A snow covered Pagoda in Samgeori Park in Cheonan S. Korea.
A fresh white powder blanketed the landscape. A crisp and pale blue sky hung overhead and the weak winter sun sat high atop its perch; a brilliant winter afternoon blooming after a night of whipping winds and heavy snows. I mashed the fine white flakes into a flat and condensed footprint with each crunching step. I inhaled the brisk air; it filled my lungs and illuminated my senses. I was alive in this winter wonderscape and the world was slowly coming into focus. I felt the fog lifting from behind my eyes with each breath. Clarity gained, I carried on across a large white and barren field towards a clump of Spartan branches in the distance. Samgeori park, nothing more than a small collection of trees and a few buildings around a tiny stagnant pond, was my goal. The tree’s leaves have long since left their branches, the waters have snapped shut under a lid of ice, and now it would all be covered by feathery down blanket of snow. Near a pass in hills outside of Cheonan, it has existed in one form or another for countless generations and now sits with more of a symbolic presence than a functional one near a split in the massive highway system (The Samnamdaero) that runs across the country.
Small birds flittered about; feathers puffed up in a fluffy coat, but despite my polite requests they refused to grace the atmosphere with a gentle song. There was no breeze to sway the branches and the stillness was exaggerated by the frozen center piece pond. My footsteps took on a slightly more hollow sound, echoing off the wooden floors in the pagodas. Their roofs, as well as every branch and rock top looked as if it was wearing a small white cap to stay warm on this bright but cold day. Blue mountains loomed in the distance, dotted with bare trees, that in just a few months time, would rise from their slumber and turn the hillsides green. All around the lake were artifacts from that seemingly distant summer taking the form of things like brittle and dried reeds, their cattails hanging heavy under the weight of snow. In the center of the lake a solitary tree grew on a lone island. Either fast or slow, I could not tell at what speed time was passing because the stillness of my environment was permeated by a sense of the eternal. As if somehow time its self had been trapped in the snap freeze of winter. All that drove me out of the woods was the numbing of my fingers and toes, something that in winter demands to be remedied by a warm room and a hot drink. So gave into my body’s urges and retreated from the brilliant white calm of winter, to a smaller, cozier, and warmer winter space.