Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gate to the Beyond

For those privileged enough to enter the palace grounds at one of Seoul's palaces, areas that lay beyond certain walls and gates were off limits, except to a very few. Most would have to leave what lay beyond those gates to the imagination and descriptive tales passed on by others. So it is with our lives. As we close up another year and look forward to the next, our future is largely unknown to us. By trusting God who is firmly in control of our lives, I know that the events yet to come will be for our good and His glory.

May all of you have a blessed New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Buddhas and Persimmons

I found this collection of Buddhas behind one of the temple buildings at Bongjeonsa Temple near Andong, South Korea. Behind the colorful and often jolly figures, some fruit including, an Asian pear and persimmon, was carefully placed.   

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Winter Sunset, Wisconsin

Winter in Wisconsin often means grey, overcast days. On those days where it is clear and sunny, bitter cold often accompanies the brightness. Yesterday it was both sunny and pleasant (for Wisconsin winters). The beautiful day was followed by a colorful sunset, which I photographed from the balcony of my condo.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Winter Frost, Wisconsin

Although I'm not a fan of the cold, winter can be pretty. These photos were taken of the woods surrounding my parents' house in Wisconsin in the morning. The heavy moisture from the foggy night painted each branch with frost.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Blessed CHRISTmas

For the first time in a number of years, I headed back to Wisconsin for Christmas. It's an especially significant Christmas, as on Dec. 22, my niece Hannah was baptized. One of the difficult things about teaching and living so far from home is that I miss many of the significant family events/milestones. This Christmas, the family will finally be together, celebrating Christ's birth at my parents' house in Wisconsin. A direct flight from Seoul to Chicago brought me closer to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, and my parents flew in from their winter trailer home in Arizona. 

Between the 6-8" of snow that fell on Saturday night/Sunday morning (on top of what already was on the ground) and the frigid temperatures that followed it, winter definitely is upon us. But more importantly, is the opportunity to once again focus on the true meaning of Christmas - Jesus Christ humbling Himself by coming to Earth as both true God and true Man to redeem all of humanity from their sins. The ceramic nativity scene above, from Oaxaca, puts a Mexican spin on the major events of the events of the Messiah's arrival - the birth of Jesus in the stable, angels' announcement to the shepherds, and the later arrival of the Magi. 

Also set up in the dining room at my new condo in Madison is the Christmas tree and winter dolls. 

A Blessed CHRISTmas to all.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas, Gangam Style

Located at the entrance of Seoul's Nandaemun Market, this Santa sways to the tunes of Psy's viral Gangam Style song, wishing passersby a Merry Christmas with a more modern flare. Off to the right is the Sungnyemun Gate, recently restored after a 2008 arson destroyed much of the structure originally dating back to 1398. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Heavy Branches and Red Sun

After a rather heavy snowfall for Seoul, the branches of the tree next to the National Palace Museum hung just a bit lower. The warm pink of the museum's banner, along with its red sun contrasted against the rather blue sky. Such tranquil beauty.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Waking up to Winter

Following a few strange thunderbooms in the dark, the morning light revealed a winter wonderland. I love it when the freshly-fallen snow clings to the branches. It mades the commute - albeit VERY short - a pretty one.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thundersnow in Seoul

 Today, for the second time this week, we had a very unusual weather phenomenon occur in Seoul - thundersnow. According to wikipedia, thundersnow occurs in regions where there is a strong upward motion within the cold sector of a tropical cyclone. For a thundersnowstorm to occur, a mass of cold air must be on top of warm air, plus moist air near the ground.  A bit of lightning was mixed in along with some thunder, and the sky was a bit grey-green. In addition, some graupel (ice pellet-like formations when super-cooled droplets of water freeze on snowflakes) fell for a short time.
Tomorrow is the last day of school before the Christmas break. Didn't stop some teachers (and likely students as well) from doing a "snow day dance."

Monday, December 09, 2013

Delicate Glow and Hardened Brilliance

The juxtaposition of these two beauties caught my attention while walking around the Seoul Museum of Art. Although both the sculpture and gingko tree proudly displayed their brilliant colors, the amber nature would soon be just a memory, with its golden petals already fluttering to the ground in the wind. By contrast, the metal petals of the sculpture would continue to boast of its saturated colors, well into the harsh winter season.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Water Clock at Deoksugung Palace

Until I did a little reading, I mistook these two bronze bronze relief pieces at Deoksugung Palace as sculptures. Instead, these national treasures are part of a water clock, constructed in 1536 and used by the royalty to mark the standard time of the kingdom. Elaborate dragons, believed to inhabit ponds and lakes of South East Asia, encircle the cylinders. In addition to the two original cylinders, three bronze bowls of the clock also remain. You can read more about the clepsydra-style water clock on Wikipedia.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Gwangmyeongmun Gate, Deoksugung Palace

Located in a quiet corner of the Deoksugung Palace is the Gwangmyeongmun Gate. It looks more like a pavilion and currently houses an early Joseon-Dynasty bell, a singjeon rocket launcher from around 1377, and parts of a water clock. Originally serving as the entrance south of Hamnyeongjung Hall, the Japanese moved the gate to its present location in 1938 and repurposed it to be an exhibition space for the Buddhist bell. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Glowing Gingkos and Autumn Shadows

Although Deoksugung Palace is not my favorite of Seoul's five main palaces, it has some beautiful sections, particularly in fall. These two photos are of Jeonggwanheon, a building used to host royal banquets. I loved how the golds of the porch carvings echoed in the gingko trees above. The warm orange-red glow of the maples were gracefully framed by the green columns.
It's important to look down as well. Here the shadows of the autumn afternoon cast intricate repetitive patterns on the porch floor.