The Secret Map

Transient Beauty

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

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.

The above statement was made by the character Tyler Durden in the novel and film Fight Club.

Nothing is static. Certainly not in Seoul, a city whose internal cogs move so rapidly it seems there is no brake lever. This concept applies to South Korea’s seasons: distinct, yet over-weighted by the lengthy humidity of summer and vast, icy stretch of winter. 

Spring? It’s gone in an instant.

When the first warm winds blow in to loosen winters’ icy grip, Korea’s colours burst into bloom.

Fresh liquor bottles sprout up on the country’s convenience store patios. The unveiling of flesh in the younger generations are reverse-mirrored by the visor – gloves – floral pajama combos of the ubiquitous ‘ajjuma’ – older ladies.

Bright floral displays are frantically sewn into Seoul’s drab grey uniform. One flower, though, bursts into the public’s consciousness above them all and becomes the talk of the town.

The cherry blossom.

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At the base of Mount Ansan, northeast Seoul, the cherry trees have been meticulously plotted to give a full immersive dive into an ocean of white waves.

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Ansan’s entrance has been crafted as a perfect leisure experience. Classical music emanates from fake rocks, waterfalls descend down carefully placed rocks – the biggest one of flowing at designated times.

Everything in it’s right place.

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Between the education academies, themed entertainment venues and closely monitored weekend activities, growing up in Seoul resembles Ansan’s nature garden.

Where are the kids running wild, unsupervised, on adventures of their own? Here they’re doing extra homework for their extra class in their extra whatever.

Human life, like much of Korea’s natural environment, is sculpted, overseen, plotted.

Still, the instant access to city mountains like Ansan give them some freedom to play.

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“A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection”, Tyler muses.

We may not be in the same place with the same people or even be around to experience them the next time they appear, but that is the natural law of impermanence.

Nature offers plenty, but it gives no guarantees. 

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Life can descend as rapidly as it emerges.

When the soft, snow white confetti sprinkle onto the hard, uncaring concrete, we’re reminded once again that nature can be a cruel mistress, offering up her most prized charms but for an instant before wrapping herself firmly in her familiar robe of green.

“You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else”, Durden says.

In a country saturated by skin creams, infatuated with surgery, and fishing for the ever-illusive catch of perfection, perhaps we can learn something from this fleeting flower.

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Skin-deep beauty, like the rest of nature, is transient; prone to brief displays of magnificence whilst in a constant state of flux. Observing this in the natural world let’s us reflect upon our own temporal existence.

So don’t frown as the flowers fall, for their beauty can surely be appreciated fully because of their brevity.

Were the spectacle not so brief, there would be less spender. Acknowledge any moments of perfection – be it the sight of a cherry blossom tree or any other passing occurrence.

After all, nothing is static,. Even the Mona Lisa, Tyler says, is falling apart.

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 This was part 3 of the Beauty series on Ansan mountain. Click for parts 1 and 2

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.

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  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 🙂

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  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.

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    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 🙂

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

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  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.

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  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?

    Like

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