I don’t get “homesick”. It hasn’t happened once in 23 years. I suppose I must believe in home being where the heart is because many times I’ve wished I was where my kids were at times, when they’ve been living elsewhere, but that’s not quite the same thing. So I can only describe the way I often feel at this time of year as nostalgic. It was kind of sad, in the early years, to think that I would never make piles of dried, golden leaves and hide in them, or do a Ministry of Funny Walks with my kids as we strolled through a park and jumped on all the dried ones…….one year we did it all in a glorious half term trip to London, but I’m not sure just how much the boys were impressed by then, having lived so long with constant sunshine!
The other nostalgic thing about my childhood was harvest festival. I was a sporadic church-goer, but I loved harvest time. I suppose that came from living in the country, and maybe having a keener sense of the importance of the seasons than some kids did. In recent years I have had two, wonderful Autumns to remember. One was three years ago when I went to visit Guy in North Carolina. I’d always dreamed of having a real, American Thanksgiving so I was quite stoked enough about that, but to find the trees in such vibrant glory was a bonus! It hadn’t occured to me that in that milder climate Fall came later, so it was a lovely surprise to find my favorite season still in full swing, and the markets still full of pumpkins as well as Christmas trees!
The other time was 13 years ago now, an extended stay in England, when both Autumn and Winter welcomed us back by putting on heartbreaking displays of perfection. No one has ever said it better than Keats “….the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”……and that’s just how it was – the morning drive to school across fields bounded by hedgerows groaning with hawthorne berries, where magical and mysterious mists swirled, and the hazy morning sunlight filtered through the golden copse behind my friend’s house. That Fall segued into a brisk and frosty Winter, as Winters should be too.
Here, on “the island of eternal spring,” some will tell you there is little difference in the seasons. These are the people who live on the southern coast, of course, where that’s pretty much true. You can tan year round, the only days you can’t eat outdoors are the few when it rains and midday temperatures from September through June are pretty even. If you go inland, especially if you go north, you will hear a very different story. It’s struck me forcibly this year, because of going up to the fiestas and fairs in recent weeks. Basically, these are the Canarian versions of harvest festival, and it never struck me more than when watching THE romeria from Teror in Gran Canaria on tv the other day. The link is the best one I could find to give you an idea of the sense of abundance, and the strength of the link to the Earth that exists on the islands away from the tourist glitz. In the first two photos you can see carts laden with fruit and vegetables which each village sends to the church to honor La Virgen del Pino (the Virgin of the Pine). Actually, the carts in the photos quite pale in comparison to the ones I was watching on tv. I suppose, like Carnaval costumes, they are getting more elaborate with the passing of the years. Some were dedicated to different themes, and all were piled high with produce so overwhelmingly plentiful, that they seemed unreal………..I did keep wondering what happened to it all afterwards. I really want to think it was all given to people in need. OK, so I’m not into all that religious side of things, but am all in favor of something which brings people together as a community, and these fiestas certainly do that. Especially here, as the islands turn increasingly to tourism, you’d think that maybe there was a danger of these traditions dying out, but what impresses me time and again, as I go to different ones, is the number of young people (and I don’t mean children who are made to attend by their parents) who participate, wear sometimes silly costumes, play “old fashioned” instruments, and glow with pride and enthusiasm. In fact, it seems as if the more influences from other cultures that arrive, the more Canarians become proud of their own heritage.
This time of year brings home to us just how agrarian the culture still is, and how intrinsic the land is to this culture. In Tejina we saw hearts laden with pineapples, grapes, lemons, apples and pomegranates; on tv from Gran Canaria I saw people shouldering marrows and hands of bananas so huge they were carried like sacks of flour; throughout the island this summer there have been fairs and fiestas and demonstations celebrating the abundance of the islands, however this island is seen by outsiders, this is how it is seen by its own people. And, yes, thanks are given, blessings for the coming season are requested and Autumn is as full of promise as I always remembered………still miss those golden leaves though!