A couple weeks ago the fall rains began. Overnight, the bazaar was transformed. Out came the carts selling cool weather snacks – large reddish beans seasoned with sour spice, turnips boiled in pomegranate molasses, fried flat bread with green onion mixed in. Suddenly, umbrellas, puffy coats, and space heaters appeared everywhere, bursting from shops which only a few weeks ago had been hanging up canvases to protect from the sun’s heat.
The high desert climate of our corner of Central Asia shifts quickly every year from too hot to quite chilly. We joke that we live in a four season climate of sorts – if you can say that an Autumn that lasts three weeks actually counts. It’s the return of the rain and the moisture in the air that accounts for this sudden drop in temperature and change of atmosphere. In the six months of sunny skies you almost forget what a cloudy day feels like. Then suddenly, mid October with its pregnant clouds comes upon you like a friend you had almost forgotten about, but whose reappearance brings with them almost a sense of waking from a dream. In the words of Theoden king of Rohan, delivered from Saruman’s spells, “I know your face…” The smell of the rain on the dusty stones is particularly potent in this regard.
The locals still live much more connected to the rhythms of the seasons and the skies than we do in the West. Thus, it’s the shift in the weather, not a date on the calendar, that seems to create the societal cues that everyone knows how to interpret. The rains have come. So harvest the pomegranates, prune the shade trees, make the cold weather stews, get out the kerosene heaters.
This past week I was driving around the cloudy city with Mr. Talent*, attempting to pay my various bills before we left for our medical leave. I remarked that the roads and the city itself were much calmer than usual, especially for a Thursday, the last work day of the week. I asked Mr. Talent why that might be. He thought for a minute before answering.
“I have five different friends who were unavailable today because their mothers commandeered them to help lay out the carpeting.”
Every year locals lay out a thin tan wall-to-wall carpet in their homes when the weather is cold, putting it away again when it gets hot again so that they can walk on the cooler tile.
“I bet that’s why the city is so quiet,” he continued. “The mothers knew today was the day to lay out the carpet.”
“That is fascinating,” I responded. “Look at the power of mothers. When they want to, they can change the atmosphere of an entire city.”
Mr. Talent laughed, and nodded his head.
If our theory was correct, it’s even more remarkable in that none of these mothers would have coordinated with one another to set a date for this big annual project. They would have independently intuited that it needed to be this Thursday.
“It is time, my son. No going out with your buddies to waste time smoking hookah this Thursday. I feel it in my bones. Time to do the carpets.”
The dutiful Central Asian sons of course comply, knowing the futility of protesting when mom is sensing the seasonal cues.
*Names changed for security