What a relief, November is nearly finished and winter is nipping at our heels. Its difficult to pinpoint exactly when autumn came and left. I think winter officially came two weeks ago, when we started to wear coats and sweaters, and of course its been raining most of the time since.
I think autumn in Yilan started sometime after all those typhoons hit Taiwan in a cluster in September and October; Meranti hit during the Midterm Autumn Festival and later Megi, with some tropical storms in between. We were blessed in Yilan. The TV news anchor literally said both times how there seemed to be a slice of typhoon cut out over Yilan; Tainan and Taitung were hit harder, there were places nearby in Dongshan and and Sanxing without power for several days, but my daughter and I, except for leaking windows, were fine. We enjoyed the extra days off.
In the beginning of October, we finally were able to explore some of the nearby Fushan Botanical Gardens 福山植物園 (by reservation only.) We saw rare water birds, bats and macaques. A winter return is necessary if only to catch rare rhododendrons in blossom. Can you believe pangolins live there too? But impossible to see them during the day.
For our 10/10 Holiday weekend, I took two more personal days off and took my daughter to Busan for a long weekend. South Korea was still recovering from their own massive typhoon (Chaba) and they were just finishing their beach cleanups when we arrived. It was a thrill to leave hot, sticky Yilan and feel a raw autumn bite in the air, even in the sun. Unlike Seoul, Busan is super chill and the trip was extremely relaxing.
|Hakka Farms outside Hsinchu|
In the beginning of November, we went to Hsinchu to stay with one of my oldest Taiwanese friends, Monica and her husband Roger and son Mark. Monica and I worked together 16 years ago in Tamsui. It was great to hang with them again, as they are fabulous hosts. We met them in Taipei and they stopped at a beautiful historical gardens of the Lin An Tai House from the late 1700s. Our kids played tag among such venerable beauty as I happily snapped pictures. Roger didn't mind driving us up to the mountains of 山上人家森林農場, as high as we could go, stopping at Hakka farms drying sticky sweet persimmon along the way. Another relaxing weekend enjoying the season.
Then the American election hit me, and probably most expats, like a reality grenade. Rattled, baffled and then after the shock, just more concerned in general. With the days getting shorter, nature seems to be mirroring our own fascination with darkness, sensing this undertone our time is running out. Turning inward, with greater solitude, finding solace in prayer, feeling my own inadequacy, culpable complacency. My bubble burst, my winter came.
I got a surprise last week; 2 free tickets to hear Jane Goodall speak with President Tsai-Yingwen at Taiwan University of Science and Technology. My kid and I made it for the bus station after work and were just 5 minutes late, we felt so blessed. Professor Goodall credited her mother, her dog, she talked about the intelligence of animals, how even bees can learn from watching other bees, the intelligence of octopi. President Tsai-Yingwen talked about her needy cat and apologized for all her security. I had long planned on a weekend trip to Taipei for cultural outings, but never seemed to make it. Hearing Jane Goodall's gentle wisdom was influential on my kid. Her eyes swelled up with indignant tears when Goodall told the young people, "Your future hasn't been borrowed, but stolen!" Not leaving us there, she encouraged everyone as individuals to make the right choices, collectively we can reverse climate change, although the window is small and immediate.
I suppose that's what autumn feels like now, a small window of light fading, time is shorter, latent with importance. Being away these eight Thanksgivings, it all seems such a shallow shadow from over here, especially in the light of the Oil Pipeline Protests. Still I try to make giving thanks a daily devotion and I'd had loved to sit with my family for dinner, all 4 brothers together.
My kid loves the short days and rainy weather, Yilan is perfect for her. My ideal day is right now, the heavens like dark blue corduroys, thick on the verge of pouring, but it doesn't and its just too brisk for short sleeves (because of the humidity); which is what I wear anyways, so I can run up the four flights of stairs without breaking a sweat. As I keep pace with the year's coming end, autumn was one walloping exhalation.
|Green Dream, Fushan Botanic Gardens, October|