My ancestors called this time of year 白露 Bai Lu, or "White Dew", the micro-season lasting between the New Moon and the Full Moon of the Autumn Equinox, signaling the ascension of the great harvest. It tells of the coming of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the rising immortal Goddess Chang'E and her familiar, the Jade Rabbit.
In Chinese tradition, White Dew evokes the romantic return of cold to the lingering heat of the summer. Like lovers reunited, their union consummated, manifested in the morning with the birth of crystal prisms, droplets reflecting the light of the rising sun from glistening leaves. It foretells the emergence of cooler days and nights ahead and signals to all living things on Earth that now is the time to start preparing for the long Winter which lies ahead. In places like Guangdong province, where my Grandparents are from, it should be raining now. Dark, grey clouds forming above head, the humid air so close you feel as though you are swimming through it. Sheets of rain blanketing countryside after countryside, swelling and filling rivers and lakes. I remember these days during my time in Japan. Feeling in the air, on my skin, the turning of the wheel, from one cycle to another.
And this year, as another White Dew passes us by in drought-ravaged California, here I sit at the top of our ridge, the hot, dry sun beating down on the roof. A heat with weight like hot coals. Grasses are dry, the creek is dry, the animals gone, the clay and rock foundations of the Earth seemingly ready to crack, split. The only green the evergreen of the sentinel Redwoods of our forest. Even they are gasping for water, branches and needles outreached, begging for mist to come in from the sea. And as the wind picks up again, bringing forth another round of dry, hot gales, I am reminded of my childhood. A time when the coming of wind during a hot summer day was a blessing, not the premonition of an inferno. More fires to come. I sit cross legged inside, doors and windows shut to keep out the heat and the smoke, trying to find peace in the gentle breeze created by an electric fan...
...so when I close my eyes, I can imagine my Grandfather's village, the rice paddies sparkling, towering mountains and hillsides the color of jade; the sound of birds singing to the sky in gratitude, rain chimes ringing in unison with intermittent showers and the smell of the Earth as it reemerges quenched, full and satisfied.
Today I am yearning for White Dew.