Time and place

I feel more at home during the early months of autumn than at any other time. Over the last week, as the light has begun to fade and jackets have been creeping out of closets to slip over arms and backs and serve as subtle but pervasive reminders that warmth is something to be cherished and protected, that is, to reveal each one of us as vulnerable to a degree and make overt our tacit yet inescapable struggle for comfort and sustainability, I have felt more at ease than at any other time since moving to Beijing.

There are several reasons why I feel this way. For one, autumn in Beijing feels a lot like winter in Marshall. The temperature of the breeze and the grey tint of a sky that, if not raining, has just rained or is just about to, resembles so closely a certain type of East Texan November afternoon that as I look out my window at an expanse of mist-shrouded skyscrapers and the diffuse patches of shifting color created by flashing neon lights in the fading twilight, the whole view feels as if it could evaporate in a moment and leave me gazing out from my parents’ kitchen window at the front garden and the looming trunks of the old pine trees on the long slope down to the empty road. The feeling of home is insistent, even in juxtaposition with the absence of any object or view that is not distinctly foreign.

Then again, autumn has always been my season. I muse that there may be a certain sleepiness to my soul, such that the softening of the sky and the slowing rhythm of nature during the gentle slip into winter feels like slipping into pajamas with the certainty of imminent slumber. I have discovered over this National Day holiday that I am, in nature, incredibly lazy, and can spend entire days (if allowed) in the space between wakefulness and dream.

I’ll divert the flow for a moment to tangent on that last point. Part of the reason I can stay quite happily in bed for most of a day is that I don’t feel the need to do anything in particular, which is a rather peculiar thing for someone who does not believe in reincarnation to say. The feeling is likely a product of my recent lifestyle, which, in turn, is shaped more than anything by my job. While I do find this job challenging and often enjoyable, and while I’m making more money than I ever have before (and much more than I feel entitled to, or think that the company should reasonably be giving me), I’m also hyperconscious of the fact that the end result of all our efforts is just a shifting of some luxury product market statistics from one column to another, in a way that is not only ineffectual towards any of the existential threats poised just behind our species (their silky forked tongues flicking in and out between hungry fangs that glisten like $100 chrome-plated box cutters) but is also joyfully complicit with the rampant greed and willful consumerist ignorance on which many of those threats feed.

TL;DR: I tend to lay in bed because my high-paid corporate job does not supply me with a sense of meaning or usefulness. Boo hoo.

Lest you leave with the impression that my days are filled with moping about and contributing to the slow decay of society, I should mention I gave another talk about classical music appreciation yesterday, which was very fun and very well-received. Afterwards, just when I was thinking that I wouldn’t have another topic for the next speaking event, I caught myself giving some useful and insightful (dare I say groundbreaking and ingenious?) tips on learning Chinese to some American fobs over the free coffee and cookies in the lobby.

It makes you wonder, possibly
(Or maybe not, it could just be me),
Where you’ll go a year from now,
And what you’ll know, and why, and how.

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One Response to Time and place

  1. Mom says:

    Thanks for the shout out to the East Texas piney woods! They’re still here, still peaceful, and still miss you!

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