Do I have to apologise for hitting you with another dragonfly post? Has it come to that? Well, I hope not, because — “sorry” — there’s one more coming after this, and I can guarantee there’ll be more post-Korea. I took many hundreds of D.F. shots here that I’ll probably work on some more, and without giving anything away, I’ve been assured by a certain someone that there are going to be a lot more of these enigmatic critters in my future… Advertisements
It dawned on me last night that I only had one more Saturday and two Sundays left in Korea. Now there’s just one more weekend and 10 full days. And I intend to cram six more posts into that space, starting with this one. I think it’s now officially Winter. I’ve had the odd case of numb, near-paralysed fingers with the Raynaud’s Syndrome playing up a bit on early-morning hikes, particularly in my camera hand — but really, who’s complaining when over in New York, Kate’s needed her brother with a snow plough so she could move her car? It’s been amazing walking weather. Someone told me today that this area had a mere 30% of its normal rainfall this year — and Jeju Island only 20%. Autumn was far sunnier and more pleasant than last year’s, and I’ve scarcely had a weekend walk over the last couple of months that didn’t occur under clear blue skies.
“What do you like?” This guy I was doing an English camp with, right before I left for America in August, hit me with a tough one. I wasn’t exactly Mr Positive at that point; I’ll spare you the details ’cause you’ve heard ’em all before. Fortunately he had plenty of positive to go around. “What do you mean — music?” “No, I mean about Korea. What do you like about Korea?” He had a Korean wife and was a little defensive, even though they were themselves on the verge of escaping to America and new lives far from any middle school English classroom. Without hesitation, I answered: “The insects. And the flowers.”
Hi, all. Well, as threatened promised, I’m adopting a take-no-prisoners approach with the blogging now, in a desperate and probably futile attempt at publishing most of the un-posted material from my two years in Korea before I jump on that plane. Starting…er, two posts ago, the goal is a post every two days till I’m outta here. I like a challenge. In case you don’t, I’ll try to keep the word count down. Then, once I’m safely on southern soil, we can all take a breather. For a while.
PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOKYO, AUGUST 2013 It’s been a long haul but this post concludes my little Tokyo series. It’s time I embraced the here and now, or at least the here and not-too-many-months-ago. I can at last start on my daunting backlog of Korea posts, like all the lovely Autumn ones — now that Winter is moving in to shake the last of the colour from the maples and the town itself…
PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR JAPAN, AUGUST 2013 I remember when my friend Andrew and I climbed Mt Fuji just over a decade ago, she was mighty elusive considering she was easily the biggest lump of rock and cinder on the entire archipelago. We had camped near Lake Motosu, and started walking to the mountain base at midday. It took us five hours, down vague tracks and forestry roads, to get to the starting point. Much of the time we were treed in, but even when we found ourselves in the open, with 3,776m of mountain somewhere in front, we often couldn’t see her. Haze, cloud, dense misty air is drawn to her, clinging to her flank like a camouflaging cloak. Then the cloak would shift, you’d be granted a glimpse and — Jesus.
Spider, are you crying, or the Autumn wind? ~ Basho I’ve been in a mental Nowheresville lately. Lou Reed’s passing hit me harder than I can explain or even understand, and of late my day-to-day routine here in south-eastern Korea seems even less meaningful than before. Haven’t felt like blogging or doing anything much at all except listening to old songs, skyping my girlfriend and sighing a lot while I shuffle around.
PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOKYO, 2013 I seemed to spend half my waking life on the Chuo Line when I lived in Tokyo. Now I was once again jumping into one of the familiar orange carriages at Nishi Kokubunji, playing a little game of Guess the Next Station from Memory as our kaisoku (rapid) train sped inbound: Kokubunji, Musashi-Koganei, Higashi-Koganei, Musashi-Sakai, Mitaka — and then the next stop on my high-speed visit to places from my Tokyo past: Kichijoji.
PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR TOKYO, SEPTEMBER 2013 The flight to Japan was the easy part. A couple of hours from Busan we were swooping over a green and crumpled landscape. With a surge of long-dormant affection I gazed down on the farmland and mountains that, even from that height, seemed comfortingly familiar. And what a thrill to recognise an old pal (and on one occasion a formidable foe) in the last light of Wednesday:
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…
I’ve had a bad cold the last few days — think I pushed myself a little too hard in Tokyo for an old guy — and enjoyed Tuesday and yesterday at home. (And in a bakery — my second home.) And then today, as I was trudging to school, I became aware of an eerie silence, a delicious feeling of calm. My pulse quickened but I told myself to hold my fantasies in check — and then I entered the school grounds to find the place deserted.
It’s been a mighty good season for the dragonfly freak. Summer has been hot, dry and interminable (yes, it’s officially Autumn now, but you wouldn’t know it — I’m writing this outside in T-shirt and shorts), and it seems to me that my favourite insects, the dragonflies, are hanging around a lot longer than last year — and in even greater numbers.
Howdy again. I’ve been a terrible blogger of late — I know it — but I start redeeming myself right here and right now. What’s it been since the last post, a week or so? Unforgivable — I was shooting for two or three posts per week, pre-computer breakdown. The shocking truth is that I can’t even blame the breakdown. Two Fridays ago, after skipping school at lunchtime and enduring one of those bruising trawls through the shabby Busan backstreets that I do so well, just as I was admitting defeat and retreating to the subway, I chanced upon a sign, which led me to an exit, and then a stairway, and finally the nondescript office building housing the approved Apple service joint serving the Southeast. A few minutes with the just-barely English-speaking technician, an arcane configuration of fingers on keys — something out of an I.T. Karma Sutra — and this here laptop was purring like a phlegmatic kitten.
Hey, all. It’s been a while, eh? Well, first the bad news (with me, you always get the bad news first): my significant other is no more. Relax, not Kate — we’re doing fine! At least, we were last time I checked. No, my once-trusty MacBook Pro bit the dust yesterday, a crippling blow to the world of medium-quality blogging. She just up and died after a mere three years of (admittedly heavy-duty) service. Suddenly I feel like the Lone Ranger without his Native American trusty steed.
The thrill had gone. I just wasn’t feeling it. Seemed the joy of strutting out into the Sunday dark at 4:30am had worn off. Maybe it was the rain. Or maybe these rice-paddy rambles were just getting old. Maybe I was — it was my birthday after all. Well, I was up, and moving, sort of. Might as well keep on going now.
Hey, all. I’m tapping this up in my favourite local cafe, after a Monday that began less than ideally with a student collapsing, distraught, onto the floor after I pretended to award his (evidently much-cherished) Rubik’s Cube as a prize to another student. My humour does not always settle comfortably into the Korean classroom.
Yesterday I woke even earlier for my Sunday ramble — ridiculously early, even for me — and hit the street before the first sunbeams. Thumped zombie-fashion down to the Yulha again, ambled its banks (where the coreopsis thickets that featured in the last post are starting to die off), climbed to the road and down to the rice paddy edges, dodged the odd early-starting dump-truck driver heading to or from the highway construction scarring the valley walls, took a few halfhearted shots of spiders and reflections and finally admitted that I didn’t know where the hell I was heading.
“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. . .” ~ Charles Darwin You meet the best folk when you rise early.
Hey, all. I’m typing this on the terrace of one of my favourite weekend haunts, Cafe 7gram in Yulha, 20 minutes’ walk from home. It’s late afternoon on Korean Memorial Day and I spent the day in my patented weekend Goat-walking style. Let me tell you how I get the mileage and some photography in during the merciless heat and light of almost-Summer.
Around the middle of last week we got some decent rain, and Daecheong Creek, down here in Jangyu where it widens and levels out after its carefree tumble down the gullies of Bulmo-San, roared with an uncharacteristic wildness.