The cold descends upon Taipei in a subdued manner–without the loud hurrah of a falling of autumn leaves, or of snow.
At first, you are just relieved to be reprieved of months, yes, many months, of relentless heat and humidity–how June bleeds into September on this island! Then, well into October, you find yourself excited to wear clothes that exceed the barest minimum of coverage–a method of survival through the summer. Then, the time comes that you can turn off the air conditioning for a long while, and then, the best part–you can hike at noon, you can go for a brisk run, you can walk the city streets with joie de vivre rather than heatstroke, again.
By the time it is kind of cold, as it is now, on this burgeoning day of December, you are pleasantly surprised that this winter thing is happening at all.
The winter thing is more than manageable here. It can be a little wet and chilly–today, there is steady rain running down the sides of concrete buildings. There will be a dreary week when we see no sun at all. But there are also the lucky days, when the sky is blue and the world warms up completely. Because the sun still shines with some force at this latitude, it almost feels like summer again–only cooler, and softer, and golden.
Those days are the blessed ones. But if you can make it out to the mountains, so are the ones of endless rain–the ferns become slick to the point of fluorescence, there is fungi blooming on fallen trees; the forest floor, a mosaic, alive.
Even in the subtropics (Taipei is just above the Tropic of Cancer) these rhythms are deeply felt: spring is for the budding and summer is for the ripening; fall harvests, then winter drops you back into bare bones, and warm homes, for reflection and rebirth, a touch of survival before revival.
Here are some of my very favorite wintry-ish poems for you, as we round the bend into a new year. May these words nourish and inspire as we retreat softly into this inward-looking, hearth-centered state of winter.
From ‘Mayakovsky’ by Frank O’Hara.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
From ‘After great pain, a formal feeling comes – (372)’ by Emily Dickinson.
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –
In its divine entirety, a poem that strums at the very deepest of my heart-and-mind-and-soul-strings, a poem that I would wish to have written myself, except then it would be less of a delight for me to read–‘Come Prima’ by A.R. Ammons.
perfection in the being
of my being,
that I am
holy in amness
as stars or
that the universe,
moving from void to void,
pours in and out
there is a point,
that fills space,
that is plenitude:
a void that is all being,
a being that is void:
I am perfect:
the wind is perfect:
ditchwater, running, is perfect:
I raise my hand
Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Thank you.
Last month, in a period of waking up into writing after a long period of not writing, I scribbled: i feel happy to know that even in these periods of less creation, the writing was… fermenting in itself. ripening for my re-reading and my understanding… to need space from your own words, of course. to need time to marinate, but also the freedom to not have time to write, of course. to need experiences to write from, of course… it’s both. it’s all of it. life is coming together–it always was.
The new world is breathing so loudly now, it wakes me from sleep at night, like the baby’s wails from an unseen apartment nearby.
With so much love
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