Life Life

22/09/2017 - 12:51

In the golden autumn light

I had thought I would have to leave Hanoi in the rain like Hue, but luckily, Hanoi gifted me with a September autumn morning.

A conner in the golden autumn light in Hanoi. Photo: Internet

At 5 a.m., Dao Duy Tu old street started a new day with the sound of preparation from the breakfast food stalls: red rice porridge, hot rice rolls, rice cakes, sticky rice... Next to my aromatic cup of coffee, I watched the old town start its new day's rhythm from the corner, where a seller pushed her bicycle into view with a large basket full of flowers behind her back.

A few rays of sunshine beamed through the green foliage, through the ancient tiled roof down to the flowers on the bicycle. I stared at that pure beauty, suddenly remembering the novel "The baskets of flowers" of Nhat Linh - Khai Hung that I read passionately back in my school days. 70-80 years ago, the misses "Lien" of Hanoi in the past (with baskets of flowers) and now (bikes of flowers) remained unchanged in their love for their husband and children through the image of the hardworking women. The special image of these women selling flowers is like an implicit introduction to the beauty in the elegant lifestyle of Hanoi people: love flowers and always have a vase of fresh flowers in the house.

Of course Hanoi is now much different than the Hanoi of Thach Lam or Nhat Linh but the soul of a land could hardly fade. The older the city, the more silence we need to appreciate its beauty, from the subtle vibrations that carry the breath of life rather than the outer flashing colours or splendid exaggerations.

It was difficult to say whether the green grass or the blue sky shone more splendidly when I stood in front of Ba Dinh historical square. A distance away was a long line of people quietly entering the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Suddenly the verses of Vien Phuong came to mind: "Day by day, the sun goes past the mausoleum /Seeing another Sun shining in the tomb/ Day by day, the lines of people march in remembrance/ Offering flowers for his 79 springs..." In the golden autumn light of Hanoi, I slowly walked on Phan Dinh Phung Street, thinking about the beautiful autumn streets in Hue that I loved so much.

In fact, autumn in Hue does not have clear time period like Hanoi. Autumn days in Hue are very short, like a transition from the scorching summer to the cold rainy winter. However, there is a common point between Hanoi’s and Hue's autumns, which is the space of the streets with ancient trees and the French architecture courteous with lime colour in harmony with the colour of trees. Autumns in Hue and in Hanoi are also similar in the emotion they bring, like when I looked at the sunlight shining upon the gates of Hanoi, beside the brick walls covered in green moss and covered by the footprints of time. I also had afternoons wandering on the Hue streets filled with yellow leaves in autumn, on the roads "where flamboyant leaves flew, fogging the way back," and  where the feet dared not to step on the golden leaf carpet of Le Loi Street. I also had those afternoons indulged in the beauty of the violet sycamores in the Imperial Citadel.

Both Hanoi and Hue are ancient capitals. Sword Lake, Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam and One Pillar Pagoda all have different architecture, but the soul of the scenes is similar in character: old, mossy and cool. Early mornings in Hue, when the city is still asleep, out there on the Huong River, a layer of fog has covered the water, giving onlookers the feeling of "floating in the clouds".

And from the autumn light, clear and sweet, I thought about the many autumns that had passed in the world, leaving a mark on people like Levitan's "Golden Autumn" or poems by the Russian poet Olga Berggolts "Do not touch the tree, please do not touch the tree in the season of falling leaves." I suddenly realized that not only in my country but also across the world, the footsteps of autumn have passed through lands of culture and even through wartime.

Xuan An