I was on my way to the post office to ship off some books and stuff to various points around the globe, since next month I'll be bound for greener pastures.
I was walking down the road, pulling my little dolly with a full box strapped to it. Most Korean sidestreets don't have sidewalks and are made to be about 3.5 cars wide. People walk down the road -- center, side, whatever -- until a car comes, at which time they move to the side and let the car go by. If another car approaches towards one coming towards it, one of the 2 cars will pull over to the side, and let the ongoing car go by. So, it's a bit of be fair, share the space, jockeying going on. Some people would say it might be hazardous for pedestrians, but the drivers are polite and will give you a gentle beep on the horn if you are busy in conversation with someone and not walking on either side.
But think of the savings of urban space. And it makes for a greater urban density. Buildings seem closer together here, way more than in Canada. Canada has 100x the land area of South Korea, but Korea has more than 1.5x the population.
But, sorry, I'm veering.
Anyway, there's a little playground halfway to the P.O., and it has some tall old trees. Some of the trees are along the edge. The trees were overhanging some cars that were parked (no meters) along the side of the road.
I wasn't paying much attention to the cars or the trees until - ping pop drop! -- a small white floret came straigh down, and plopped silently on the roof of the car. It didn't make a sound, but it seemed as if some of the earlier landed florets may have been moved (hit) or felt a small vibration (slight move).
I then looked up and saw the tree totally covered with these small florets, and some busy bees were up there sipping the few microdrops of nectar that these florets offered.
I wondered if the bees knocked the florets down after sipping.
Was it an acacia? I think so. There was a slight musty fragrance in the air.
Since I have no camera, I came back later to collect some of the florets to use in this blog. All around on the ground and on top of the cars, there were florets.
Time to marvel at the power-in-numbers strategy that nature has evolved to ensure continuation of this plant species.
Elaine Scarry in her book, On Beauty, contemplates the nature of beauty, but not too much the beauty of Nature. I've copied 4 pages from page 80 to 83 for a closer look. She says something that ties in with the falling florets. She talks about that something perceived as beautiful leads the beholder to want to "protect it, or act on its behalf". An old wooden chair is beautiful, so I don't let the kids sit on it. Animals in their migration have to cross busy highways (deer, elephant), and we should not impede them on their trek. She says that a thing (inanimate) acquires a "lifelikeness" when we perceive it as beautiful. She doesn't quite say what lifelikeness is, but it could mean active liveliness or motion, or it could be "inanimate" but having some qualities that living entities reflect: movement through time rather than space, changes in color (silver hair), added markings (chubby cheeks, scratches, wrinkles, rounded edges). The old photo, the old picture frame, the brooch, the garden spade -- anything that shows a history has a greater chance of being considered beautiful.
She then goes on to say that once something is considered beautiful and getting our attention, we then want to apply that attention to other things in our surroundings. We look around and see other things we didn't notice. She says that the initial click of "this or that is beautiful, too" a kind of "wake-up call, spurring lapsed alertness back to its most acute level." She refers to this is the "problem of lateral disregard". Once we see something beautiful, we are led to think that beauty is "distributed" elsewhere nearby, and we should wake up, tune in, and appreciate the whole scene. Something not like radioactive fallout, but more as a fragrance, a kind of active reading or locus focus of our current place in space.
As for me noticing a single floret falling onto a car roof, and then checking for further distributed or contextual aspects of that beauty (the marvellous tiny white flower, the bees hovering and darting from floret to floret), I did stand back and notice that the maybe 22-25m high tree was just awash with tiny florets, and the car and the road and the roadside were becoming thinly blanketed with the fallen florets. I think I was paying adequate lateral regard, wasn't I?
There was also someone on the air-runner leg-swing fitness apparatus, and another person on the twist swivel apparatus, turning to the left then twist turning to the right, and I guess those events had their beauty, but I gave them little of my heightened and whettened (?) scanning-for-beauty gaze.
It reminded me of the wonderful electronic music composition by Wendy (then Walter) Carlos double album, Sonic Seasonings.
I was moderately "into" moog and electronic music (along with folk, progressive rock, blues, and ballad) at that time. Hiers previous release, Switched On Bach, was a formidable feat, putting the cascades of Bach into the slippery slides of synthesizer.
Her album on the 4 seasons, however, was a major accomplishment, and I recall the sounds of insects done with moog and arranged with other sounds in a near perfect capture of summer ambience. Although, I couldn't hear the bees buzzing, or the florets going ting onto the rooftop, the clarity of attention I had then was quite similar to the attention I felt now.
P.S. I put the Elaine Scarry passage into a photo album. Hope it's readable!