As I do not know who this saying is attributed to, or even whether it is word for word, I feel I am going to mangle it : “it’s not the destination but the journey”. Then to paraphrase and add a bit to it : ‘remember that wherever you are going, take into account that the journey to the destination is just as important as the destination itself’. After a total of five hours spent in the car on a day-trip to see Mum, it is lucky this adage is true (even if it is not correctly quoted).
We left early in the morning for our road-trip on what promised to be a lovely, warm, still autumn day. After leaving the city behind, we climbed the car over a steep mountain range, leaving an expanse of land below us, clear to the horizon on the west, but with a high cloud cover of grey. On the opposite side of the mountain, as we came down from the summit, the sky in the east was brilliantly blue. Since we were heading in that direction, directly toward the blue, all looked good for a perfect day ahead for a road-trip. And a perfect day it was: 1. we were out on the road having an adventure, 2. the roads weren’t too heavy with traffic even though it was a public holiday, 3. the sun was out, 4. we were going to visit mum, 5. and last but not least we were going to replenish our supply of feijoas, those wonderful fruit available in the autumn, and one of the reasons for my love of this season.
I love early autumn. At the cusp of this season the skies are (mostly) blue and cloudless, there is still the heat of summer in the full sunshine, yet there is a cool nip to the air present in the early morning and early evening as the days draw in. It is a season of warm-sharpness. Leaves turn colour and are just starting to flutter down in a gentle breeze. For me, a smoky smell in the air is integral to Autumn as this time of year with the air being so still, it is a good time to light bonfires. Every now and then on our journey, the car passed through drifts of smoke and the woodsmoke smell drifted to our nostrils. The burning off of the lands waste before winter. Meanwhile the living trees clung onto leaves turning from leached greens, to yellows, oranges, reds, and russets. A colourful sylvan world.
Warm sun poured into the car; an even, warm, mellow, autumn light embraced the land. The sun’s warmpth trapped in the car and the rocking motion of the car became soporifics and I started to feel drowsy. Further into the journey, the air cooled and we entered dense morning fog. The world became coloured in shades of grey. The air seemed still and quiet as we sped through veiled pastoral scenes. Trees loomed out of the mist, eerie and spooky. Spider webs, heavy with dew glistened in the morning mist. This misty wonderland held us captive for half-an-hour of the journey until, all of a sudden, we broke out of the fog and back into sunshine. The beginning lines of Keat’s “To Autumn” came to mind : ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness….’. Having just passed through a sylvan, misty, veiled, mellow, sleepy world I felt like I had just been inside John Keats’ poems and into the very landscape of his mind. The only things missing were Keats’ Grecian Urn, a few nymphs…. and thankfully there was no Melancholy to be found!
Back out into the warm sunshine, I was lulled into a reverie. It was ANZAC Day. This day originated as a day to remember those in the World War One campaign that landed troops at Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. Now this day has a broader scope – it is a day of rememberance to commemorate the sacrifices of personnel who served and died in military operations.
As we neared our destination, I watched a flock of birds in the distance as they flowed and followed each other naturally, changing the flock into shapes, changing continually. The flock then took on a chevron and changed into the shape of a plane. The birds were in perfect formation like a military operation. It was very timely since it was ANZAC day, and around the country planes would be performing this very formation in commemoration of this day. In literary terms, a ‘pathetic fallacy’ of sorts. In this case the birds were in tune with the day and it was nature performing it’s own military style fly-past. And in another strange coincidence, in the sky, just further over going in the opposite direction to the birds were seven planes getting ready to do just that, a fly-past. It was a stange little moment of synchronisity. To make amends for my opening quote, here is a quote complete with an attribution: “A traveller without observation is a bird without wings”–Moslih Eddin Saadi.
Arriving at Mum’s, mid-morning, she had the chairs placed in the sun and we sat and chatted and had coffee and feijoa friands. We eventually made a casual lunch – a warm vegetable dish with haloumi cheese and home-made potato bread.
We threw sliced red pepper into a very hot pan, then added sliced courgette, spring onion and diced tomato, chilli flakes, salt and pepper.
Squares of haloumi cheese, about a centimeter thick, were dusted in flour to stop them sticking to the pan, and fried until the slices turned golden.
We took our lunches outside and ate al-fresco in the warm sun.
Autumn. It is this time of year when my all-time favourite fruit – feijoas – appear and begin to fall, and so by association, my favourite time of the year.
Mum likes to go foraging for feijoas. She takes great pride in it. Why pay for them when the trees at the local park provide them for no money at all? (and at this time of year the odd walnut too). Anyway, if we didn’t pick them up they would just go to waste.
We collected as many feijoas as we needed from the local park, “Look out for teeth marks” Mum reminded me. At first this was slightly cryptic, then I gave a little laugh as I remembered that once or twice we have come across feijoas with human teeth marks in the skin, where someone had bitten the fruit, skin and all, and discarded it. Discarding feijoas! To me that is a concept I am not familiar with.
Late afternoon came around all too quickly and it was time to pack up for the trip home. Mum foraged in her pantry, and I was sent off home with a bag of feijoas, the potato bread, a jar of home-made raspberry and apple jelly and some home-made hot-cross buns leftover from Easter. That’s my kind of foraging. Why pay for these items when Mum provides the best! My autumn harvest has begun!
On the return trip, and nearly home, a bindingly bright gold sun sinks low in the sky. We started to climb the last mountain range on the way home and by the time we crested the apex of the mountain and rounded a corner, the clouds in the west glowed pink and the sun had turned a beautiful rich apricot. It was such a beautiful colour I had to look at the sun. (When my vision cleared of sunspots), the view from the top of the hill was long and clear – we could see for miles to the horizon and for miles along the coastline. A line of pale pink all along the horizon rose up to clouds edged with pink and glowing gold, and higher up, the pale blue sky still lingered. A ‘fingernail’ moon hung in the sky. Long whispy clouds, the portent of rain in 1-2 days time, were high overhead.
There was an overload of symbolism running riot here. The sun going down, mirrored the season of autumn when the sap in the trees is lowering, and the leaves begin falling. It is the dying back of nature in preparation for the harshness of winter. Just as the sun goes down, the year closes in and the days become shorter before the reawakening and resurrection in the spring.
As a shift in meaning, watching the sun going down was an appropriate way to observe the end of ANZAC Day, and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many and be thankful for what we have now.
The lines from the poem “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon always read out at ANZAC ceremonies all around the country ‘At the going down of the sun…We will remember them’, could not be more appropriate. It was a day worth remembering.