W.H. Hudson In ReverseFriday, October 10, 2008
Rosemary is in a tizzy, as always, before we go anywhere. I have been instructed to make the pizza and choose what I want to wear. We are going with the girls, Lauren and Rebecca to visit Ale in Lillooet. The pizza is part of the routine that the girls like. We eat the pizza as soon as we are past Chilliwack on our way to Lillooet via the Fraser Canyon. For the trip I have to select 6 or 7 CDs of music. I mix jazz and classical piano to keep Rebecca's interest in that instrument alive. Today we will be listening to Philip Glass playing Metamorphoses on solo piano, and Philippe Entremont playing Satie's Piano Works. But there will also be some Dave Brubeck and John Lewis playing the piano with Bill Perkins (tenor sax), Jim Hall (guitar), Percy Heath (bass) and Chico Hamilton (drums) in one of my desert island discs 2 Degrees East - 3 Degrees West.
I always feel an excitement of going to the "country" or "the camp" as Anglo Argentines are fond of saying. As a little boy I was often dispatched by my parents to the campo for a few weeks during the summer school holidays in January. I marveled at the exhiliaration I felt when I stood on the Argentine pampa and I rotated my body 360 degrees and not find anything or anybody breaking that sharp horizon line unless it were that natural interruption of that non tree tree that Argentines worship, the Ombú.
This morning I gave it some extra thought and I had this curious feeling that somehow it was familiar but in reverse. I soon found the passage in William Henry Hudson's A Traveller in Little Things. This book of essays on travels throughout Britain were written four years after his autobiographical memoir, Far Away and Long Ago which gives an account of his childhood on the pampa where he was born in 1841. If he had written nothing else, Hudson would be remembered for this poignant memoir. There is a little bit of this memoir feeling in the little story The Two White Houses: A Memory.
It was the great southern road which leads from the city of Buenos Ayres, the Argentine capital, to the vast level cattle-country of the pampas, where I was born and bred. Naturally it was a tremendously exciting adventure to a child's mind to come from these immense open plains, where one lived in rude surrounding with the semi barbarous gauchos for only neighbours, to a great civilised town full of people and of things strange and beautiful to see. And to touch and taste.
Thus it happened that when I, a child, with my brothers and sisters, were taken to visit the town we would become more and more excited as we approached it at the end of a long journey, which usually took us two days, at all we saw - ox-carts and carriages and men on horseback on the wide hot dusty road, and the houses and groves and gardens on either side...
The estancia Hudson was born in, Los 25 Ombues, near the Chichitas river in the district of Quilmes, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina would be about 40 minutes away by train today. Quilmes then was certainly not Lillooet today nor does Vancouver today in any way resemble the lazy city of Buenos Aires then. But I still feel that my "journey into the interior" in a modern car with a slice of pizza on my lap is some sort of wonderful trip into the unknown.
I do look forward to it.