You never know what you are going to come across in your daily life, and if you are at all photographically inclined, you need to be ready to catch those perfect, once-in-a-lifetime pictures. Or even those once-in-a-week pictures. My rule is that I should always have a camera with me when I leave the house. It is a rule I often break, sometimes to my lasting regret.
For instance, the very first Visual Fiction post I did was about a bridge I used to take to school every Friday. One day, a few months ago, the entire area was shrouded in fog and that bridge looked amazing, emerging out of the ghostly pall of mist, like the passage to another world. You would agree with me, if you could have seen it, but I forgot my camera that day. I kicked myself over and over, but of course, it made no difference.
The worst time, though . . . I almost hesitate to tell you about that time because frankly, it’s unbelievable. However, a fiction blog like this seems like a safe place to share it. Suffice to say, you are the first people to hear this story.
It was a few years ago, when I was on vacation by myself. I am a bit of a lone wolf at times and sometimes I just need to get away from everything. I was hiking in the province of Gangwon-do. It is the biggest, most mountainous and least populated province in Korea, and by far the wildest. There are many hidden valleys and steep passes between them. I found myself just south of a big national park and just started walking, away from the park. Korea isn’t that big of a country so I wasn’t too worried about getting lost.
I followed a small road up into the mountains until it came to a sanjang—a shelter for hikers in the mountains, like a small, rustic hotel. I decided to stay the night there.
That night after supper, I decided to go outside to look at the stars. I wasn’t planning on going long and I didn’t bring any of my things with me, including my camera. I walked up to the closest ridge and strolled through the forest, looking at the stars peeping through the budding spring foliage at me. I admit I got lost in a kind of reverie and when I decided to go back, I wasn’t sure of the way. It is very easy to get lost in the mountains at night, especially in an area that you don’t know.
I wandered all night, first on one trail, then another. I wasn’t particularly scared; just thirsty and very tired. The eastern sky began to lighten and just as the sun broke between the mountains, I reached the crest of a long valley and saw a large building with a golden dome on top, shining in the sun.
I wish I had a picture to show you. It was one of those moments that hits you unexpectedly and just floors you. All I could do was stand and stare at it in amazement.
That was the beginning of a several week-long adventure that was like nothing else I have ever experienced. I don’t know where it was, but it wasn’t Korea, as weird as that sounds. I am hesitant to use a phrase like “another world”, since it brings up images of magic wardrobes and Neverland. It wasn’t like that at all.
Over the next few weeks (maybe once a week), I’m going to share my account of that time. I’ve been going through my memory, trying to remember every detail and making some notes. I am not much of an artist, but since I did not have my camera, I will try my best to convey what I saw through my words and a few sketches if I can manage them. I will do my best at least.