Grout

Walking videos have been a great thing during the lockdown. Basically, a walking video is a person that walks around whatever city with a camera and films as he goes. Some are thirty minutes, and some are hours long. It’s great white noise for writing, and when you look up, there’s pretty scenery on the TV.

One YouTuber, Seoul Walker from South Korea, is especially great for writing to. A lot of his walks are in a place called Bukchon Hanok Village in the snow or in the rain, and it’s a beautiful and peaceful place. Why anyone would be walking around a 600-year-old village in near blizzard conditions at three in the morning is beyond me, but there you go. Call it dedication. I appreciate the effort.

What does all this have to do with grout?

The grout in Bukchon Hanok Village is a different thing all together from the grout I’m used to seeing.

Grout in Bukchon Hanok Village

I look at counter tops or brick walls here and the grout is invisible. We tuck it in between the tiles to be ignored until the mold sets in and then scrub it silly in an endless cycle.

But the builders during the Joseon Dynasty celebrated the grout and made it a part of the mosaic. Each brick is still a brick, and each stone is still a stone, but the grout is also integral and beautiful in its own way. The grout, the stones, and the bricks work together, like a really good curry or stew, to make the wall more than the sum of its parts.

It’s somewhat similar to the Japanese concept of mending broken pottery with gold. Though once broken, it’s made whole again and even more beautiful with the lines of gold. Elegant.

But it’s also different in my head. It feels like the builders were celebrating the stuff that holds things together. I need to figure out how to do this in my art and in my writing. Without grout, there is no mosaic.

To misquote the tree, “We are Grout.”

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