The edge of a season and the still waters of an evening lake are stuck as a beautiful instant in time.
A nameless lake nestled in the foothills of Taejosan Mountain, just below the sturdy wooden constructs of Gakwonsa Temple. The sleepy waters nurture several coy, and provide refuge for passing birds. The surrounding foliage is made up of both hardwoods, which lean over the water’s edge and dip their now barren braches just below the surface, and tall stoic pines, who remain diligently straight and defiantly green despite the looming winter. Situated at the base of a tall flight of steps that lead pilgrims up the steep side of the mountain to the temple, the lake is occasionally visited by a walking monk, or hiker in need of respite. The surface of the water tonight remained taut and still as glass. It was a perfect reflection of its surroundings and surprisingly empathetic to the early winter twilight and budding chill. Even in the waning light I could still see the thick clouds of steam emerge from my lips, billowing out with each exhale. I sat on a cold grey rock near the shore. Ever so still, the shy sounds of the forest began to emerge: The slow trickle of water dripping down the mountain from some unseen stream, the tentative but shrill calls of a lone bird, the slightest breeze dancing among the topmost braches of the trees, and the faint engine of distant car in the valley far below, all the while a warm orange hue emanated from somewhere just below the horizon. The beautiful scene stayed this way for much longer than I anticipated, the sun continued to lend its color and light to the evening sky, and the gradual changes were too slow to perceive.
My camera was balanced on a nearby flat stone and the long shutter shared the view with me. I could feel the cold wintery air move from my throat into my lungs with each cherished breath. I was standing at the edge of a season, the precipice of change. Autumn’s gentle fade was materializing before my eyes, and slowly in the night, while all those who lived below would surely be sleeping, winter would come. It would come quietly and alone, without the fanfare of its predecessors; but regardless it was winter’s time, and it would, ever so cordially, ascend to its rightful place on the throne tonight. When the stillness in the air became overwhelming, I shattered the silence with a rock upon the water; breaking its surface and sending ripples racing to the shore. Then, I waited and watched, as winter came to calm the water quietly back to sleep. Soon, it would share its full and cold embrace and the surface would become solid and shelter the liquid water below.
I remained as still as the winter air and before long I felt I was part of it. I viewed the outside world with the same slow and long perception that a tree must see with. The whine of an engine broke the silence long before the lights careened over the hill and around the bend, a solitary truck, alone in the night, a caravan of cars returning home after a long dinner, it didn’t matter. Soon they were gone, first the red of their taillights vanished, and the then night swallowed the hum of motor, and soon it was gone all together, it simply dissipated and slipped away as if it had never existed at all. I didn’t want to leave my seat on the edge of this lake, because I knew that once I left it too, like the car, would cease to exist. This scene, this ethereal moment, was trapped in the present and was only waiting for me to relinquish my gaze so it could disappear again into the flow of time, possibly never to emerge again. My heart pumped the thick red blood to my lungs, my lungs expelled warm clouds of steam into the air, and in the air, framed in the perfect pale light, was such a delicate scene that it would vanish if I but blinked, and eventually I did.
Camera: Nikon D3100, 18-55mm lens
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