There are treetops and ragged mountains blanketed in mist flying past my rear passenger seat window. We are on our way back from a one day sojourn to Yangyang, a town in the southern Korean province of Kangwon. My friend Hanyong Jeong, a well-respected Korean poet, was visiting some Of his poet friends in the south and invited me along.
Mr. Na, Hanyoung’s friend who happens to live just down the street from me in the alleys of Dandae Dong by Namhan Mountain, is riding with us. Mr. Na is surprisingly fit for a man in his mid 70’s. I go hiking with him in the mountain every week and he has no trouble keeping up with me along the steep trails. Mr. Na is a nature poet and philosopher who derives his inspiration by spending copious amounts of time up there in the trails.
Our host Mr. Kim is a grey haired man who lives alone in a small cabin at the end of a forest road that meets the base of one of the foothills of Mount Sorak. These men share a common connection to nature through poetry. When we arrived, Mr. Kim brought out green chili peppers and salad greens from his garden and served us maucoli, a wine normally made from rice. This was corn maucoli, a local specialty.
The conversation turned to religion and everyone expressed their lack of affinity for organized religion. This opposition is not surprising coming from a bunch of nature poets. The consensus was that nature is the real church. Everyone was in a good mood.
We hiked up the mountain for about an hour, came back, poured some more wine and talked for a while before going to sleep. This morning we had breakfast together in town and now Hanyong, Mr. Na and I are back on the road bound for Seoul. Heavy torrents of rain have just started coming down.