Free Write

It’s been awhile since I just wrote freely. Free to say anything or nothing. No prompts or forms or intentions.

I’m sitting in the garden, but the weather has changed. It turned from high-summer to mid-autumn directly here overnight, but autumn is my favorite season so no complaints from me. I love the brisk air. There isn’t really a “leaf-season” here, but I can’t help recall the vibrant colors of falling leaves from my childhood home in Vermont. I didn’t always appreciate living in a rural environment. It felt lonely at times. But I always loved listening to the crunch of the colorful leafy mural underfoot while walking along the paths. Such beauty this world has to offer. And then there were those first freezing nights that would provide thinly frozen-over puddles to crackle beneath my soles. Ah. Comfort food for the ears.

In Shanghai, the sounds of the city are ever present. Even in the relative suburban area where I live, there is the cars passing by just on the other side of the garden wall. The train in the background. The planes overhead. They often fade beyond my direct awareness, but my phone reminds me that the ambient noise levels are “high”. And when I do get the chance to escape into nature…the quiet is absolutely delightful.

I first came to Shanghai in 1996 via Japan. I met my wife-to-be in Japan six months earlier and chased her home to Shanghai. I was a foolish 22-year old boy. Now I’m a foolish 49-year old. But even fools sometimes make good decisions. In 1996, Shanghai was a booming construction zone. If you left the windows open for any length of time you would have a centimeter of construction dust on the window sill. Having grown up in Vermont and gone to college in upstate NY it was quite a shock to my not-quite virgin lungs (I did experiment a bit during high-school so I can’t claim to have pristine lungs, but they certainly weren’t ready for such an onslaught). I remember landing in Shanghai and feeling like I’d travelled into a parallel universe where everything was more modern then anything I’d ever known but in a dystopian cloud of dust. Mostly I just felt foreign. And I wasn’t sure the air in on this part of the planet would sustain my type of life form. I’m grateful that the air quality has dramatically improved these last several years, but I can’t say I feel any less foreign here. It’s not a bad feeling, but its pervasive and always there in the background. Kinda like the sounds of the city.

The pace of change and modern conveniences of Shanghai are intoxicating. Forgot garlic for the dish your cooking? There is an app for that – fresh garlic will be at your door within half an hour. They are building metros faster then the US builds roads. Shanghai already has the longest metro system in the world. They just announced a new line extension with a stop not more then 15-minutes walk from my house which will completely transform the area. It will be done in a couple of years. Adding to the background sounds of my garden, I guess.

Ever been to Shanghai? Never? Share your experiences. Share your questions. Let’s chat.

Be well,



  1. Thanks for sharing this perspective, Monty. I have never been to Shanghai…or anywhere in Asia. It sounds like a vibrant, bustling city.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Monty Vern says:

      It’s vibrant during the day but goes to sleep fairly early. Unlike in south China and many cities across Southeast Asia where they are vibing into the early morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. murisopsis says:

    Sounds like a very busy place to live. I would love to visit China but the thought of visiting the biggest city in the world is a little daunting…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Monty Vern says:

      It can be…but it’s safe so at least it doesn’t carry that type of danger with it.


  3. I love “comfort food for the ears.” And the tree, which I’m assuming is your work, is really, really nice. Bookmarking it so I can enjoy it easily whenever I want. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Monty Vern says:

      Thanks! Yes, I feel quite peaceful when I look at this tree too. One of my better pieces.


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