At first it was the orange-red brightness of early Spring,
rousing the silent streets and also filling up my childhood memories
at the age of five. Sleepy-eyed, I sat in the child seat
installed in the front of Father’s old Vespa, and Spring showered
me with the fragrance of warm bedsheets like a butterfly spreading
the lovely perfume of flowers. The fragrance drifted, floated
over the roads dotted with only a few cars, while the slanting
sunlight shone behind the street trees with entwined, checkerboard-
like branches, casting their shadows on the ground and
making the road glitter. The sun had just risen.
For a very long time, Father would take me to
Grandmother’s house on his scooter in early mornings before he
had to go to work, passing through silent streets still free of traffic.
That day, as I gazed up at the sunlight from the roaring scooter, I saw that the bare street trees were suddenly covered in
scarlet like exploding firecrackers. Raising my face I asked
Father what it was; in high spirits Father replied: Spring!
It was the first time that I saw Spring.
Spring had arrived in vibrant orange-red, blooming and
budding on branches covered with nodes and barbs. As a fresh
breeze lightly touched us, I saw wisps of clouds like cotton balls
flying from the orange-red blossoms, dancing and hovering in
the sky like dandelions. Father said that they were the seeds of
Spring, searching hard for the right place to flourish next season.
I looked up at the clouds that soared so effortlessly, sometimes
fluttering close to me, sometimes dancing farther away.
Father stopped the scooter to pick for me a fiery red flower,
at Roosevelt Road where Spring was in full bloom.
It was cotton tree, and also the color of early Spring.
Father continued forward, finally reaching the end of the
long, long cotton tree road. I rubbed my eyes and glanced back
regretfully, watching as the cotton trees gradually disappeared
down the road, and also watching as Spring gradually left us.
Another rub of the eyes, and Summer stood before me in a
cool outfit. By then I had reached the age when I had to squeeze
into the school bus every day; being crammed in the sweaty,
steaming and sultry carriage day after day made one feel bored
and dull. Observing the world that passed outside the glass windows
became my sole enjoyment.
As the school bus turned into Summer’s street, it was the
smell that first drifted into the carriage. It was a refreshing,
invigorating scent that pierced through everyone’s lungs like the
“Mass in G Major,” immediately calming the temperamental
moodiness of Summer. The refreshing scent was accompanied
by the powerful aroma of green canopy. When the aroma of green canopy reached me, I knew that the bus was about to travel
through the cool, green tunnel that was Chungshan North
Road, my favorite street of Summer.
Pushing out the window slightly and the resounding chorus
of cicadas immediately overwhelmed the bus. Through the
glass, I saw the many camphor trees reaching out with wrinkly
branches, waving their verdant crowns in an energetic welcome,
and their far-reaching melodies added another breath of fresh air
to the scorching Summer. As I watched the scenery pass by, I
propped my chin in a palm, intending to take a good nap and
enjoy this rare moment of coolness in Summer. But the bus
traveled faster and faster, finally turning out of the gently waving
“Oh, a rain of gold!” As the bus rushed into another road
leading to the school, almost at breakneck speed, Summer
appeared in a different form and exploded in the mouths of my
The students all pushed their heads out of the windows,
touching the golden raindrops whether with their hands or with
their lines of sight, while the raindrops of tiny, golden petals
descended from the tops of golden shower trees as if from baskets
of heavenly fairies, flowing whichever way the wind took
them until they covered the entire street.
With my eyes half-closed, I gazed at the long golden clusters
that hung from the tips of golden shower trees like windcharms,
spraying their tinkly, musical notes in the sky in the
direction of the wind. Completely relaxed, I let myself enjoy
this unique gift carried to me by Summer, until my consciousness
gradually dimmed and before long I had dozed off in the
arms of Chang-Hsing Street, pillowed on a dream of the golden
When we reached our destination, I stretched and yawned
to drive the dream-man away, but also drove away the hazy days
of Summer. After Summer took away all of the bright, glowing
flower clusters at the tips of the golden shower trees, the music
of the cicadas also died away, but the chill of wistful Autumn
When one could no longer hear the cicadas, Autumn had
arrived with its secret sorrows, and the sweet gums were the first
The year that I pushed away Summer and saw in Autumn, I
left school and officially entered the workforce, starting each
day by going to work on foot. Turn right at the mouth of the lane
where I leased a small apartment, follow the row of neatly
arranged sweet gum trees, walk for a little over ten minutes, and
I would arrive at my place of work. When the first gasp of cold
wind attacked, the leaves of the sweet gums would immediately
and magically change from their shy and modest greenness to
the bitter color of wistful longing.
Whenever the gum leaves began to change color, it would
also seem to affect my mood. Even though I generally rushed
along the street of sweet gums, at this time I would always feel
compelled to slow my steps for a gaze at that stroke of vague,
bitter sorrow, and it would always remind me of long-gone
memories that could not possibly be more long-gone, scenes
from the past vaguely yet repetitively replaying in my mind. I
could not refuse or object to moving through a long season of
beautiful sorrow, towards an age of youth that could no longer
Previously I had thought that the sweet gum leaves changed
colors because they were also sorrowful, but much later I discovered
that the leaves had changed color in readiness for the freezing Winter to come, just as animals prepare for hibernation.
When the temperature dropped suddenly, trees and animals alike
must slow down their internal activities, in order to store up
enough nutrients or water for the hard Winter ahead.
As the days grew colder, not only the sweet gums but also
the maples were dyeing the streets in Autumn yellow.
Occasionally I paused to look up, and would see all colors of the sunset showcased by the backdrop of clear blue sky, as grand
and magnificent as martyrs. I accidentally let out a sneeze, a
tiny one, but in an instant the martyr-like pieces of scarlet drifted down until the entire city was dyed red by fallen leaves,. . .