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Season of abundant rainfall

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By Yi Woo-won

When the "neungsohwa," or trumpet creeper called the Campsis Grandiflora, in my garden starts to flower, it's time again for "jangma," the long monsoon season in summer. Oddly enough, the neungsohwa, a woody vine, flowers when the jangma begins and continues to bloom until the jangma ends. Therefore, when the spell of the monsoon is over, so is the gorgeous blooming period of the flower.

The funnel-shaped bright orange flowers at the ends of its dangling branches are so beautiful to see in the rain. The luxury of the cheerful and lovely flowers makes the long, sometimes tedious jangma more enjoyable.

Now and then, when it rains hard, I look out the window to see how the tender flowers are holding out in the heavy rain. They are huddling together in the pouring rain, clinging to each other desperately not to fall off. But some of them fall off helplessly, ending their premature lives. I wake up in the morning to find huge piles of fallen neungsohwa flowers on the ground, still fresh and pretty, adorning my front yard with a beautiful and lively orange carpet.

The jangma might be a little untimely and harsh for the neungsohwa flowers, but it's perfectly timely and vital for farmers. They need abundant rainfall to plant rice seedlings around this time of the year. Yet sometimes, the mood of Mother Nature is unpredictable and unfavorable, if it rains too much or too little. In fact, floods, droughts and famines were common when I was young, although it was largely due to the lack of reservoirs and poor irrigation facilities.

I remember a few severe droughts when I was growing up. Quite unusually, the ritual jangma was absent in the summers of those years. There were many religious rites across the country, praying for rain, but their efforts failed to bring any substantial rain to quench the drought. One year, after a serious drought for months, many farmers who had run out of crops from the previous harvest had to survive by eating the roots of herbs or the bark of trees.

The jangma can turn quite violent and damaging occasionally. The worst rainy spell I can remember occurred when I was about 10. The bank of a reservoir, not too far from my home, burst after hours of torrential rain, and the floodwater soon engulfed our village, which was in the lowest part of the town in Daegu. The water rushed into my home, breaking down the fence around the house. In a few seconds, everything was under water ― our rooms, the floors, the kitchen and all our household goods.

This incident happened in the morning before I was leaving for school. We had to get out of the house in a hurry or we would have drowned in the rapidly rising water. The water was up to my chest when my mother pulled my arm to take me to safety. In the midst of fear and desperation, I was looking with curiosity at the many things floating in the water, such as bowls, pans, earthenware and shoes. I couldn't take my eyes off our household goods being washed away. My mother didn't seem to care about them as we were wading through the water to get out into the alley.

We returned the next day after the floodwater had receded. Although everything looked so messy, soggy and muddy, our little house was still there and I was glad to be home. My mother had to work day and night for many days washing clothes, cleaning kitchen utensils, discarding many of them and finally placing everything back in order in the house.

Although the jangma has a few negative aspects in its character, like humans, overall it is beneficial and kind to us. Above all, it is a great benefactor for farmers who grow rice in the paddies and hence for all of those who eat rice. Besides, an occasional spell of shower is a real blessing for city dwellers in the scorching summer. It quickly cools down the sizzling asphalt streets, hot concrete buildings and their heat-exhausted occupants as well.

I like the jangma as well as listening to the rain. When I listen to the soft, whispering sounds of the rain, I become meditative and feel quite nostalgic. Especially on rainy nights, the sounds are so rich and fascinatingly diverse. Sometimes it sounds like the endless chatter of young lovers; sometimes it sounds like the murmur of a distant brook; sometimes I hear the weeping and wailing of a woman in grief; sometimes I hear the deep, solemn chant of a Buddhist monk.

Yi Woo-won ( lives in Waegwan, North Gyeongsang Province.

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