North Village Light
My village has an interesting meeting place. It is a large house, about 300 years old, with a thatched roof, an earthen floor, a well-used kitchen made of wood and clay, and tables that can accommodate many people. It is more like an open kitchen for the village than a meeting place. It can be used by anyone living in the village at any time and the kitchen is open for people to bring a variety of ingredients, cook delicious food, and eat freely. It is a place to talk and to share extra food or to find some if there is none at home. If someone cooks a meal and there is not enough for the next person, someone else who can cook will cook. Those who don’t want to cook don’t have to and those who don’t want to talk can eat in peace, making it a place where each person’s comfort is respected. This is based on the principle that everyone should enjoy what is left over from the fields and farms. The food is sometimes paid for by the village budget and sometimes not. The kitchen gathers an abundance of high-quality rice, vegetables, eggs, and meat, some of which comes from the village farms that use natural and pesticide-free methods, or else from local gardens and fields. Processed goods are also made at a factory in the village and leftovers are left at the meeting place. Mutual respect among the villagers is the reason for the longevity of this place.
We also go to the meeting place when there are new ideas to propose or when we have some problems. We discuss things with the people there before raising the issues at the big village meeting. Of course, the big village meeting is also held around this table. There was one item that once came up on the agenda and developed into an interesting project. It was a question of what to do with the mountains and forests owned by the village, which had borne so many years of human intervention. After consulting with engineers, researchers, and others in various fields, we are gradually returning the mountains and forests to their natural state. This is also about restoring our own intuition and our sense of self that is reflected in our environment.
There is a day I look forward to. It is when we have a cook from the village, or perhaps from outside the village, who comes and cooks a special meal with our local foods and many people in the village gather together. At this time we might pay for the food, or else give the cooks gifts in exchange. We are all dressed up for this gathering. My current source of inspiration is the clothing of the villagers who gather here today. Just the other day, there was a sort of international cooking party. All were dressed up in such style, though I was especially impressed by the men who were dressed in work clothes that could have been more than 100 years old. An elderly woman with long gray hair who lived in the village also captured my attention. She came wearing a long European 19th century black dress remade to be worn loosely, with a small deerskin bag in her hand and Korean shoes with pointy, warped toes. Her hair was likewise styled in a fluffy 19th century knot. She radiated a sense of freedom, transcending time and place, a relaxed humor, and above all, a kindness ready to embrace everything with a rich unbounded heart.
Photo: Meeting room at North Village