She stands alone, by far the largest tree around. I took over a dozen photos of this tree soon after I bought my little camera because of the impact this one tree had on me on first viewing her. I named her immediately, because what struck me when I first passed her on the second day of my morning walks here, was the view of her inner trunk. It's all blasted away, covered with what looks like dark moss and, could it be soot?
Possibly the inside of this ancient tree was used as some sort of incinerator at some point, but one thing is sure: she's had all her guts eaten, burned, or otherwise disposed of. And yet, even in this lush landscape, no other tree supports the density of foliage which covers every living part of her, from roots to upper most branches. She stands there, defying nature and drawing from incredibly hardy roots to produce an abundance of new leaves and support other vines and new shoots of life. Of course, she survived this weeks' typhoon, but one of her highest branches didn't. The remaining hole is pronounced, and I wonder if trees, like other mothers, feels sorrow over the dying branch beside her on the ground?
I watch women of the village, who's backs have formed over the years to fit their endless daily labors, pushing empty baby carriages around to support them as they walk and believe they miss being able to create and nurse the small inhabitants of those carriages. These stooped over little old women (I'm not going to insult their dignity by including photos that might not do them justice), like that tree, have sacrificed their health and everything they are and doggedly continue so to do. I see them out washing laundry in the canals, planting seeds, fishing in the rivers and canals with small nets, laying out vast amounts of peppers to dry--only to quickly gather them back in for the recurring rain. They work as diligently in the fields as the men, with scythes for the harvests, and wrapping individual fruits in their orchards against inclement weather...
It appears that everything inside these women, like that tree, has been chiseled away through the vicissitudes of existence. Every internal hope and cherished dream has, no doubt been compromised, and yet, like the great-grandmother tree, their efforts sustain far more life than those less stricken in years. They have evolved together, devoting every waking moment to the tending of life around them, giving no thought to themselves or their innermost needs. I believe they no longer have such needs.
Like a guardian, the great-grandmother tree stands just outside one of the older villages that backs up to the mountains. And tiny, bent and seemingly fragile women do the same for their villages.
I want to become like the great-grandmother tree and those women.
So, we said our good byes just over 2 weeks ago in the SLC Airport. I was terrified and, well, homesick already. Moms don't take off and leave, kids do! I'm too old for this!! But, well, now I'm cooking pumpkin leaves with cabbage, onions, pumpkin leaves and tofu, licking the bowl out on the weekends before I grade some more papers. I feel at home in my brand new (& I DO mean NEW--no one's ever lived here but me) apartment in Sacheon City of South Korea. Here's a view of the outside of my building. And one of the inside, or at least, where I put my shoes--too, too cute.
I love my home, my school, my city and the fact that I'm situated right on the edge of the city and rural, countryside! I love my school (more on that later), coworkers and boss, and MOST of the kiddies I teach (working on that small "other" percentage).
There's way too much to tell!! But I just got a little camera, so I'll end this post with a gorgeous scene--one of many I see daily in my morning walks through the farmlands and waterways East of me (I live right on the edge of the city). And, once a week, I'll blog about at least one thing out of the ever expanding plethora of "wow" and "that's just cool" or "a little weird" stuff that fills every waking moment here in Sacheon, South Korea. We're on the edge of the ocean and riddled with natural and man-made waterways, so the air is moist enough to open your mouth and feel refreshed when you've sweated yourself out. Today's the first sunny day we've had in about a week.
Living hundreds, even thousands of miles away from family is a bummer--one of the spiders, if you see what I mean, of my life. But my big brother, Tom, came up with a wonderful idea: do lunch via the cell phone! He started it with his nephew, Jordan, my son and then included me when I decided to spend the summer in Maryland (he's in Utah) to paint before heading off to Korea to teach for at least a year. My son's in Boston, I'm in Maryland and I believe Tom's found a great way to stay connected and make life a little sweeter. Today I we went "together" to an ice cream shop the 3 of us went to years ago on the corner of East Street and Church in Frederick. Frederick Fudge and Ice Cream sits right on the corner, it's charming, a chocolate lover's dream and has some of the very best ice cream around. Today Tom indulged my cravings with a double scoop of the darkest decadent, brownie flavors in a chocolate dipped lime green waffle cone. I felt like a 5 year old in heaven and sent him cell pix to drool along with me. We talked for over an hour and I purchased some cute, cheap sweaters for Korea's winters at the darling consignment shop across the street--all while chatting with my oldest brother (I have 7, by the way).
Jordan and I chatted for over an hour last night, so now I don't feel so overwhelmed with the journey I'm about to undertake. There's been an infestation of spiders with delays, paperwork, unreasonable banking policies and a renter I have to replace in about 5 days, but connecting over ice cream, great ideas, fond memories and shared goals sprinkles in enough sweetness to smother the yucky side of life!