|Resident Minah birds|
I am really pleased to hand over this post to a friend of mine the talented Alison Wilson, artist, photographer, diver, traveler teacher - oh the list goes on and on. I was delighted recently when Alison said she would like to write a guest blog. I love her art work and we have a number of examples around the house.We are collaborating on a project that will see the light of day at some point. But her focus today is, well, I shall let Alison speak for herself...
|Yellow Flame Tree|
Ah… the seasons! Paul’s post a couple of weeks ago really resonated with me. I have lived one degree north of the equator (Singapore) for just over eleven years (I’m originally from the UK). This means living without four seasons and with constant heat and humidity throughout the year. That’s not to say it’s always the same weather - the southwest monsoon from June to September does give us a bit of respite from the torrential downpours of the rainy season, but still for the most part it’s always hot and humid. Temperatures are between 25 to 35 degree Celsius, dropping only little in the evening, and being almost on the equator, it gets dark around 7 pm every single day of the year.
Maybe it’s my age, but sometimes the years seem to go by faster and faster, and especially when there is nothing to really mark the changes in the year as in Europe; bulbs poking the soil, having to use a de-icer for the car, turning the clocks back and forward, lovely long summer evenings, leaves falling and so on. Instead I find myself wearing the same clothes all year, writing the wrong month on cheques and craving a bit of cold (and I don’t mean the arctic setting of the air con in local cinemas!).
|Tokyo window display|
Singapore has a large expat community and I’ve met people from many different countries over the years. I think of all nationalities, it’s my Japanese friends who have expressed missing seasons the most. I can see why this would be. At any time I’ve ever visited Japan, each season is acknowledged and celebrated. It is still not uncommon to see women wear kimonos and there are specific motifs for each season, for example a Chrysanthemum motif is worn in Autumn. One thing I love whenever I’ve been to Japan is to wander the food halls and gaze at the artistry of the ‘wagashi’, traditional Japanese sweets that celebrate each season.
But back to the equator. I try not to let the absence of four seasons get me down. Even if the weather doesn’t change so much, a city with so much cultural diversity has a constant stream of festivals that signal the passing of the year. When I started this post, the (Chinese) Mid-Autumn festival was in full swing, and Chinatown was decked out in lanterns and markets full of mooncakes, pomelos and lanterns for children. Before the year is up, Singapore will celebrate Hari Raya Haji, Deepavali, Christmas as well as some lesser known festivals such as the Hindu firewalking ceremony Thimithi. It’s October and Halloween is most definitely celebrated and so is Oktoberfest. The list goes on.
|Lanterns in China Town, Singapore: mid-autumn|
Having said that, for me, the ever changing flora and fauna is what excites me most living here and in some way the seemingly randomness of these changes. Here are a couple of examples.
Singapore is known as a ‘Green City’, and it’s true. It’s incredibly lush and green. Majestic trees line the streets offering shade and are often home to various epiphytes such as birds’ nest ferns. Not often, but every once in a while, especially early morning, there is a rather sweet subtle fragrance in the air. Training your eyes upwards, you might spot a profusion of tiny, unshowy white flowers giving off this scent. Neither the flowers nor the scent will last long, only a day. These are pigeon orchids (Dendrobium crumenatum), and their bloom is triggered by a drop in temperature (around 5 degrees or more) nine days beforehand. Witnessing this bloom really lifts my spirits, a bit like that feeling of seeing the first snowdrops in Spring.
We are lucky enough to live in an old house, surrounded by plenty of mature trees. The last couple of weeks have seen the trees burst in flower, and I’m not entirely sure why – though I think it’s because the dry season is coming to an end. One of most noticeable and showy of these is the Yellow Flame tree, which right now is giving off an amazing fragrance and a spectacular burst of yellow flowers. Many other trees are also in flower, and subsequently producing seeds and fruit. The bird and animal life seems to have tripled. In the mornings there are mynah birds, starlings, pigeons and squirrels all gorging themselves – the noise they make is pretty extraordinary. Perhaps we are having our own harvest festival here. Talking of birds, I was reminded by a nature organization here that this month is the peak migration time for birds in Singapore. This small island state is part of a very much wider picture.
|Green tea and cherry blossom wagahai|
So, while in Europe the nights are drawing in, winter woolies are coming out, I’m going to be heading to the wetland area to see what birds might be visiting, and talking more walks around the neighborhood to see other trees in bloom.