The blooming of yellow forsythias heralds the long awaited arrival of spring. The golden bells are everywhere, on the sides of Seoul’s numerous rocky mountains, by the Han River and along school fences.
The golden yellows are soon joined by the creamy white elegance of magnolia blossoms that, at night, look like candle lights floating midair. All too soon, they fade, the large petals falling to the ground one by one.
But don’t despair, there are delicate pale pink cherry blossoms to be enjoyed in the tender rays of springtime sun. But make every day count -- the ephemeral blooms take leave in spectacular showers of tiny, gossamer pink petals, and they are gone in the wink of an eye.
Now come the more saturated colors of the azaleas -- pink, white and red. They are in full bloom right now, a delightful riot of color. Namsan is awash in all shades of green, from the tender green of young spring buds to the deep shiny green needles of the old pine trees.
Ah, did I miss acacia? In my neighborhood, at the foot of a mountain covered in acacia trees, the heady scent wafts in through open windows at nights, perfuming the house. With the round-the-clock mask-wearing, even outdoors, I am afraid I might fail to smell the intoxicating fragrance of these white blossoms again this year.
The cacophony of colors seems to bring more joy this year. This time last year, Korea was in a virtual lockdown and stuck at home, I was bereft of the delight of watching colors return to the land.
While colors are abundant in nature, I detect little color everywhere else. Downtown Seoul is more or less monotonous, buildings clad in dull, drab colors. Cars are mostly black or grey and the orange-terracotta colored taxis do little to brighten the streets. Save for the trees, shrubs and flower beds that are carefully tended to by the city, the capital would be a study in forlornness.
The streets of Seoul are populated by people in black and grey, even in this season of zephyr and balmy sunshine. I am also guilty of wearing black, night and day, through all four seasons. I slide open my closet and I see a wall of black and gray, with an occasional white and navy blue. There is a vermilion chiffon dress and a royal blue shantung dress that stick out like a sore thumb, saved for very special occasions. Needless to say, those occasions happen perhaps once or twice a year.
Why black, knowing full well how ageing that color is especially on women of a certain age?
Black is the color of sophistication, allure, minimalism. Why, it could even be considered provocative. But who am I kidding. The real reason I reach for yet another black piece in the morning, eyes still half-shut with sleep, is my sheer laziness. What could be simpler than assembling an all-black outfit? How could you go wrong with that?
Introducing color to a wardrobe is a complicated matter. It requires finesse to get it just right. It involves some intellectual exercise to achieve the desired effect. But when done right, colors can make you feel happy and brighten your day.
With no possibility of overseas travel last year, I began following travel destinations and travel magazines on Instagram. Scrolling down images of the sun-drenched Tuscan valleys, the bright bougainvillea on the cliffs of Amalfi Coast, the turquoise waters and sparkling sand of the Maldives brings a smile to my face. This has become my therapy.
Colors lift the spirits and bring lightness to an otherwise humdrum day. And in these pandemic times, we could all use a bit of cheer.
So, in the tradition of the iconic fashion columnist Diana Vreeland, I say, “Why don’t you introduce a bit of color to your life each day?” See how that makes you feel.
By Kim Hoo-ran (firstname.lastname@example.org
) Kim Hoo-ran is the culture desk editor at The Korea Herald. - Ed.