As I sit at my desk, listening to a windy night and wondering why Spring is taking so long to make its much awaited appearance, I am wishing I was back in the warm tropics. As regular readers of this blog would know, my day-job involves regular travel to cities all around Australia. One of my favourite places to visit is Cairns, in the northern region of Queensland. On my most recent trip, just over a week ago, I happily left behind cool Adelaide and soaked up the humid warm weather. I also had the opportunity to catch up with my grey-nomad parents, who were passing through. It was just a brief encounter, as I had a plane to catch, back to my home in the south.
Picking me up from my motel, we decided to visit the Cairns Botanic Gardens, as I had a couple of hours free before needing to be at the airport. After a cool drink in the cafe, we strolled through the gardens. My mother is very knowledgeable about plants, so we took our time; reading the signage and talking about the lush flora. There were plants from many tropical countries, and the colours of the flowers and leaves were spectacular. Too soon, I was waving goodbye at the airport.
On the plane, I thought back to the morning, glad that I had the opportunity to catch up with them. And pleased that we had chosen to go for a walk, as opposed to sitting in some cafe in the city. I was reminded of all those other walks that I had shared with my family, many years ago.
I was fortunate as a child, as I grew up on a farm, in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. It wasn’t much of a place, as it was old and run down, but it was over a hundred acres, allowing us more freedom and adventures than many other children are granted. Being close to suburia, our farm was a popular place for visitors of all ages. And, on many occasions, my mother would take the visitors for walks, to forage for food.
In Winter, I would pull on rubber boots and tag along, as my mother lead us on the hunt for mushrooms. And we would find plenty, from small white buttons to huge flat, brown mushrooms. Other times we would climb over fences, in to the neighbours property, to search for treats down by the small stream: quinces, figs and native celery and watercress. Sometimes we would walk along the old railway track that run through the bottom of our place, the track on which my great-grandfather once rode as a young man working for the railway. There I would pluck the juicy young stalks of the licorice bush, nibbling as I walked. Once, I sat in the car as my uncle raided a feral bees nest. The sight of him tearing towards the creek, with a swarm of bees chasing him, still makes me chuckle.
After I left home, my parents moved to the Adelaide Hills. There were still walks, many years later, when I had children of my own. Sometimes we were joined by other family members. We would go walking along paths in the local national park, looking for rare orchids. My mother is also an expert orchid hunter, so we would see many beautiful flowers. Too soon, my children grew up and my parents became wanderers, so there were no more shared walks.
I wonder, way back then, did I know how magical those moments really were? If I had known that they were limited, would I have treasured them more?
Who knows. All I can do now is to make sure those memories remain strong. And to find whatever time I still have, to walk with my parents.