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[Opinion] Picnic for Autumn Leaves

Posted October. 22, 2003 23:07,   


In Korea, we have the most beautifully tinted autumn leaves in the world. The leaves turn to the most brilliant colors during weather in which the temperature does not fall below zero and in which the temperature difference between the day and night is at its largest. The Korean autumn is like this. Just around the time that we see all those beautifully tinted and shaded colors in the mountains, the northwest wind blows in from the Chinese continent and makes the matching sky clearer and higher. I would call the stunning beauty of autumn in Korea a blessing from God. Many people who do not frequent the mountains much normally, all go out to the mountains to take a look at this picturesque view of change and temptation. The autumn mountain is affluent. It does not let hikers go back alone but presents them with priceless gifts such as pleasure, comfort, and relaxation.

We can easily find our predecessors’ admiration for the autumn leaves and mountains. “A place where no human soul has passed by/ My thoughts cleared upon climbing there/ The mountain is prettier with the autumn in/ It is brighter even at river-dark night,” Kim Bu-shik, a scholar during Koryo Dynasty wrote. Shin Heum, literary man in Chosun Dynasty, writes, “Entering the woods and sitting on the root of a tree/ fluttering autumn leaves dot the shirtsleeve/ Wild birds enjoy seeing people through the branches of a tree/ The barren land becomes clear and wider.” William Evans, a woods researcher who found mentally and physically healing effects of the woods, says, “Your life will newly unfold in the woods, and you will have the ability to pick out the valuable things of your life.”

Biologically, the autumn leaves are a process that the tree prepares itself to sustain through the winter time into the new spring. It transports all the nutrients from the leaves to the stem and the root, thus bid “parting” to the leaves. This happens when the weather gets chilly in the autumn, and the chlorophyll that manifests the green color of the leaves is destroyed and photosynthesis cannot occur anymore. The tree without its leaves now prepares its leaf buds with all its might for the new spring. One scholar thus says that the autumn leaves are the manifestation of the tree’s renunciation and grief.

It is a season of tinted and shaded autumn leaves. The beautiful leaves need a lot of sun, and we will have more beautiful autumn leaves this year since we had many sunny days in September. The highest virtue that autumn leaves give to humans is their calling out people who live in this modern world of speediness. It offers some time off to look back on them for a while. It is such sad news that the people on the way to Chungnyang-san to see the autumn leaves were caught in a big accident. Insensitivity to safety is such a Korean disease. When we are out on the roads, we are not just there to look at the scenery. We should learn something from the natural law of the autumn leaves being a process to prepare for the future: a mindset to be thoroughly prepared in order to not repeat the developing-world-type car accident again.

Hong, Chan-shik, Editorial Writer chansik@donga.com