The excitement of travelling quickly dissipates particularly after standing in the long queues at passport control and baggage screening. Although I enjoy it, travelling on my own is hard work whatever level of comfort I choose and this time it was economy. It isn’t so much the sitting in a seat for 10 hours, as we do this regularly when we drive to Sydney, it is having to entertain oneself for the two hours before the flight and then the strangeness of a foreign airport.
Thus I was feeling a little weary after snaking my way through 48 minutes of immigration then trudging the length of Incheon airport to find the customer service desk in order to learn where my transit hotel was located. I did as I was directed and wandered over to a line of hard pine benches where I sat, unsure of whether I was in the right place and with the right group of travellers. My excitement in travelling quickly dissipates, particularly when I am not in complete control of a situation. Other groups seemed to be loading onto buses and my group was still milling around looking just as tired and confused as I probably looked. ‘Stay calm’, I admonished myself, ‘someone’s got it organised.’
It was then I noticed a group of short Buddhist monks milling nearby. They had lovely smiles and were being particularly polite to each other, holding their hands together as they bowed to one another. Although their manner was charming, it was the colour of their clothing and the design which really had an impact on me. The elegant simplicity of the fabric, it’s colour and the texture was quite stunning and incredibly calming.
I am going to call this colour, Monk grey. I asked a Korean traveller about the clothing and he told me that the monks wear a combination of cotton and wool fabrics, all in this beautiful grey. Perhaps the fabrics might also have been linen. The pantaloons are often gathered by a drawstring waist or in a pleat across the front. The outer tunic tops had wide sleeves and the fabric fell in simple folds around their bodies.
I took a photo of these men, sitting on the deep yellow pine benches and it looked terrific. A few days latter I saw the same combination of colours in the lichen growing on apple branches.
The stitching lines in the clothes that the monks wore reminded me of patchwork and there is a type of Korean patchwork called Pojagi where lots of pieces are joined in a closed seam. Sitting on the bench looking at these monks I passed the time very happily planning patchwork quilts in these colours and of course that made me think of Furoshiki, the Japanese fabric wrapping, which dates from about the 14th Century. Pojagi and Furoshiki are such a sustainable wrapping and much better than the modern plastic bag. So entranced was I with the concept of making these fabric wrappings I nearly missed my call to board the bus to the hotel. Thank you to the monks of South Korea who unknowingly had such a calming effect on me and led me into a creative space.