Taylor Swift fans have grown restless this fall as they await the October release of her forthcoming album “Midnight”. That makes this a perfect time to put Swift in the spotlight, through a music video of hers that cast a spell around the world (and here at WWAM BAM): “Willow”.
The video, dressed largely in a “prairie chic” reminiscent of a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, follows Swift on an ethereal journey through a rabbit hole, enchanted forests, a carnival fair, a witch gathering, and cozy log cabins, as she traces a magical golden thread leading her straight to “the one”. The soft and subdued lighting — whether from candles, fireplaces, strings of lights, mystical orbs, or the golden thread itself — lends an intimate, crepuscular atmosphere to the video that fits the acoustic folk-infused sound of the love ballad. If only our dreams could be this beautiful.
But at WWAM BAM, we are also enchanted by Swift’s handsome co-star in the video: Taeok Lee, a Korean American man who, in fact, has history with the singer.
The group blog WWAM BAM just published my recent post titled The Sauna Days of Summer in China, a reflection on the extreme heat we’ve had to endure in recent weeks. Here’s an excerpt:
It was 2 pm on a sultry weekday afternoon when I left the refuge of our air-conditioned office to brave the heat with my colleagues. We wouldn’t have chosen to leave then, apart from the mandatory meeting we had. And even then, we did everything we could to avoid the elements, even opting to cross the grounds in the underground parking tunnels, instead of striding across that infernal square and its blinding white hot concrete that almost seared your eyes just staring at it.
Even so, once we emerged from the elevator into the shaded corridor, we were immediately buffeted by the waves of heat which rose, much like steam from an oven, from that square. It felt like a scene from Dante’s “Inferno” and yet it was no fictional account, but our summer reality on a day which delivered record temperatures and no relief in sight.
Once again, a mantle of gray clouds the heavens, which have been steadily “weeping” all day, dispelling thoughts of hiking or picnics.
Yes, we’ve entered southern China’s monsoon season, that time of year when the humidity reaches 100 percent under a curtain of rain as everything from hiking to even hanging laundry out to dry becomes impossible. And don’t even get me started about the mold that creeps into the corners of your rooms and closets indoors.
So how can you survive?
As someone who has experienced many years of monsoon seasons south of China’s Yangtze River, I would like to share some of the ways I’ve learned to adapt and even thrive:
A heavy “goose feather” snowfall had dusted the landscape outside our window, drawing my husband out of bed with a childlike thrill as he stood there, aiming to capture the magic of the moment in the lens of a camera.
And of course, he couldn’t help deeming it a propitious thing, with that traditional Chinese saying: 瑞雪兆丰年 (ruì xuě zhào fēng nián) — auspicious snow heralds a good year.
Such a warm embrace of snow deep into February would surely find a chilly reception in my hometown of the Cleveland, Ohio area in the US.
The Chinese saying of “moneyed or not, return home for Chinese New Year” (有钱没钱回家过年, yǒuqián méi qián huíjiā guònián) endures as proof of the importance of the tradition of the annual holiday family reunion. And in years past, in the lead-up to the holiday, I would hear Chinese colleagues burst with excitement while talking about the tickets they purchased for trains or flights, the road trips they had mapped out, or even the vacation home in southern China where they could enjoy a little beach and sun.
This year, however, whenever I ask my colleagues about their Chinese New Year plans, they offer the same perfunctory response, delivered with a certain resignation and often a sigh: “I’m not going home.”
Among the rituals I observe every morning when I arrive bleary-eyed to work, nothing perks up my senses more than the moment I open the little light-blue canister in my desk drawer and take that first whiff of West Lake Longjing, or Dragonwell, tea leaves. The aroma of those lightly roasted leaves recalls memories of fresh tea on the bushes while walking through high mountain fields. Even just wandering through those fields in my mind, prompted by the sight and scent of Dragonwell tea leaves, delights me on the most dreary of days.
No other tea will do. My allegiance to the stuff runs so deep that I always prepare a stash of it whenever I travel.
I hesitated to type a response to my friend back in the US, as the latest media reports of the virus situation over there — over 250,000 deaths and over 12 million confirmed cases — still circulate through my head. When I eventually type out that “Things are nearly back to normal”, a part of me flinches within, wondering if I just sent her the message equivalent of a gut punch. Is it ever polite to tell someone living in a bonafide disaster zone that it’s no longer a problem where you live? Even if it’s the truth?
I breathe a sigh of relief as she responds without any apparent annoyance, and I do my best to quickly shift topics to something else. But my guilt remains tenacious — the guilt that comes from living in a country that has nearly restored life to the new “normal”, as friends and family in the US, my home country, face a frightening surge of cases and deaths.
I wish my family and friends didn’t have to live with the threat of COVID-19 stalking them so close to home.
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