The Secret Map

Transient Beauty

“Nothing is static. Everything is evolving. Everything is falling apart.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.

Nothing is static, fictitious character Tyler Durden says in the novel Fight Club. Certainly not in Seoul, a city whose internal cogs move so fast it doesn’t know how to slow down. So to for the country’s seasons – distinct, yet vastly over-proportioned in the extreme ends of Summer and Winter. Spring doesn’t last long.

The first warm winds of the year allow various aspects of Korea to bloom. The first empty rice wine bottles of the season sprout all over the peninsula’s convenience store patios. An unveiling of the lower halves of the nation’s young females mirrors the covering of all things flesh-related in the old. Floral arrangements are furiously installed in urban green spaces as buds begin to emerge. One flower explodes into the urban scenery like a ticking time bomb of exquisite beauty: The cherry blossom.


Mount Ansan, in the North East of Seoul, hosts a cherry blossom festival, where although the trees have been meticulously plotted, the vast floral ocean is so engulfing once in it’s midst that man’s involvement only enhances the revitalizing white waves of wonder.


Korea doesn’t posses the most fertile soil in the world, so nature is given a little helping hand. The entrance of the mountain has been sculpted to be a perfect leisure experience. On your way into the area, classical music emanates from fake rocks through internal speakers, an epic, man-made waterfall descends from great heights at designated times and everything is in it’s right place.




Between the numerous academies, themed entertainment venues and closely monitored weekend activities, the emergence of young lives in Seoul seems much like that of the start of the trail – too engineered. Where are the groups of kids roaming around town? Of course, they’re doing extra homework for their extra English class. Still, when you see happy families hanging out on the mountains, sometimes literally, the children seem as happy as they would anywhere else in the world.


The colors will undergo many changes throughout the year now until they supernova into the declining stages of Fall. “A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection”, says Tyler in Fight ClubThe exquisite appetizer of the blossoms must be appreciated in their brief moments of existence. We might not be in the same place or even alive to experience them next time, such is the impermanence of their, and our own lives.

Nature offers no guarantees. 


They descend as rapidly as they emerged. The soft, snow white confetti sprinkles down onto the hard concrete and we’re reminded once again nature can be a cruel mistress, offering us her most fruitful charms for but a fleeting moment before wrapping herself up that old familiar green robe.

Tyler Durden preaches: “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” In a country overflowing with anti-wrinkle creams and infatuated with surgery that pursues perfection, maybe we can learn something from these elusive flowers.


Our own perceived skin-deep beauty is as the rest of nature – transient, ephemeral, prone to displays of brief magnificence yet in a constant state of flux. Seeing examples of this in the natural world to reflect upon can be a good reminder of our inevitable mortality. Although, much like the chameleon, and indeed the blossom that evolves and dissolves just quickly enough to spread its seed, the self-imposed physical adaptations of Seoul’s citizens can be seen as survival or the fittest; Korea’s hiring practices are as unforgiving as nature itself.

So don’t mourn the loss of natural beauty, for it was only so because of it’s brevity. Were the spectacle not so brief, it would surely lose it’s splendor. Cherish the moment when you are in it, be it an engulfment of blossom trees or any other passing occurrence.

After all, “Even the Mona Lisa”, Tyler says, “is falling apart.”


 This was part 3 of the Beauty series on Ansan mountain. Click for parts 1 and 2 Want more Secret Map? Tumble further down the rabbit hole on Facebook.

124 replies to “Transient Beauty

  1. I’m not much of a flower type of girl. But yeah, I love most of the pictures you posted. And they really are gorgeous. Also, you’re right about the appreciative part. The changes make us grateful.


  2. Lovely photos! I don’t know why, but I have always adored Cherry Blossoms 🙂 I have the same reaction to sunflowers, it is not possible to look at either and not feel at least slightly cheerier than before you saw them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. There are sunflower festivals (what can I say I am a Librarian and I Googled lol), there’s the Taebaek Sunflower Festival in Korea, the Sayo sunflower festival in Japan, there’s even one in Ohio and a massive one that includes a music festival in the UK. It’s nice to know others see the worth of these flowers 🙂


  3. Simon, this is an absolutely fantastic post, and your images are beautiful. We have a similar, but much smaller, Cherry Blossom Festival here in Toronto, so it’s nice to see these.

    Thanks for sharing a piece of your part of the world.


    1. Shane, thanks so much, i love that i’ve made this connection through pictures. Still you’re lucky that you get them over there, i’m not sure there are any in UK where i grew up.

      Thanks for writing 🙂


  4. 사진 잘봤습니다.^^
    예년보다 봄 날씨가 따뜻해서 벗꽃이 빨리 떨어져 아쉬웠었는데, 잘 찍으셨네요


  5. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.


  6. I was curious if you ever considered changing the layout of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so
    people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?


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