The International Writers
Up up up into
the forests outside Seoul following Anna and the army of hikers
march with purpose like ants up the hill with feverish intensity
and they all dress in hats and shirts and boots and carry sticks
as if mounting an expedition against a formidable peak.
Anna at the subway station midmorning. Cup of java fuel and eager
anticipation for the climb. We talk talk talk on the subway and
I smile and she smiles. Meet my friend on the mountain she says
and I say OK.
Su Hi meets us at
the convenience store at the start of the path and we meet and greet
and shop for something good to eat and buy bananas and apples and green
tea in plastic bottles and later I astonish my two friends by picking
up bottles left to lay on the mountain and they say why? and I say because
I like the illusion of immaculate nature and I know garbage swirls in
the Pacific and drifts to Hawaii and resort staff secrets to the beach
to create the dream of paradise and sure recycling is imperfect and
yes maybe this bottle will find its way to a worse fate than laying
in the bushes of a mountain path but I take some pride in at least trying
to reduce reuse recycle, its easy to do!
I am odd man out as an American English-speaker
in Korea and I am OK with that and I like not to know what is said and
I like to read in restaurants and be at peace with my thoughts and not
overhear boorish statements of displeasure or banal conversations between
lovers speaking silly or parents dumbly plumbing the minds of their
kids and so out of touch out at work out to lunch or friends saying
stupid jokes or talking sports or any of the other idle banter I have
heard spoken within earshot.
Su Hi and Anna talk talk talk as we climb
the mountain speaking Korean. Its OK, I am enthralled with the
act of left right! left right! up up! up up! and am watching with rapt
attention at old weathered women working their way back down the mountain
having probably achieved the summit after an early morning start to
keep a date with the sun at the summit. And I am lost in thoughts of
how Americans do not do things like this. I can hardly imagine being
in an American city on an early AM subway car filled with men and women
bearing backpacks as the train bears them to their hiking destination.
Anna translates the occasional comment
from Su Hi and I learn she is a dental hygienist and lost her job the
day before and got drunk the night before and ah! OK! I understand why
I was awake at eight to a phone call saying no wait, meet later? OK.
I smile sympathy to her and she nods she understands. Body language
really better I think. Why not? Words complicate and confuse essential
sentiments. Connotations denotations annotations I do not care. A two-hand
clasp and a half hug for men and full hugs for women at funerals says
more I am sorry for your loss than my words no matter how heartfelt
Stop. Here we are half way up the mountain
and gathered a half step off the path is a cluster of sweaty hikers
drinking from dippers and resting on rocks. A trickle of water is spilling
from a crevice within a chunk of rock and a rack is holding a half dozen
plastic dippers. How fantastic! I say and my eyes glow and I am absolutely
rapturous about drinking from a fresh mountain spring. And I drink deep
and the water is cold and crisp and tastes like rock and it quenches
my thirst and gets in my blood and now I have drunk from the mountain
and I splash Su Hi and Anna and I laugh and they laugh and we eat our
apples and drink our green tea and I try hard to be animated and understood
by Su Hi and I want to transcend words and I try and maybe she understood
something universal in me leaping from rock to rock and rocking between
trees hanging on branches and singing songs for my fine female friends.
Up we continue and pass a blind Buddhist
monk sitting and chanting lowly on the side of the path. A basket sits
before him and I give him no money. Onward we go.
We reach the summit! and sit on bald
rock outcroppings and have three-hundred and sixty degree panorama and
upper altitude breeze blowing steady as we sit and again eat snacks
and share a moment of bliss beneath the sun and everything feels closer
than on the ground and the city looks friendly and small sitting at
the top of the world and I feel like an Olympian god.
A Buddhist temple is below the summit
only slightly and they serve lunch to the climbers. We file into the
banquet hall of the new building complex, renovated due to the generous
patronage of the climbers. The lunch is simple rice and vegetables and
a spicy red sauce served in a simple metal bowl. I eat and am satisfied
at being fed at the top of the earth.
© Nick Doenges
Nick Doenges <email@example.com
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