I think a lot of people I spend time with in Daegu are under the impression that I truly and deeply hate winter. They’d be wrong, as it happens. I am quite fond of winter, actually. I find it exhilarating and invigorating and quite often beautiful. The difference, of course, is that I like the winters I have grown up with and grown to love over many years, rather than the torturous cold I’ve experience for the first time in the last few months. This is not to say that it’s been all bad. Seeing snow was great and the ski trip has been one of the highlights of my time here in Korea. Going to work and especially coming home late at night in the freezing, freezing cold, however, has been horrible.
In the last few weeks, though, the weather has begun to change. It’s not the beginning of spring, which apparently is still a month away. The first stirrings of spring, the swelling buds on trees and the first beginnings of green on the hills are nowhere to be seen. Instead, it feels a little like Daegu has passed out of whatever horrible aberration was the iciness of recent months and into ‘proper’ winter weather (like that I’m used to). Suddenly, day-time temperatures are above freezing and the sun shines strongly enough to make you warm if you can find a sheltered spot. And the air is dry, dry, dry and static-y. And the best of all is the light. One of the reasons I have always loved winter is the clear, crisp air and the winter light that make you feel like you can see for a million miles.
I popped out to the shops at lunchtime today and bravely left a good deal of the winter clothing that I normally drag around with me behind. I was determined to take advantage of the slightly warmer weather and wear normal clothes. I stepped out into crisp but not freezing air. Occasional little gusts of colder air swirled past but for the most part it was perfectly still. I turned a corner and found myself walking in bright sunshine. The glorious rays of light and warmth rained down on me and made me feel like myself again – the same person who used to find a sunshiny spot to sit during school breaks in Queenstown, who used to sit in the library quad soaking up the sunshine in Grahamstown, who could spend hours and hours curled up with a book on the sunny enclosed verandah in Rondebosch.
In the clear air, the park I walked past looked pristine and perfect and each leaf of the trees outlined against the buildings and the sky. The sky. The sky in winter fills my heart with joy. The blue is empty and empty and feels like it goes on forever and ever. On the bus, on the way to work, we came over a hill and the view opened up to a picture of mountains and hills stretching to the sky with a white day-time moon hanging above the horizon. Even the crowded skyscrapers that clutter every corner of this city look sharp and sketched and beautiful in this weather.
I don’t know if it will last. Last year’s February temps suggest that it’ll still be chilly but I might get lucky with weather mostly above zero. I hope it does last for a while, partly because I dread the thought of returning to the bone-chilling weather that marked the first part of this month. But also because I want time to enjoy the kind of winter I love and to spend as much time as possible curled up, cat-like, in the warmth of the winter sun.