This morning I woke up at 6 to feed my daughter (who still isn’t fully sleeping through the night) and then spent a few moments standing on the balcony outside her room, looking over the campus and the city stretching north to the vast Kazakh steppe. In just the past few days the nights have grown cold, winter air coming down from the snow peaks to our South. The seasons are changing, though midday still bakes with blasts from the sun and unrelenting light.
And its in these days that I miss Urumqi. I arrived in mid-September 2012, just as the seasons were beginning to shift. Days could be hot enough to go out in a t-shirt, the campus where I lived and taught filled with brilliant greens, trellised walkways filled with an emerald green light from the grape leaves in golden autumnal sunlight.But the nights were likewise nippy, with a chill that bit the skin but didn’t penetrate the bones. Mornings and dusk the air was cold and clear, purple along the horizon. The air had that mixed scent of desert and snow, of sand and snow and the spices of fall. Here we have just one, enough to trigger the memory of longing.