Bo Seong Sunim, whose name means “Universal Nature,” during last fall’s pepper-leaf-picking bonanza.
Jong Ook Sunim, Community Secretary.
After yesterday’s rain, an absolutely beautiful, bright day.
The only thing potentially marring this day is the fact that our outhouse, yes, one of those old-fashioned pit-in-the-ground kind of outhouses, is scheduled to be cleared today. All that nightsoil shifted by a huge mobile vacuum-and-septic tank operation to the fields. (The temple will stink worst today, and less so but not “not at all” for about ten days or so.) I was thinking of doing a mountain of laundry, my own and some sisters’, today, to take advantage of all that sun to line-dry clothing, until I realized sun or no sun, anything hung out on the line today will come off stinking and reeking.
But still, a beautiful morning, and the nightsoil-removal operation isn’t scheduled to begin until later, so the three “Office Nuns” (fourth-years holding the positions of Community Accountant, Secretary, and General Manager) and I went out for a walk. The rain yesterday had brought down most of the cherry blossoms, but a pink umbra still hangs around the trees that looks lovely in the morning light.
Fall, 2010, during a massive community work period stripping the leaves from our pepper plants.
In lieu of new material–of which I have nada from this season, for a variety of reasons–I’m sifting through last year’s photos, finding the ones I’d meant to post and not had time to. Starting with portraits.
Me, spring 2011. Shortly after my 31st birthday.
Despite my best efforts to make brightness and contrast adjustments in Ps. look natural, nothing short of kind-of-scary brightness levels will bring my face out of shadow, which also blows the sky into an apocalyptic ashen white. This is what I get for leaning into the shadows while simultaneously trying to coach a camera rookie around the D700′s labrynthine modes and options. Still, to quote my older sister (사형님): “Wow, you came out well in this picture!” Well, you know…I try.
Early spring, 2011
The frozen estuary of the Geum River is a seasonal home for a great variety of migratory birds. The Abbess of our temple drove us out to see them; but they were, I’m afraid, nothing more than black specks from where we stood. “Use your camera! Take a picture of the birds!” she insisted; and it was then I had to own to her my zoom only goes up to 55 mm. “I’ll take your picture instead,” I offered, and after several bashful false tries, she finally stood still and smiled.
The girl who lives at our temple graduated from middle school yesterday. She’s pictured here with her adoptive mother, one of our nuns. Congratulations!
Although we don’t see it as much these days, orphaned or abandoned children raised in temples by nuns and sometimes monks used to be a common thing. Although Buddhist texts speak of a “youth-monk,” or dong-jin-chul-ga (동진출가), as any monastic ordained at roughly 20 years of age and never married, in contemporary Korea the term is most often used to designate monastics who grew up in the temple and then ordained, rather than simply someone who ordained at a young age.
Ordination is not incumbent on kids raised in temples. A number of the girls who grew up at our temple during the 80′s and 90′s left after high school, attending college and then finding jobs. They come back to visit sometimes, usually around the holidays, and chat with the adopted family–the sisters and auntie nuns–with whom they shared much of their childhood. Some of the girls stayed, of course, and became the next generation of monastics.
The day before last was Buddha’s Enlightenment Day, traditionally celebrated in Korean temples by staying up all night–here at school, we sit in meditation, although at my home temple we bow all night instead.
I skipped the all-night meditation sessions. Cluster headaches have been plaguing me for the past couple of weeks–also known as alarm headaches and suicide headaches, when they start coming I start laying low. Staying up all night seemed to be asking for another headache, and so I went to bed after the first sitting session.
This is a portrait of Ji Mun Sunim, one of the younger nuns in my class. We received novice ordination together in the spring of 2006 and met again at school, to our mutual surprise.