After far too many hours on a bus, Kris and I returned safely from our trip to Gyeongju for their cherry blossom festival. Apart from over 13 or so hours on the bus throughout the weekend, we managed to: hike up the local mountain, Mount Namsan; visit the Bulguksa and Seokguram temples; see more cherry blossoms than we could fathom; eat our first corn dog; visit the local museum; watch the sun rise on the beach next to an underwater tomb; and sleep on floors of varying comfort. We both enjoyed the trip immensely – we learned a great deal about Korean culture, saw many beautiful sights, and met some wonderful new people, who will hopefully serve to get us to leave our house more often.
Thinking back about the trip, what I enjoyed most were those things that cannot be captured on camera, either because the moments are fleeting or because such recording is prohibited.
The moments that were too difficult and fleeting to capture were those times where I found the cherry blossom trees to be at their most mesmerizing and beautiful. While simply looking at them standing still is remarkable, everything changes when the wind blows through the leaves of a cherry blossom tree. The tree changes, coming to life like a beautiful girl standing awkwardly backstage in a pretty dress comes to life when she takes to the lighted stage to flow in graceful dance. The petals drift slowly earthward from their heavenly perch, taking just enough time for you to be entranced by their falling, but not enough time for you to whip out your smartphone and flash garish light at the moment in an attempt to press its beauty onto a digital canvas. Few things in life have taken my breath away, and cherry blossoms in the wind is most certainly one of them.
The other moments that truly made me feel something were those spent inside of sacred Buddhist spaces. In the temples, photography is not allowed. This adds to the importance of living in the moment at that point in time, because you can’t simply take a photo and look at it later – you have to concentrate on the here and now, taking in every small detail that you can before moving on. Once you look away, all you have is your memory – no digital crutch to lean your recollection on when you tell the tale later. This feeling of immediate reverence was most profound at Seokguram grotto. This temple on a mountainside is home to one of the most perfect depictions of Buddha in Asia, a title rightfully earned by the imposing white marble statue. While statues from history are being defiled and torn down in my home country, this timeless piece of Buddhist art stares out at the world in all of the majesty that was painstakingly carved into it over a thousand years ago. And all you have to take it in is a few moments before you must move on, allowing the next visitor to have their experience of it.
These are the moments that will truly stick with me, gracefully painted onto my memory. These days, far too much is made of recording for later, with people obsessed with taking selfies with selfie sticks. By all means, take photographs – having digital copies will help jog your memory later in life. But don’t forget to make memories while you’re filling up your memory card.