Friday, March 25, 2005

befriending the mountain

Some friends are fair-weather friends, only with you when times are good, but never there when you're in trouble.

Tourists fall into this category. Ask the mountain.

My walk up Namsan last night was very uncomfortable-- it was blustery; the wind was rubbing my hands and face raw. Barely anyone else was there, walking either up- or downhill. A particularly strong blast of wind came my way about halfway up the road, making me whoop in delight. I love wind.

A runner passed me as I was schlepping up the final, steep stretch. Bastard farted as he went by (which reminds me: some dude farted in the limousine bus when I was on my way to Incheon Airport). Spandex does nothing to hide fart sounds, so I got an earful. Thank God for the wind: at least I didn't get a noseful.

At 7:12PM, I reached the top. The moon was large and bright, floating in a deep, dark blue sky. Amazing. I looked up past Seoul Tower and saw Jupiter shining there in the heavens-- what a sight, all these cosmic phenomena. Stars were just winking into existence, preparing for their nightly dance across the dome. It was magificent, even though my ears were beginning to ache from the wind and cold.

The runner had finished his loop and turned around; he left the mountaintop. For three glorious minutes, from about 7:13 to 7:16PM last night, I was the only person atop Namsan*.

It felt good.

Namsan is rapidly becoming a friend. I don't want to be a fair-weather friend to it, and yesterday was a testament to my newfound commitment to exercise, modest though this exercise be.

As is true with other friends, I find that I'm discovering something new about the mountain every time I come up there-- things I didn't see or know before, hidden beauty in the concrete cracks, natural treasures on the mountain's slopes. While alone, I stood under the large wooden pavilion and surveyed Seoul's nighttime panorama. The old, hackneyed image of city-as-circulatory-system struck me full force: Seoul was alive, its immense arteries aglow, car-corpuscles flowing steadily to a self-creating rhythm. About twelve million people live here; the mountain allowed me to see how insignificant we are in the larger scheme of things, and that was a humbling lesson. Our problems are petty and mortal. Who the hell do we think we are?

*OK, not entirely true: there were staffers inside Seoul Tower.


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