Last month I took the garbage out, intending to immediately go back inside, but I was drawn by the setting sun, which looked like the February snow moon of my birthday week when I was in Canada the month before: low to the horizon and hauntingly large, a bright circle announcing itself separate against a cloudy sky. The sun blurred yellow against the sky, thinning clouds allowing it to momentarily escape while the rest of the sky drowned in white.
It drew me like a beacon and I walked down my residential street, along one of the rare sidewalks in my town, temporarily protected from the cars that barrel their way down, heedless of pedestrians. I passed the basketball courts that have utilitarian hoops with no basket weaving, often accompanied by an enthusiastic group of teenage boys. Crossing the busy set of traffic lights, I arrived at what the foreigners in Korea call “the pier”: a lovely park area nestling a bay of water, with a walkway jutting out over the water. I walked toward the end of the walkway, a large circle with tables and benches, and a second-story cafe overlooking the water.
An older Korean man rested on the bench to my left, staring out over the water. I tried to find the sun again. It had hidden since I reached the waterfront, either behind the imposing mountains that make up most of the view, or more likely behind the heavy cloud cover. Yellow rays peeked out behind the heavy grey sky. The magnet that drew me here was gone from my sight, but I still felt its pull. I gave a cursory glance over the landscape that I’ve made my home for the last four years, seeing the jutting mountains, the villages tucked into the land winding along the water, and the road to the left that circles around the jutting bays and inlets of my city, a scenic route for cars, bikes, and adventurous pedestrians.
I truly think Korea has been my “place of healing,” and continues to be. At my recent birthday party in Canada, a friend said, “You look younger and healthier than the day I met you.” That was 10 years ago. I believe it. I love teaching English, and I love my lifestyle here. I told my best friend when I was home, “I never understood before how someone could work the same job for 10-20 years. Now I do. If I weren’t living abroad, I could see myself doing this for 20 years, easily.” It had always baffled me before, wondering how people could do the same job, day after day, without going mad. Now I see that, with the right job, it’s possible. This is the right job for me right now.
The weather is mild, and spring has not only started but is here in full gusto. I was still bundling up a few weeks ago, but now my jacket is unzipped at work and people can see my shirts for the first time since late fall. Amazing! (In the winter, the public schools here are so cold, teachers and students rarely take off their jackets.) My mattress heating pad at home is too hot to use now, and I feel the pull to go outdoors, even just for a walk to the pier 5 minutes from my house to stare up at the sun.
I looked up at the sun over the water, still hidden by cloud cover, and then turned and slowly walked back across the walkway, the park, the lights, the courts, the road, to my one-room apartment. Taking a final glance up at the sky, where the buildings blocked my view but I could still see the grey clouds, I remembered that night in Canada in my friend’s car when the moon seemed almost at eye level, about the size of my fist should I put it in front of my face. A minor hiccup made my rare trip home much different than I expected and forced me to face the reality of what my body actually needs, and the image of the moon kept coming back into my thoughts. It reminded me that no matter how much we may think we have nature bested, it’s just humoring us: it shows its will unexpectedly, tuning us to the currents of nature and the calls of our own bodies. A time comes when we need to divest ourselves of our own garbage, the weight that doesn’t work for us anymore, and trust the empty space will be filled with light. I can no longer deny the desire of my body for true healing, no more than I can resist a beacon in a white sky.
Originally published on WordPress on April 29, 2016