art by Arlene Kim Suda

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100 Days of Blooming Love

Posted on April 20, 2015 by aks

100 Days Of Blooming Love (on instagram)


Just about to start Week 3 of a 100 day project sponsored by Elle Luna and The Great Discontent. The first 2 weeks have sort of been a free for all. I had a concept in my head — drawing flowers on the theme of 100 days of blooming love.

This project has always had the intention of bringing attention to the subtle things we experience through the gift/gifting of flowers – themes of compassion, forgiveness and love to heal wounds we experience in our lives but also to express emotions (it still amazes me how hard this is to do on a personal level today) and to learn and grow into lives we are proud to live.

The project originated from a seed of an idea to draw 100 flowers for the people of North Korea but that theme felt a little too heavy and un-relateable (though it still remains at the heart of this work). I have always felt deeply compassionate about the human stories of North Korea that we don’t hear about in the mainstream media and I have dreamed of finding a way to give flowers to people there as a symbol that their stories and lives are not forgotten in the world.

My own parents were refugees from North Korea to South Korea during the Korean war. They are naturalized immigrants from South Korea to the US — a war veteran who fought with the US against North Korea under General MacArthur and a singer who helped support her family by joining the South Korean army chorus. They are survivors and pioneers who despite having such an incredible story, currently live a modest and relatively invisible life in downtown Oakland. They did not meet in Korea, rather here in the US. They were in their 30’s when they were introduced by friends; they met, got engaged and married within 3 weeks, had a son the next year and me a few years later.

So, to me the story of North Korea is not about crazy dictators and national security — it is a story of human potential and freedom and possibility. I can’t help but imagine that in another universe, I was born in North Korea (most likely in a part of the countryside that feels like Texas — for some reason, I have always felt like I am from Texas!) where I wouldn’t have a degree from a university and I wouldn’t be pursuing a life as an artist. As a woman, I’m not sure what my fate would be in that country other than to be a wife and mother. Farming, cooking, cleaning, struggling to support a family, raising kids who were not truly free to reach their own potential? What could North Korea (and really many other places in the world) be like if true individual freedom (and blooming love) was restored?

So back to 100 days of blooming love…

This past weekend I asked my dad to help me identify flowers to draw by recalling flowers from where he grew up:

“Here are some flowers I remember in the Anju country side (mostly on a side of a road through a hill): lily, dandelion, pasqueflower, impatient (balsamine, touch me not), forsythia (not wild), bellflower, iris, azalea. And, violet. Near or inside the yard, we had many more (imported) flowers. Rose of Sharon belongs to this category. Later, it became the Korean National flower. Cosmos was a favorite for many people. Zinnia, marigold, sunflower were more common. Peony was treated as a more expensive one to grow. Dahlia was a favorite of your cousin’s daddy, he was a village expert for all kinds of cultivation related matters.”

Out of these, by pure coincidence, I have already drawn 3 of them in my first 14 days and had paired them with these words:

Day 6. forsythia: wholeness
Day 7. dandelion: tenacity
Day 8. iris: impermanence

These are all words that are such an integral part of my parents’ lives and the words made me feel like I needed to share this story. So my theme for the next couple weeks is to focus on flowers from my father’s childhood. It was a land he noticed and loved, a land he was forced to leave and eventually one that he fought against before immigrating to the US. This is one human story of North Korea – my dad’s, but also many others who share a similar one.

Flowers can be a powerful way to signal the blooming of love – in this case, a love for family, a love for my roots and ancestors and a love for humanity with a hope that someday the majority of people in the world will have both the freedom of choice as well as the personal drive to be their true selves in the short time we are here. Maybe a good reminder for all of us that do have this choice — to be aware of it, make the most of it and truly be grateful!

Follow the project here on instagram or twitter and please share your own #100DaysOfBloomingLove stories too!

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