The smell of…. spring

Cycling to the office this morning, I became aware of an aroma that was pretty unusual in Beijing – despite this city’s wealth of smells… It was the smell of the cowshed, of fresh manure mixed with straw, warmed up by the body heat of the cows… It’s a familiar smell that I remember well from boyhood visits to my uncle’s farm… but I certainly wasn’t expecting to encounter it in the ‘Jing!

I was assuming that it was really something else (probably toxic) that just contained enough similar chemicals to trigger an association – but then I realised that I was passing work gangs with lots of blue sacks. They were digging up the earth around the roots of the roadside trees, and adding compost to fertilise it, and also planting rows of small shrubs in the flower beds – that compost was the source of the smell!

Ah, the air is warmer and fresher, the sun is pleasant, it really is spring. After a long cold winter, which passed for me mostly in pain and sleeplessness, it’s wonderful to feel life returning to the earth! Time to start mental and physical spring-cleaning….

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