Outside my bathroom window, I notice the delicate shapes of tender red leaves unfurling from the boughs of the japanese maple. Out by the kitchen, the azaleas are blooming, a clear pastel hue between pink and purple. The deer congregate in the fields below Ledig House in groups of 4 or more; they lie down and you can just tell them from their ears. It is still bright when we sit down to dinner at 7:30pm yet by 10 in the evening, it feels late, due to the utter darkness around, and the solitude. Y. and L., the ones who arrived with me, left last week and the place feels a bit lonelier without them although there are new arrivals with new stories, of ayahuasca and stalkers, and an explanation of what book scouts do.
I try to bike to Chatham but at a crossroads, turn the correct way but then doubt myself when I see signs for Old Ghent and rolling hills. I turn around and go up the other road before turning around again. A huge empty barn stands by the side of the road and along the way, there are signs for hand-gathered farm fresh eggs for $3/dozen. The Columbia Paper is a tiny house and the local fire department’s clam bake is cancelled because “MOTHER NATURE STOLE THE CLAMS.” A brown hawk, in a small field off Old Post Road, flaps heavily away, when I startle it. When I go running, I am sometimes recognized by the friendly locals (“You flew by us on Quinn!”) but not by the dogs, like the black lab that runs alongside the road on the way to the pigs. The piebald horse, L. said, is a bully, but he comes close to be pet.
And here, I am writing a story about Yangshuo and its mountains, so different from the Catskills off in the distance. It feels odd to be writing in a place this quiet and empty about a place that was often filled with people, even out in the countryside. Where you would see tourists wandering around the lotus fields and so many more bicyclists riding by the side of the road. I am often the only one of the road here and when the trucks pass, they leave behind clouds of dust. Funny how hilly it is here where the mountains are in the distance and how flat the terrain of Yangshuo with the mountains so close. The flowers, though, are finally blooming and although it hailed recently, while A.A. and I were running, that’s just the mercurial nature of spring, right? I heard a warbler testing out several different songs and the international residents are delighted by the turtles in the pond. I discovered a new sculpture yesterday, down a path by the marsh I hadn’t known was there. I still love how the groundhogs move, their chubby furry bodies close to the ground as they clamber into their holes then pop up to look to see if we are still there. And the breathy squeaking of chipmunks. These are the things that China and New York City do not have. These are the things I will miss.