most parts of China is just…not worth it. You go through all the trials of winter – days and days of smog from day to night, disease, the kind of temperature that dares you to step out of home, without much solace except for dumplings and hot pots. The rare snow either melts within hours, with no intention to hide the bareness, barrenness and dog shit everywhere, or refreezes into mud-contaminated eyesore. But summer is different. Life gets affirmed in summer, albeit not as much as in spring. The holiday, the sunlight so bright that even asphalt appears faded, the sky looking a bit more like what it should look like, the singing of crickets, the fruits in every shade of color of the spectrum and the flicker of fireflies for those who wander far enough make all the mosquito bites and brutal heat waves worth it (until climate change ruins it for all of us). I am a summer person and this is the summer I was used to growing up. Even as the temperature gets more unbearable year by year, slowly killing the life and joy, the poplar trees and the intensity of sunlight alone outside the window as the plane landed easily evoke in me the special buzz of China’s summer.
Summer flourishes, and so do I, on the land that has birthed me and all my ancestors. I woke up to more summer wind, sunlight and shimmering poplar trees. The fact that I was sleeping in a stranger’s living room didn’t matter any more – I felt like the queen of this very exquisite world. The thick and malleable (I cannot seem to find a better word) fibers of the poplar leaves are the very fibers that hold up my back against every challenge life has in store for me. The overflowing juice, frozen between the shimmering emerald side that is facing the sun and the seawood-colored other side, replenishes my bloodline. The cooling breeze, the saving grace of summer before it too turns merciless, caresses my belly full of chilled watermelon and sets everything into motion when days are stretched and drowsy (Beijing was generous with its summer wind during the two days by the way; it was very much a gale, sweeping across poplar trees. It made a fine, chilly July morning that I found myself having crawled inside the sleeping bag after I fell asleep on the sleeping bag). All my stories regain their relevance in the greenness and the collective of rudeness, kindness, nonchalant everyday evil and rare altruism of its people. The choices that seem just slightly out of place in where I live are now fully justified by the familiar yet peculiar juxtapositions surrounding me. Again, I become acutely aware of just how much this repressed part of me needs its context. Now in the land that has grown it and moulded it, I watch it relax into a gentle and composed shape, like a dried and wrinkled woodear slowly expanding, dancing and finding its spirit in the water.