Writing in place
I read this with great interest and sympathy, China of my Mind . I to0 have many aunts and uncles, in laws and outlaws, who were in China, one being the first Brit to transverse China from ocean to India, another starting a boarding school, some incarcerated during the war and so on. We too had Chinese vases and embroideries. We had students from different parts of China living with us for many years, as well as a Chinese penpal from an orphanage in Hong Kong.
I also have a sister who lived in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing for years, writing letters home to Mother every week. She has published her autobiography and is a celebrated Sinologist. I have even been to China. But could I write about it?? I don’t think so. But I haven’t read this book so perhaps it is well done. I can’t say.
I had never walked in a Beech Wood before,
The bright emerald green in the sunlight
And the rustling sound of the wind,
the large simple shape of the leaves
and the majesty of solid trunks and solidarity among the trees.
In winter the skeletons all show against the sky
and the leaves on the ground have rotted into the earth
I walk not on Beech leaves, but on the rough leather of
intermingled undecayed alder and oak leaves, red, white, pin,
and the smell of pungent balsam and fir is absent,
like a live thing that I had thought would walk through
these woods with me. But it isn’t there. I didn’t realize.
No needled scent from the ground rises up to my nostrils
and beckons me down to that rich aroma of dirt and duff
I lift my eyes instead to the sky
and float among the dark interlaced and spindled branches
thrown into relief against the dying lemon yellow sky
of a fast approaching winter night.