The rain has returned. Outside my window it falls and falls. Gentle, soaking rain. The new green grass (so recently returned) soaks it in. Plants seem to regenerate right there in front of me.
Rain means so many different things to different people. It has taken these few months since my return to love rain again. In Korea, particularly in Daegu, it rains all the time, especially in summer. Rain becomes an annoying, ordinary part of every day. It is something you complain about but also an inevitability around which you organise your life. I took to carrying an umbrella in my handbag or my daypack at all times. Constant, pouring rain becomes the norm.
I slept late on Sunday and woke up, eventually, to a beautifully, summery day. It feels like so long since I saw a summer at home. The days have been getting longer and warmer, but this is the first real heat. I threw on a bikini, grabbed an old beach-towel and headed out to lie in the sun. There is something so utterly luxurious about lying in the sun, just lying there with a book, doing nothing but soaking up the sunshine. There was a tiny, delicate breeze, just ticklingly moving the air across my shoulders. The sun’s warm caress touched my arms and my legs and pooled warm light on my lower back. My skin rippled and glowed.
The air smelt like a hot summer, like dry, warm grass. It was perfectly quiet except for the birds and a Sunday service of African voices raised in song in the distance. I felt at peace.
Later in the day, still comfortably warm and rejoicing in being able to wear a sun-dress, I savoured the crisp first sip of chilled white wine – the taste of hot, South African summer. How I missed this crispness and the contrasts of hot days and chilled wine.
Today is warm again, but the early morning breeze is fresh. I love early summer mornings – hot enough not to feel chilly, not to want to put on layers and layers of clothing, but still with that little breeze of freshness welcoming you to the day before the heat asserts it’s overwhelming power.
The cool weather may not be gone just yet. Cold fronts may still return. But for me this taste of summer, this tactile joy of warmer weather to come is a tantalising promise of just how full of wonderful heat and warmth and summer my next few months will be.
I woke up this morning and looked out of the window. Outside, the grass, just touched ice, stretched away to a dam dotted with silent birds. Beyond that, hills gently undulated into mountains, towards, in the distance, a taller peak dusted with snow. The fingers of the sunrise were just painting the snow a gentle pink. Away in another direction, a copse of bare trees reached for the huge blue sky against a background of green hills. I was staying with friends just outside of town but in town was just as beautiful. The winter grass is dry but there hasn’t been much frost so lawns are still green – a perfect contrast to the white frost.
I sit in the garden in the mid-morning sunshine, watching a white cat trying to catch moles. A robin is bobbing from branch to branch in the apple tree. No gloves, not hat, no scarf, just one jersey – I’m not even wearing shoes – but I’m warm. I’m warm. It’s the middle of winter and a cold day but I am warm sitting in the sun, outside.
This is the winter I love. This is the gentle, beautiful winter that warms up in between cold fronts and has so much sunshine, for so much of the day, that a day that doesn’t reach the mid-teens is really, really freezing. The sun was shining brightly by 7:30am this morning.
I struggled with winter in Korea. I found myself much in sympathy with the ancient Europeans who honestly feared each winter that the sun might never return. It shook me. I began to wonder if I was imagining the pleasant winters back home. Everyone around me seemed perplexed because ‘that’s just how it is’. Being back, seeing the beauty and with my heart giving a jump of joy each time I remember that I can go outside, I feel sane again.
This, this is what winter should be like, with the dry grass and the red, red aloes and the birds and the blue, blue sky. There were no birds in the Korean winter, and no sunshine and no warmth and no winter-blue sky. Part of me wants to spend the days just lying on the grass and breathing in the joyful beauty of a proper African winter.