Monday, 21 June 2010
The Shortest Day
The most wondrous place to experience the full depth of autumn has to be Central Europe. Canada and the USA may be grander and the hues more dramatic, but let me take you through the rich, damp leaf-cushioned floor of the Vienna Woods, or the fairytale forests of Bohemia and Transylvania, scented with pine burning stoves, the mountain cottage with a chimney sensing the heavens with an anointing of smoke.
There’s something dreamlike about taking a tram in Vienna, hearing a musician play from an upper window, somewhere out of reach, and watching the august, leafless trees blur by. Then travelling home through the frost-hardened fields of Niederoesterreich, your head covered and warm, but your nose catching every nuance of smell through its cold tip. Homecoming means a ceramic log stove with a humidifier scenting the room with cloves, its heat giving the feather quilts the fragrance of Christmas. Your Sunday walk takes you through misty cemeteries and Heurigen, you dodge rotten apples on the pavements and anticipate festive tables strewn with chestnuts and dried russet leaves.
Tonight is the shortest night, but it is mid year. As I hurried to the station from work, I could hear a solitary blackbird somewhere high on an office window ledge. I stood briefly and tried to locate it, and as I did, heard a busker in the subway playing one of Mozart’s pieces for violin. For a split second I closed my eyes, imagined Demel’s café and a walk to the tram from the Hofburg. My nose twitched in anticipation, seeking out the smell of a wood burning stove, and the smell of spice.
So tonight I baked a pumpkin pie, mit Nelken, Ingver und Zimt, and later I will disappear to another world under a feather quilt. But tomorrow I will wake to a S. Pacific autumn, where the leaves hang resolutely on the trees.