Today in Seoul 24: Soul

November 7, 2016

Last Friday, at coffee with Gillian, I noticed a side street with invitation written all over it. I don’t know… something about the trees visible over the wall, the neatness of the shops and sidewalk… I was surprised at my reaction, considering the bank of austere, tenement-like apartments dominating the street. (Those kinds of developments characterize Seoul, my Googling tells me.) Janet and I would have to come back and explore. We did so yesterday (Sunday). At one end of the apartments a wide gate opened to a tree-lined walkway. We strolled in the sunshine and Sunday-fresh air, leaves drifted and scuttled around us, fall was in the air. The promenade ended at a stone pathway around behind the apartments. Janet hesitated — were we allowed? I plunged ahead. Around the back, another green space painted with fall colors, and a sound we both heard at the same time. “Chanting,” she said. And music — a keyboard maybe. Up there, behind the wall — a temple, and the Buddhist faithful assembled on a Sunday. (Seoul comes at you in waves: everywhere you go, everything you see, there’s something else above and behind it.) Today (Monday), I went back to get a couple pictures for this post. I would not have known the place. The promenade was barricaded off, “closed” signs hung on the gates, parking garages disgorged impatient cars, smokers crowded the green spaces, cell phones led people along as if on leashes. Yesterday the place abided in its own presence; today it hurried on its self-important way to somewhere else. Trees in fall blossom still rose above the wall, but their music was weak and distant; only the silent, frowning tenements remained.