A Flute and Call In Evergreen Winter Mountains
A Remembrance of a Group that is No More
The following piece of writing relays remembrances of a cohort of martial artists training together outdoors in winter. We practiced outside in nature during several weekends in each season and were the better in mind and body for it.
Winter was my favorite time of year for these gatherings that happened Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, with time for music, home cooked food, and stories as well as practice sessions night and day.
My 4th degree black belt test was held during one weekend in January and one weekend in February of that year. That experience helped to push me all the way to 9th degree black belt in more than one style of martial arts, and all that has saved my life and mind a few times.
After about a decade or so, all in the original cohort of men and women had quit or moved away or were deceased, except for me. I began my own group for many years and still offer private lessons and consultations to Olympic Class teams.
Legend of the Korean Flute for this Poem
About 14 centuries ago on a mountain to the east in Korea, there grew a strange bamboo species. In the daytime, each plant divided into two parts. At night, each plant was a single bamboo.
The King formed a flute form the strange two-part bamboo and played the new instrument. Then miracles happened! The sick became well, the enemy could no longer see the King's men, rain fell on drought-stricken territories, and the music was magical and beautiful.
Please listen to some Korean flute music as you enjoy the poem offered below.
Listen while you read.
An Elegy of Flute and Call
It seems a century ago and only yesterday that I heard the flute and call.
Living clouds of misting white ice-smoke hugged the hillsides in the winter Appalachian Mountains.
Snow skirts covered the foothills and made melting rivulets of water skip through iced-over lakes and streams as they cut paths in the sunlight of January…February.
The enchanting mists brought calm and peace as they wafted through stands of pine trees standing guard over many histories.
Wide, tall trunks and branches curtained billows of fresh pine-scented air with sweeps of great green arms bending over us as we stood before them.
Above, the call of the hawk and eagle embellished the peace with life.
Afar, a trio of deer paused to gaze at us as we melted into nature between the trees and hills.
Below, even the mud was beautiful as our boots paced through dances of piercing and soft movements intertwined.
Inside, our hearts absorbed energy and gladness.
Our minds became as clear as invisible glass.
Each practitioner chose a tall tree as a partner for focus in the forest.
We did not become lost.
Snapping, cracking extensions of uniform arms and legs were like small lightning strikes in the dawn.
Whirling movements shot waves of wind toward those nearby.
Long-legged far reaching kicks took us up steep hillsides quickly in snow, ice, and mud.
We did not fall.
In the distance over this hill and that rise, I could hear the ring of shouts at the end of punches, pouring themselves into the wind and echoing away.
At the martial temple in Korea, it was just so. Similar latitudes, similar drills.
It was all familiar in the Winter Appalachians.
In the distance, the notes of an Asian flute sounded as mists rose from the ground, around the trunks, and through the branches of our trees as the sun glided higher overhead.
A river was singing nearby, in harmony with woodland birdsong.
This time and place should be forever.
This time and place are difficult to find in the present.
The mountains and trees still stand, but many of the cadre have died.
The old ones lived long lives with many happy years before passing over.
Younger ones died in war – two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Others disappeared to other lives - I wish them well. The rest eventually quit.
I stand alone on those wintry mountains in January…February,
And I still hear them all.
© 2015 Patty Inglish