Gwangju Blog

A few weeks till now.

A few weeks till now.


Yesterday was the Buddha’s birthday holiday here on the peninsula. Usually occurring the first week of May, this national day off usually hits that sweet spot weather-wise. Not too hot nor cold, previous Buddha B-days have been near perfect opportunities to go on a makoli-infused hike from temple to temple in the hills around town. Such trips usually allow a bland but filling temple lunch provided at one end or other. Also depending on where you choose to roam, you might just be able to find some solitude on your trail-of-choice. If leaving her headphones at home, the hiker can potentially gauge her impending arrival by the strength of the mok-tak, or temple woodblook, which is ubiquitous during early morning, afternoon, or early evening chants.

This annual event exudes its charm through sheer simplicity. Being a not-so-subtle Buddhist retort to the Christmas holiday, it nevertheless manages to avoid the commercialist trappings which subsume the latter’s annual celebrations. For these reasons, I tend to successfully pry myself away from netflix and Ren & Stimpy re-runs, and head to yonder hills. In this case, those hills meant an area full of smaller peaks just east of Manjin-san (Manjin Mountain). The three hour jaunt left me without any remarkable experiences to share. Yet, the experience filled whatever metaphorical and physical cups needed filling at the time.

Overall, what the hike yesterday provided was a reason to return to what is. Trees nearing full bloom; the tips of which bowing gently to the will of the wind. An algae-colored snake sensing my vibes and exiting the scene. A crumpled up tissue and candy bar wrapper sitting on a rock just off-trail. Perhaps with the makoli’s urging, I could not help but feel appreciative for the way things were. A few extra strikes to the snooze button and that trash, snake, and maybe even wind would not have been there. If not, I have no doubt that other elements would have taken their place to imprint their presence upon my experience. Yet, the experience was a reminder to appreciate what there is, while there is. As such, for this week’s photo, I have chosen an image from a nearby location just a month ago. Taken at dusk, the shadows of the trees behind the camera lead our eyes upwards towards those behind the boulder. The stark contrast of these trees against the sky is only achieved by the barrenness of their branches.

When encountering the photo above, we can access memories of similar locations which until recently, were the standard view on the hills outside of town. And, there is something to be said for the power of such images to reconnect us emotionally with the times and locations represented visually. However, on this day, the image, in all its stark beauty, serves as a cautionary tale. It warns us that what we see today is already within a continual process of becoming. So, we might as well make the big Buddha himself proud and relish in the impermanence of wherever we find ourselves during these warming days of May.

[Photo taken with my Nikon FE2 shooting T-max 400 pushed one stop to iso 800.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)