The word “farmland” is imbued with an apparent generosity; to me it means the earth. The earth has a fulfilled and touching image, like a grandfather, the old man of the family. This old man has seen much of life and he understands the real meaning of silence; no pleasant surprise or sadness could touch him. He knows all there is to know, but he says nothing. He only watches us as we are born and as we die. Our love lives and our fights are all the same to him.
It might have been when I was five or six years old that I left Hangzhou and followed my parents to a small provincial town called Haiyan. I lived for more than ten years at the end of a lane; this provincial town’s lane’s end was actually farmland. My childhood and teenage years were spent making mischief there, where there were many ponds, oilseed rape flowers bloomed in the spring, and frogs croaked in the summer. Of course I have done good things there too.
Memory is making me see the chimney smoke of the past; they started from the roofs of the farmhouses, and slowly merged into the quiet twilight of the dusk. The way the fields looked in the light rain was most touching. They no longer looked open and spacious but were shrouded in a spreading fog that somehow made one feel very warm. I especially liked hearing the yells from the farmers when they finished working at dusk. Several water buffalos, after they were forced to leave the ponds, walked onto the narrow field ridges. Then there was the light color of manure from the vegetable fields. The humid atmosphere of a southern farmland was, to me, filled with the fragrance of earth.
This is what earth has given me, the very first gift for a child. He opened his embrace, making me feel secure when I climbed up to his chest, feeling as if he was supporting me every minute.
Many of my childhood friends were country kids. What I remembered most vividly about them was them running with baskets for grass cutting in the fields, whereas I was a prisoner in the house. After my parents left for work, they would lock my older brother and I inside. We could only enviously prop ourselves by the window, and look for the country kids who were roaming free in the fields. They often ran to the house and talked to us. What they were most interested in was how far we could see. My brother already knew how to brag by then. He told them we could see the sea. The kids on the ground were all dumbfounded; the lies made my brother feel his own superiority. Yet when they left, as we saw their tanned bodies swaying in the summer sun, jealousy would envelope my brother and I. Those country kids’ naked feet were so harmonious with the earth.
（Ren Zhong, Yuzhi Yang 译）