I posted this photograph the other day when I highlighted that northern Vietnam was my favorite place in Asia:

rice field workers thai nguyenIt made me think of the opening paragraph of my new novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree, set to release this coming summer. I’d be curious to hear what you think of the two of them, the photo and the description. Here goes:

This part of the Vietnamese countryside has witnessed little change through the centuries. The crooked-back peasants face another daunting day every time the sun slips over the eastern ridge, greeting them with stoic reminders of the paddies which need tending. The giddy, shirtless, barefoot boys still ride the water buffaloes out through the paddy ridges to find slivers of green grazing that will keep the beasts contented until the next time they are needed to plow-under the sun-baked soil, readying the field for another planting. The dawn illuminates a village, which awakens like a colony of ants, miles to go to feed themselves for another day. The crows overhead witness the ants, scurrying out from underneath the palms which shield the single-story cement dwellings from the relentless afternoon sun. The busy-bodies hunker down in the fields, women side by side with sister and aunt, neighbor and cousin, donning the cone-like, pointed straw hats, which protect their face from darkening in the heat of the day. The dainty hands, each with a single stock of rice seedling no more than six inches tall, skillfully pushes the heroic staple into the mud until it settles in the place where it will thrive and grow, giving the planters their rewarded survival. They owe their lives to the blessed crop which gives them sustenance; they owe their age to the cursed crop, which robs them of years and sentences them to curved backs and ridged, hard skin. This is the land of their ancestors; a canvass of paint so vivid, so real, so far removed from the toil of the modern masses. These people have become one with the land, one with time, one with each other as they etch out a noble existence for which two thousand years of Vietnamese history owes them much.


1 Comment

  1. The words are evocative and the photo a reminder of seeing paddies for the first time in Thailand – looking at them from the air makes them look beautiful and serene, but seeing them at ground level, with the people actually working there, reminds you of the backbending toil involved in tending them.

    But actually setting foot into them brings a rush of panic as you realise how dark and muddy the water is – anything could be lurking there to bite your unprotected feet – plus, the weird sensation as you sink down into the mud that you’ll just keep on sinking (until you stop about 18 inches down).

    Thank you 🙂

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