№ 287 (Expat Memory)

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This post originally appeared on a previous personal blog. I’m republishing it here with the original post date.

Early one morning in Korea, deep in a strange winter, wandering after a night out drinking. I was walking a friend home, and took her up a road she’d never been down before. We stopped halfway up a hill that was halfway a mountain, and on the hill was a temple. Set back from the road, shrouded in densely falling snow,  windows lit with a dim yellow light smoldering through the darkness, the darkness amplifying the sound of the chanting monks inside.

Sutra spreading outwards, like ripples in still water. As when a single berry falls in a quiet pond, in a silent forest. And there, in darkened morning, the words shook the snowflakes, writing the chants invisibly, on the ground where we stood, scrawled in cursive in the snow that piled around our ankles.

Months later, I stood in stillness, alone in the forest behind the temple and further up the hill, listening to a gentle rain filtering through the pine boughs and watching low clouds through a gap in the trees.

Following that flowing fog, witnessing it enveloping hills, swallowing whole neighborhoods. The contents of the valley dissolving, dematerializing as I stood inert while wondering if I, too, might so dissolve.

I remembered the monks chanting through the snow. I could feel the vibration, still resonating in the rocks and trees. The words had taken residence there. How many times had those sounds flowed through here? What knowledge had the trees come to possess? Had they the means, what could the bedrock tell me?

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