One of the first days I’ve felt warm since I arrived a little over two weeks ago. Spring is finally here, at least in climate. I walked in the one direction I have yet to explore – up and over the hill toward the freeway. When I was here in January, Dave and I made it up to the bridge that took pedestrians over four lanes of constant traffic. Today, I crossed it.
The entrance to the museum was deserted. Apparently it doesn’t reopen until May, taking the two preceding months off. But since the sun was shining, I was happy to continue on exploring behind the large buildings I would someday return to when spring was well underway and the exhibits open.
Behind the museum was a sizable park, its main entrance on the other side. I had no idea it existed; never heard it mentioned, hadn’t read about it in my limited research on Cheonan online (or if I did, I certainly didn’t remember). Yet there it was – just a 10-15 minute walk away.
I first encounter a small “palace” of some sort – it looks more like a large ancient pagoda, but it’s important enough for its history to be written in English (only one other object shared that status). The king had stayed there in his travels to Cheonan in the early 1600s and, after the structure had been moved several times for various reasons, it currently rests, reconstructed, on the side of the small lake where it originally stood. Two adjumma (older women though the connotation, according to Dave, is that they are somewhat grumpy) huddle in its corner, intensely conversing. They stop, look up at me, and assess by the color of my skin that I cannot understand their gossip and resume.
I continue strolling on the uneven paths, taking pictures of statues whose meanings I fail to grasp. Birds made of logs and sticks; people in dance poses from traditional to modern; two entwined dragons. The only other English I see provides an explanation of a monument commemorating youth and fire fighters in their bravery in defending Korea from one of Japan’s many invasions. An unlikely pairing it seems, and the brief explanation of the memory leaves me wanting to know more about this youth movement of the 1940s.
The sun continues to shine, but the landscape is sparse, needing more rain and warmth to wake it up from its temporary death. I stop to look at a small grove of trees, and think to myself that it will be beautiful here when things start blooming.
At that moment, a small orange and black butterfly crosses my path and floats into the trees. It’s not a monarch, but its message to me is the same: I am witnessing/experiencing transformation and possibility. What I see here, what I am experiencing in my life right now, is just a part of transformation. The scenery may seem bleak, but it’s beautiful now. Not later. Right now.
I used to be the type of person who doesn’t believe in signs, but in the past year I have been shifting that frame of mind. Perhaps before I began to slow down, I never really gave myself the chance to see things that were right in front of me, signals blaring; my head down or my mind too preoccupied to notice. But today I was able to process what I needed to. The butterfly helped me see the park as beautiful today. Similarly, I need to see my own current struggles with control and change not as failures, but as part of my life that is still beautiful.
I took my camera back out and took pictures of the park itself – not the art within it – appreciating its pre-spring beauty (I’ll work on appreciating myself and where I’m at later). Sure, it’s going to look better later when there’s more green, the flowers bloom, and the fountains are turned on, but there is a lot to appreciate here and now.
Feeling better about pretty much everything, I head home. As I begin to cross the small footbridge over the small, mostly dried up, creek, I see a crane standing on the bank. Almost immediately, he swoops in front of me and flies off. I’m not sure who was more startled by the others’ presence, but this bird was clearly not interested in sharing space. I watched him fly off and land near the bridge that would bring me back to the proper side of the freeway. I followed, pretty convinced that I would not see him again, even though I really wanted to catch another glimpse of the tall, awkward, wonderful bird. I did get my second chance as we spot each other again before he took off allowing me one small picture of him leaving me behind. I read that “If you see a crane flying, it may be drawing your eyes to the heavens, lifting your spirits, and inspiring you to trust in the universe.” and I hope it’s true. I’m probably supposed to believe it is, but I’m not quite there yet.