Thankfully, mercifully, the monsoon season has passed. Gone is the oppressive heat, the burdensome humidity, and the ample rain. They have been replaced with clear blue skies, crisp breezes, and gentle wind. Autumn always feels like a fresh start.
This past weekend we spent the day on Namiseom, a tiny island in the middle of a river, about 60 km from Seoul. It is full of trees and open spaces and not much else. There are no cars allowed on the island which makes it especially appealing for families with small children. If we were still living near the Olympic National Forest or Mt. Rainier, I might find the island charming but underwhelming. But since I’m living on the 18th floor of a highrise in the middle of a city of 24 million people, I find it to be life-giving.
The colors on the trees were spectacular. Vibrant reds, golden yellows, fiery oranges, and everything in between. These are the same colors we see every autumn and yet each year it is a completely new experience. It’s as if we forget through the winter, spring, and summer just how vivid and hypnotizing they are.
As we strolled around the island, walking off our glorious lunch of barley bibimbap, I watched all the vignettes playing out before us: the young couple strolling hand in hand and stopping at every brightly colored tree to marvel; the young family gathering leaves into piles and then jumping in; the father kicking around a football (that’s soccer to you, my American friends) with his two sons; an older couple sharing an apple. I could go on and on. All the same things that you would see happening during Autumn in almost any place in America that is fortunate enough to experience this season.
The culture here is obviously completely foreign to me and at times can feel so isolating and confusing (trying to figure out where I fall in the hierarchy of Confucianism in any given situation is particularly confounding [so I always opt for “last”]). But when given the opportunity to observe the fundamental way in which we as humans respond to Nature I was reminded of just how alike we are. Our desire to experience and to commune with natural beauty is universal, and despite differences in culture and belief system, the ways in which we experience these things are strikingly similar.
We respond to Nature in this way because we are a part of it, a reflection of it, and it of us. Time passes, seasons go by, we age, we mature, a lot changes, a lot stays the same, but each moment unfolds like a revelation even though we’ve experienced countless similar moments before. Every autumn the joy we feel from seeing those electrifying colors and smelling that crisp autumnal air and hearing the crunch beneath our feet and tasting the harvest is new and exciting and we all find ways, big and small, to celebrate it.
I hope all of you are enjoying autumn back home. I leave you with some pics of our adventure. Namaste, yogis.