Enter Homesickness

So, I’ve been here in South Korea for a little over four months now, and I have honestly not felt a single pang of home-sickness. South Korea isn’t that different from any other Industrialized place I’ve been. Yes, there are differences, but nothing so jarring that it throws me into a panic, or makes me want to go back home. The differences are all pleasant, and slightly reassuring. The differences tell me that I’m doing what I should be, and that I’m in the right place for this time in my life.

A potted flower near Yang-dong market, Gwangju. Not nearly as interesting as a wildflower, if you ask me...

This all changed a couple weeks ago. I was struck by a difference I didn’t realize could rattle me so much. For the first time in my life, I’m missing out on Texas wildflowers.

People who aren’t from Texas often don’t understand why Texans are so wild about wildflowers. Many Americans don’t know what the state flower of their home state is. Every Texas knows. Even people who aren’t from Texas probably know that it’s the Bluebonnet. If you want a picture that’s as Texan as it can be, it has to have bluebonnets.

But the Texas wildflowers aren’t limited to bluebonnets. Texas is huge, and it has a lot of different climates, which means lots of different flowers. But what makes the wildflowers so meaningful, I think is the vastness of Texas.

If you want to go anywhere in Texas, you have to drive. You have to drive a long time. Sometimes you have to stop and get a hotel for the night, and then drive some more the next day. It can get absurd. For most of the year, this driving is boring. The fields and hills and mountains and cows and oil rigs are monotonously black, brown, and beige. Miles and miles and hours and hours of tedious, torturous banality interrupted only by the flashing blue and red of a state trooper.

The one time of year this changes is spring. The grass, dead and browned by winter, slowly changes to brilliant green. As the wildflowers come into bloom, the fields, and hills come alive with vibrant patches of blue, red, yellow, and purple. Suddenly, touring the vast emptiness of Texas is a joy. Every mile becomes exciting as beautiful new swaths of color come into view. The speed of Texas highways blurs the flowers into intoxicating impressionist artworks.

Cherry blossom in Gwangju, South Korea

As spring began here in Korea, I was fascinated to see the flowers begin to bloom around me, especially the cherry blossoms. It was wonderful to see the gorgeous pink and white blossoms, and to walk through clouds of their heady aroma. But the cherry blossoms were all too fleeting, and now they are gone. The only flowers left are those planted by people. They fall into neat patterns, carefully planned, and expertly maintained. There are circles of purple, waves of red, rings of white. At fifteen foot intervals, there are squares of yellow, with a touch of orange. I find the carefully-constructed sanity of it bewilderingly boring.

I long for the stochastic nature of wildflowers, for never knowing what will be around the next bend. I miss the surprise of finding a brilliant shock of orange and yellow, where yesterday there was only green.

I’m sure that once spring begins to slip into summer, I’ll stop wishing for gallardia and thistle, for indian paintbrushes and bluebonnets, but for now, I miss home. I miss staring off into the sunset from the Hill Country surrounded by haphazard arrangements of flowers, listening to the hum of bees, and waiting for the oncoming cicadas to tell me when summer has well-and-truly arrived.

Ahh, those beautiful Texas wildflowers.

Happy Earth Day, everyone.