Today is one of those early autumn days when people think about going for a Sunday drive … or used to, when owning a car was something of a novelty, petrol was cheap, and families liked touring around suburbs and countrysides in each other’s company with no purpose whatsoever except to go around in circles.
We were never “nearly there”, we were always where we were, right at that moment; Sunday drives were a modern exercise in being present. There may have been some small idea of purpose, such as “we’ll go for a drive and pack our togs in case we get to Kai Iwi Beach” or “we’re off for a drive and we’ll take a thermos and sandwiches and have a picnic in the bush”. But if we didn’t get to the beach, or got there and found a strong westerly kicking up the sand and waves and no-one felt like getting out of the car, it did not matter so much. So there’s our little car tootling down the road, Mum and Dad in the front, me and my brother often squabbling in the back. And there were other people doing the same, older couples getting out of the house, younger couples getting their kids out of the house. It was purposeless and purposeful. Going away and coming back was like a little holiday, it stretched the weekend or holiday out, made it last and linger in a wash of soft gold early autumn light.
“Look over there”, “slow down and let’s take a look”, “I wonder what’s up this road” were all invitations to explore and while we explored we talked about trivialities, architecture, history, economics, seafaring, lighthouse construction, farming life, animal husbandry, engineering and electricity. Oh and map reading. And from the back seat we learned about our parents, their marriage, their interests, their childhoods, their history. The Sunday Drive was a classroom writ large, at a slow pace. They are nearly over now …. we don’t have time, we can’t afford the petrol, we no longer need to explore?
So today the breeze is inviting, the trees are rustling and thinking about turning gold because creeper has already changed to red and bronze, and the light is clear and sweet as honey. And we are not nearly there … we simply are here.