Though it is autumn here in Arvikheer, with a nip in the air, and the shortening hours of sunlight, there is something conspicuously absent. The autumn leaves that I have become so accustomed to seeing every fall are not present here so close to the Gobi.
This area is considered Central Mongolia, but we are on the edge of the large and imposing desert. The soil is mostly sand, and when the wind whips up, there are mini sand storms; little cyclones of sand. An awe inspiring site to be certain, but also a time to close your mouth and cover your nose and eyes if possible.
I have have this experience even when I lived further north in the summer. I was visiting my training site friend, Little B, at her ger. We were standing outside in the hasha (barren, dirt covered yard) chatting (ok lamely attempting to chat) with her hasha mom, when off in the distance we watched a small wind blow into a very large ominous looking dust cloud.
We all stood there mesmerized, watching intently, when her mom squealed and ran for the cover of the house....we quickly followed as she ran in and closed the windows against the blowing sand and dirt. These little mini cyclones disperse as quickly as they appear.
The soil here, whether sand or dirt, blows easily without vegetation to secure it..... I have observed there are areas of weeds and desert like plants, grasses and flowers, then nothing but sand and rocks.
The main town area in Arvikheer has fenced in plots with a few trees and shrubs; all struggling to survive in the windy foreign soil. My view from my apartment windows is a quaint little courtyard, fenced and locked (even from me) with some fairly healthy looking fir trees. There are planters in many locations around town (outside stores, gas stations and homes) bursting with flowers. Many of these flowers are familiar looking annuals, such as sun flowers, cosmos and marigolds.
Aside from these planned and fenced in little garden areas, the land is pretty barren. Public landscaping is not the same in this country. Even in the big city, there is no such thing as a lawn,remarkably to me, not even in the big city parks. Thus, no mowing of lawns.
So back to the absence of leaves. As Joni Mitchell says "you don't know what you've got till it's gone".... leaves are something I have long associated with the changing seasons, the onset of fall, the end of summer, the precursor to winter.
Leaves to me symbolize autumn; along with representing the smell of fall. Fallen leaves with their beautiful colors, their crunchiness, the memories of playing in them as a child, playing in them with my children, and seeing other little kids loving the fall because of the fallen leaves!
Some of my best memories of this season inculde the fallen leaves, raking them, cursing them as I'm raking them, then praising them as they compost into beautiful rich soil. I could definetly use some rich soil here for my immense garden project/beautification plan for my school! Suffice it to say I am composting in my kitchen for now, and have been put in touch with a lady in UB who has red worms for composting. My plan is to obtain some of these worms when I got to UB for Thanksgiving!
It is still autumn even without the falling leaves, as the season turn, turn, turns toward winter.