What’s your plumbob?

Cotton candy clouds. Perfect pink popcorn petals. These are the words my wife, Kimmy, uses to describe cherry blossoms. For a few short weeks in spring, everywhere we look the trees are covered with them. Then, as they age, they fall from the tree limbs like a soft snowstorm. The petals collect on the ground in giant wisps of the most beautiful litter you’ve ever seen.

People from all over the area come to Jinhae, a small town on the southern tip of Korea, to witness their cherry blossoms. When Kimmy and I arrived, we followed others to a small wooden walkway that followed a tiny stream. Overtop was an archway of pink and white, and, just in the background, were mountains, still hazy from the early morning fog. Everywhere people took pictures, children carried balloons, and the vendors peddled an wide array of foods–Turkish doner kebabs, dried squid, beondegi (boiled silkworm pupae), cotton candy, roasted chestnuts, and more meats on a stick than we thought humanly possible.

Koreans have festivals for just about everything. I’ve seen tomato festivals, fish festivals, fireworks, ginseng, and harvest festivals. But my favorite so far has been the cherry blossom festival. Like any majestic, natural beauty, seeing pictures of it just doesn’t do it justice. Kimmy has become enamored with them. And in Jinhae she was euphoric. Every street was lined with trees that covered us as we walked. And when the breeze blew, petals fell and floated into our hair.

Even after the festival, we can look out of our apartment in any direction and see a couple trees here and there, giving an elegant accent to the mundanity of the city. For the last week, after Kimmy and I have gotten off of work, we’ve gone for short drives on our scooter to find more trees to observe. There’s something magical about them. In fact, spring in Korea is so magical that my wife has had difficulty expressing just how much she enjoys it. While we drove, she explained that there needs to be a word to explain one’s favorite place and time of year. In a moment of spontaneity, she said, “I’m calling it plumbob. Springtime in Korea is my plumbob.”

Of course, we found out that that word exists and that its meaning is, well, quite boring. So, we’re keeping it. Everyone should have a plumbob. For me, it’s autumn in Iowa. I love the way the Earth smells and the cool temperatures and the mosaic of color that becomes the trees. Right now, however, Kimmy’s plumbob is almost up. The petals are falling and the trees are sprouting green buds in their place. Their short life is almost tragic. They bloom, they shine, they fall in just a matter of weeks. This spring has been especially significant because it’s our last in Korea. So we’ve enjoyed these perfect pink popcorn petals as best we can. Even as we left the festival, we stared out the window, just to see them stand together as one giant cotton candy cloud.


Steven E. Athay is an aspiring story designer and connoisseur of all things awesome. Follow him on Twitter at @steveneathay, or read his blog Afflatus.
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