Neither the honking of impatient drivers navigating the busy Seoul streets nor the happy chatter of awe-struck tourists distracted Yong-jun from his mission. In the courtyard of Jogyesa Temple, he stood shaded by thousands of traditional hanji lanterns hung in honor of Buddha’s 2557th birthday, just as he had each year since 1969. No longer a spring chicken himself, Yong-jun’s neck and eyes protested the strain as he read each of the prayer tags dangling below the brightly colored lanterns. The tags danced merrily in the soft May breeze, making his deliberate examination all the more difficult.
This one hopes for a good score on an exam, these two both seek romantic relationships, that one wishes for his new baby will be born healthy and strong, the one over there pleads for relief for her father’s painful cancer treatments.
Yong-jun was certain that all of these prayers were heartfelt and deserved to be fulfilled, but none was quite right. He continued to read, shuffling slowly down each row, mumbling the words of anonymous supplicants under his breath, frowning occasionally at an especially somber prayer, and laughing out loud at the triviality of others…praying for a Happy Meal instead of bulgogi for dinner, indeed!
With a gasp of surprise, Yong-jun’s gaze locked onto the neat hangul penned on the tag of a lime-green lantern. He knew those words because they were his, written sixty-two years ago in a letter to his infant daughter, hours before he placed the motherless baby in the arms of the matron at the orphanage and marched off to war. He had given explicit instructions that the letter be delivered to Soo-yun when she turned 18, for it contained the message she could use to contact him if she so desired. Now the words he’d been praying to read each May for the past forty-four years finally fluttered before his eyes: “This Seokgatansinil, the one called Perfect Lotus Blossom wishes to meet her father.”
I’ve chosen to incorporate two challenges in today’s post. The first is The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern. Between the hanging lanterns and the painting of the temple itself, there is no shortage of pattern in this picture I shot at Jogyesa in the days leading up to Buddha’s birthday in 2009. I also wanted to work in the Trifecta: Week Seventy-seven Challenge, in which I was required to use the third definition of deliberate (3: slow, unhurried, and steady as though allowing time for decision on each individual action involved ) in a piece of 33 to 333 words (I did it in 327).