As the sun set, we walked to the water’s edge, where Shaman Kim made offerings to the sea gods. “Release Sun-sil’s spirit,” she entreated. “Let her come back with me.” She tossed one end of a long piece of white cloth into the waves, then slowly hauled it in, bringing my mother’s spirit with it.
The next morning, the winds were violent, making it impossible to keep the candles lit. Today would be about release: for my mother to be released from this plane and for us to be released from our links to her and from our torments. we began with the same pattern of weeping, wailing, dancing, and chanting, until Shaman Kim finally asked us to sit. Around me, I saw faces filled with sadness but also excitement.
Tonight is the darkest night of the year.
It is so dark, you can barely make out the stone cottage sitting in front of you. It is the only building in the valley. A path runs right from the fields to a red front door, framed by the remains of a rose bush. In summer, when days are long and warm, the roses flourish. But there are no roses now. It is the dead of winter and the dead of night. The door is surrounded by thorns.