This morning the day introduced itself with an extravagant thick mist that enveloped our cosy home in a cloud of expectation for the rain to come. It is meant to be the rainy season after all and only last night, after months of useless rain-dances, the rain finally graced our gardens with a steady mild shower throughout the night.
People often ask me if there is anything I miss from home. Whatever they mean by home, the boot-shaped country I was born in or Mighty Britain, the answer is nothing. I do have a slight longing for liquorice and saffron that crops up every now and then, two things I can’t easily source here in Ecuador, but I am lucky enough to have never had the unbearable need for anything I can’t find.
Even outside the realm of edibles, there is nothing I truly miss.
But this morning, waking up to the surreal daydream of being inside a submarine submerged in a huge glass of milk, I found myself missing Autumn and all the Autumny things I remember, particularly from Milan.
I missed the chestnuts picking trips to nearby forests, all dressed in flamboyant hues of reds, oranges and mustard yellows, the damp smell of wet leaves and musk, the sound of branches tweaking under my steps, the wildlife voices between the semi bare trees, the rusty leaves flying around in the streets, impossible not to collect for crafts I’ll never accomplish. The woolly hats, the thick hot chocolates with naughty whipped cream on top, the crisp gelid air that turns the tip of your nose red, the steaming of my glasses when I go inside the house, to finally roast those chestnuts.
(Actually, no, I don’t miss that at all. I hate when my glasses steam up!)
These are all fragments of a season which, like spring, is dying. Springs and Autumns in Europe seem to have slimmed down to imperceptible commas in between Summers and Winters compared to how I have experienced them in my childhood years. No surprise in Italy, the commonplace phrase “mid seasons no longer exist” has become a classic in random polite conversations to strangers. Now is about time when, back then, Autumn would have just left room for Winter to make its frosty debut.
But here I am in Ecuador instead, in a valley that enjoys a beautiful microclimate which presents itself in the form of forever summer. The weather is sunny and warm pretty much all year round. Seasons are punctuated by little extra elements they bring along with them: windy season, mango season, avocado season, stupid beetle bug season, annoying yellow spider season, sticky red grass season, massive stars season and rainy season, which is the one I am ironically longing for.
I say ‘ironically’ because when living in England I had the dream of a life blessed by constant summer. I claim that British grey and rainy weather was a major player in the decision of our open ended departure from the UK. And here I am now, in a permanently summered place begging for rain and sounding all Italian-granma complaining about the lack of mid seasons!!
As Don Ramon prepares himself to go home after his day of work, spade on shoulder, he gazes at the sky, dense with fast moving pissed-off clouds, and confidently asserts in his toothless voice: “The winter is coming”.
The winter is coming. He indeed could be a character of Game of Thrones. In fact, over the years of working with him, he has morphed in our eyes into the Three Eyed Raven of weather forecasts.
We always ask him, with pretense anticipation: “do you think it’s going to rain today??”
He’s often wrong but we’ve learnt, all it matters is the promise in the precise moment that it is uttered. Like when in shops, the owners tell you that the item you are looking for is arriving tomorrow. We all know it’s not, but in that precise moment it makes you feel better and you decide to believe it. Ecuadorians are funny like that.
Don Ramon is not to be blamed for incorrect weather predictions though: weather has indeed changed in the past years. Its unpredictability is making it difficult particularly for farmers like him: not being able to rely on the punctuality of rain, have driven many to give up growing their own crops altogether and buy the produce instead from large producers who can afford irrigation water.
Our first rainy season when we arrived to Vilcabamba back in 2011 had the roads in the town centre looking like rivers. The downpours were ferocious. More than cats and dogs it was raining elephants and hippos.
We still ask Don Ramon if he thinks it’s going to rain. He still looks up at the sky, looks over the horizon, gives his verdict. We absorb it and feel reassured, whatever the answer.
“The winter is coming”, thus spake our Oracle Don Ramon.
This morning, when the beautiful mountainous dinosaur that fills the landscape in front of our house got stolen by the blanket of fog and even our gardens got swallowed up by the clouds, I felt very happy.
It gave me a glimpse of those autumn memories, made me grab a blanket and sip on milky coffee which tasted nicer than ever. And started to believe Don Ramon might have got it right this time.
I looked out into the white and said “let it rain, let it rain, let it rain”.
(I can’t be bothered to water the gardens).