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NO. 5

English  / Korean  


It smells like a winter
How we define the seasons

Chaereen Kong
    It was already dark outside after a hard day out when I stepped out of the office. "Another day is over," I thought. Stretching my arms, I took a deep breath filling my lungs with the cold fresh air. A certain smell lingered around my nose. Suddenly, I realised that winter was just around the corner. Now I could see that lights were hanging here and there on the streets, showing that Christmas was approaching. Even the lights from bikes and cars queued on the road on their way home appeared to be a part of Christmas lights. As always, my winter has arrived with a particular smell.

    Even since I was young, I knew that the smell of the season, which was so obvious to me, was not clear to everyone. When my age just turned double digits, I tried to get confirmation from my friends that there was a certain "smell of spring." For some of them, it was clear enough to need no further explanation. But for the others, I couldn't make them understand no matter how much I expressed it. Moreover, as the smell is subjective and memory-dependent, the smell of spring that I talked about and others are similar but subtly different. The smell of spring, the way I feel, is close to the smell of moist, soft dirt. And although there must be no odour in the haze, it definitely smells like a haze. It must be just in my imagination, but I can feel that it is spring when I smell it.

    When it goes from spring to summer, I can smell the grass. The air is filled with the smell that rises from the mowed lawn. The closer I get to summer, the stronger the smell of the sunlight is. And the day in midsummer smells like burning asphalt and fishy sweat. The smell of the sunlight stays in the air even at night, not as burning, heated sun, but rather as the gradually cooling sun. This smell is mixed with the sound of summer grass bugs and fills the park on a midsummer night.

    It smells like fallen leaves in autumn, both the smell of moist leaves and crisp, dry leaves. There is a smell of burning firewood as if something is being burnt somewhere and a slightly damp smell like a cave. When you start to hate to let short autumn go, it starts to smell like winter, a sharp, piercing smell. The smell of winter is like transparent icicles. You can smell it the most from the coat you've been wearing on a cold winter day. Or is this smell also something that only I know? This must also result from my memory and imagination, but it also smells like Korean food stalls somewhere around the corner. It can't be there's a Boongeo-ppang (a fish-shaped bun) stall in the Netherlands, but I'm definitely sure that I smelled it, which is different from the smell of bread.

    Shortly after I started living in the Netherlands, I found out that there are days when the seasons "officially" start. The spring and autumn equinox, the summer and winter solstice, which are also familiar in Korean culture, are the official beginnings of spring and autumn, summer and winter. These terms are not a new concept to me, but I never learned these dates as "the day the season officially begins." So even these days, I often joke about the dates with my colleagues, "no matter how cold it is, it's not officially the winter as it's not yet winter solstice." I know it by smell. Some know it by aches in the bones or by a change in their body. It might have been important to set an official date the season begins in an agricultural society. But for us living in contemporary societies, seasons are defined by our senses rather than numbers. Like we know it's Christmas season when you start listening to Mariah Carey, or it's spring when "Cherry blossom ending" by Jang Beom June starts trending in Korea, our seasons start with the senses, not with the numbers on the calendar.


Chaereen Kong        
  A Dobby who’s longing for the life of Hanryang*. A kid who had too many things she liked to do and to become, has ended up as an ambiguous person. With her hyper-optimism, she believes she can still become anything since she’s not definite yet. Once a tech-uni student who majored in Architecture, then became an art-school student following her affection in art, and now working at a marketing agency in Amsterdam. What would she become next?

*Hanryang: a voluntarily unemployed person, who enjoys the beauty of our lives.

See other articles by this writer...
Vol.01  I Article No.3  I If you’re reading this, you’re standing too close
Vol.02 I Article No.4  I The Incompleteness of Online Experience
Vol.03 I Article No.2  I Don't be an amateur!

Vol.04 I Article No.4 I Serendipity, the fortunate accident

Vol.05 I Article No.5 I She lives in me 

    한량의 삶을 그리는 도비. 좋아하는 것도, 되고 싶은 것도 참 많았던 아이는 이것저것 하다 보니 이도 저도 아닌 애매한 사람이 되었다. 하지만 특유의 무한 긍정으로 오히려 그렇기에 무엇이든 될 수 있다며 여전히 철없는 꿈을 꾼다. 건축을 전공한 공대생에서, 예술이 좋아 미대생이 되었다가 지금은 암스테르담의 마케팅 에이전시에서 일하는 그녀의 다음 아이덴티티는 무엇일까?

이 작가의 다른 글...
Vol.01 I Article No.3  I 이불 밖은 위험해
Vol.02 I Article No.4  I 불완전한 경험에 대하여
Vol.03 I Article No.2  I 아마추어같이 왜 그래?
Vol.04 I Article No.4 I 세렌디피티, 우연한 발견에 대하여
Vol.05 I Article No.5 I 언제나 내 곁에