Animals, Korea, Urban Walking
Comments 7

A Mantis Trilogy #3: Death on a Sunday Stroll

I was about to resume my American series with this post, but then, damn it, I had another praying mantis encounter — my third, which seemed somehow significant. Voila: instant trilogy! Not exactly Lord of the Rings or The Godfather, I’ll admit, but the body count does keep growing, entertainingly, I hope…

Accordingly, I’ve rejigged the titles of the last two posts, a rare instance of cohesive posting on TGTW. Enjoy it while it lasts.

*          *          *          *          *

I’m bored, so I’ve decided to grow a beard. This will give me something to help pass the 85 days I have remaining  in Korea (assuming I board a plane immediately after concluding my contract, which seems certain). I do an excellent beard, and most of the students hate it, especially the girls, some of whom seem outright terrified of the thing. This just makes it grow more luxuriantly. Purest organic spite: unbeatable as a nourisher of facial hair.

So on Sunday I set out early, as always, stroking my beard to break the monotony, trying not to come to grief within the rubble and sludge of the poor, long-suffering creek bank. No plan, no great hopes, just going through the motions. I’ve done this walk so many times I could do it in complete darkness. Which was lucky, because I was.

Dawn was breaking as I approached the spot (just past those people on the path) where I cross on stepping stones and leave the weed-strangled Daecheong behind:


It looks far better in crepuscular conditions like this

I was sick as well, a cold that won’t quit. I seem to get sick a lot in Korea; maybe I need to eat more cabbage. I reached the embankment road, sighed, stroked my beard, and surveyed a world I know too well. All the flowering weeds had died back, so the prospects for insect-watching appeared bleak. The verges were a tangle of pumpkin vines but all the colour was gone.

Here and there, pairs of grasshoppers were making the most of things:


Can we help you?

It’s just about harvest time. The last few weekends I’ve spent wandering between golden paddies of fast-ripening rice, either here or over in Yulha. The day before I’d decided to go over to Gimhae and stroll the much-strolled acres of yellow on this side of the Nakdong River. Left home at 5:30, did an hour of bus and train travel, got out, sighed, stroked my beard, and returned immediately to the train to head for home and bed.

Just couldn’t face another step.

In a couple of weeks the hills should turn golden as well, and maybe my enthusiasm for local hiking will seep back. Meanwhile, nothing to do but walk, beneath those brooding skies, past this single, freshly harvested paddy…


..and this one, a little further on, where the rice straw had been neatly bundled:


Independence Mountain — Hell Skool lurks on the far side

I vaguely hoped there might be some colour ahead — not just 85 days but 85-odd metres ahead. I remembered the thickets of self-seeded cosmos from a year ago, and on my previous walk here I’d seen a new crop of seedlings — but I really wasn’t ready for this:


Looking back, past Independence Mountain

Well, that perked me up a bit. I spent an hour or so there, walking that rare streak of colour a couple of hundred metres long, one eye out for cars and blue farm trucks on the treacherously narrow road:


pink cosmos flowers, korea



Looking back to distant Jangyu

Another hazard was cyclists, ranging from the grumpy old man…

mmm the serious — and seriously over-attired — enthusiast…


..and the obviously insane — this guy was on a one-man speed trial, complete with his own self-generated Brmm! Brmmmmmmm! effects:


My muses, the dragonflies, were evidently not cosmos enthusiasts — I saw only a handful, and this was the only one that let me get within shooting distance:


A handful of tiny spiders had made attractive homes, but insect-wise, it was pretty quiet. Then again, it was early, and overcast, and my observing skills were off:


Another muse, or at least favourite subject in that area is the mountain I once knew as Devastation before rechristening it Big Ass. From this distance, without the highway and theme-park construction surrounding its base, it looked great — especially with such a colourful foreground:




The distant Red Bridge, another “muse”

Believe me, it’s not really this pretty around here. Or maybe fragments of it are, if you block off the rest and try to bring out the best in your deeply isolated subject. Kate sometimes says, “Wow, you make it all look really cool!” To which I’ll  reply, “It’s the camera, babe. Trust me, that The camera never lies thing is a bunch of crap. The camera always lies.”

There you have it, my philosophy of photography in one pithy sentence! All I can say is, that creek is a murky canal — it astonishes me that people fish in it — and there are factories, apartment clusters, ugly buildings, trash, pylons, busy roads, road construction, scarred mountainsides, dusty outlets and Korean-style strip malls in every direction.

Pretty flowers, though:


Fisherman on the Far Shore


Bonfire: older Koreans will burn anything, anywhere, anytime


Well, I was running out of steam and a few fat raindrops were coming down. Umbrella-less, I turned for home, or more precisely, a bakery of my acquaintance that lies Beyond the Cosmos.

I headed back and was almost at the creek when…



I must’ve walked right past it an hour earlier: the sun-bleached, decapitated corpse, still perched in its final mating position, of another unfortunate male praying mantis, having donated its seed and its head to some hopefully appreciative female.

I thought of severed heads adorning medieval battlements. I thought of the impermanence of life. I thought of my upcoming breakfast coffee. But mostly I thought: COOL!


Dead Man’s Peak, in the distance

I was excited again — okay, maybe sacrificial insects are an acquired taste — and whipped out the second camera before texting Kate:


By which I made no claims as to the worth or otherwise of the several pictures I took — quite possibly there are better ones out there. But right then, that little glimpse of the wild and woolly and weird in overly “improved” Jangyu was just the ticket. I skipped down the creek bank to the bakery, my morning redeemed.

So if you saw a kinda maniacal–looking westerner in shorts last Sunday, skipping joyfully down the path, sporting two cameras and a really magnificent incipient beard, now you know the story.


A Totem in the Rice Paddies

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Your camera lies beautifully. I love the streak of gold and red dissecting the blue sky, the bundled straw that looks like marshmallows in the field, and the burst of colorful flowers. Alas, poor Yorick lost his head to his lady love. I’ll bow my head and wish him well. Glad you had such a great day.

  2. Gosh, those cosmos flowers are something! And was for the dear departed mantis, well, it does make for an interestingly sacrificial foreground. Now, you will miss Korea when you leave. You know you will 😉

    • A guy here asked me a couple of months ago (after hearing my less-than-rapturous appraisal of various things here), “What do you like here?” I answered without hesitation: “The insects. And the flowers.”

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