ciento volando

travel, stories, and other flights of fancy


Collecting nuts and berries

Stuff on seasons, some nutty haikus, and an interesting salad recipe

When I was a kid, I never liked Autumn. It was cold in the mornings and the sun only seemed to spitefully come out when I was in class. The novelty of being back at school had always worn off, and it was the part of the year with the longest wait until summer (Christmas, camping, and my birthday). I didn’t like the colour orange, or rain, or walking through the slippery decaying leaf litter which slowly built up over footpaths and potentially harboured all kinds of creepy crawlies. I wished the trees would just cut straight to being elegant wintery silhouettes, instead of torturously dropping their foliage bit by bit, losing a little more with every breath of wind, for weeks and weeks on end. The slow, stagnant piles of leaves would steadily grow into child-sized mounds, which everyone else but me delighted in diving under, to discover goodness knows what in the mucky, organic depths. One time, whilst standing aside with my hands in my pockets, I remember seeing my brother resurface from a leaf pile with a giant black moth covering his face. He brushed it away without a second thought, but I had nightmares about it for years.

Fortunately, I no longer feel socially pressured to dive into mounds of rotting leaves, and my attitude towards autumn has markedly improved. In a (possibly unprecedented) moment of maturity, it occurred to me that unless I spontaneously move to the Polar Ice Caps (unlikely) or somewhere on the Equator (now that’s an idea), there’s no way I’m escaping the inevitable shifting of seasons any time soon. So I’d better learn to just suck it up, buy some proper shoes, and stop wishing the weather would be whatever it’s not. Winter this year will be my coldest yet, an anticipated trade off for a wonderfully long and stinking hot summer. I know it’s all relative. The weather in Spain will be nothing on what the rest of Europe will face, but it seems full on to me, because I come from a place where it only snows in the mountains.

Since coming to Spain, I’ve felt much more conscious of the seasons than I ever did back home. Perhaps it’s because Melbourne has four seasons in one day, all year round, but never fully settles into any of them at the designated time. Perhaps it’s because here I spend more time in, or in view of, the country side. Or maybe it’s that the European landscape offers a more ‘Disney-like’ representation of the weather. Last Spring, when the sun came back again, the frost visibly thawed and fields of red poppies sprung up around my village. The countryside came alive with bees and butterflies, baby animals, and singing birds in every tree. I remember thinking ‘now this is what Spring is all about’. It’s an unjust discredit to the southern hemisphere, but the seasons here appear as a technicolour stereotype of how things ‘should’ be.

Or maybe the seasons aren’t all that different from back home. Perhaps it’s just because I’m in a new environment, I take better notice of my surroundings. Whatever the reasoning, I’m enjoying the new perspective. As a human lizard, it’s hard not to play favourites, but these days I’m doing my best to see the best in every season…

Summer, needs no rap from me. Some people say it gets too hot, I say it can’t get hot enough. Spring is fresh and exciting, and the countryside reminds you of Fantasia and kindergarten days. Winter, for me, justifies open fires, mulled wine, piling on layers of wonderfully hideous, un-flattering clothing, and using even the mildest case of the “sniffles” as an excuse to stay in bed and read on Saturday nights…

But in Autumn I can’t quite justify such antisocial behaviour. And norbeetroot, fig and walnut salad do I want to, because right now, it’s absolutely beautiful, I just want to get out there and be in it. I feel the need to savour every moment, soak up every drop of sunlight, and go and do as much as possible… while my energy and the sky hold out. Here in Segovia, the mornings are crisp and perfect for running, and the days (so far) are often clear and sunny. When it does rain, I realise how much I’d missed the sound and the smell. The temperature drops significantly as soon as the sun does, which is also fine, because I was getting sick of sangria anyway. Figs are in season, and currently reign as my favourite fruit. Then there are blackberries, which taste better than ever because they’re wild and they’re free. The countryside around Segovia is lush and verdant, especially compared to my dry and dusty Andalusian summer. And yes, the leaves are steadily turning orange, red, yellow and gold. As the weather gets cooler, the autumn palette warms. And the fallen leaf litter? Now it’s just an excuse to employ my favourite new Spanish word; hojarasca. I think it can best be translated as ‘scratchy-crunchy-leafy-stuff’*.

So as a (slightly tenuous) tribute to Autumn, and because they’re delicious, I’ve written a series of haikus on nuts. I really do love them. Like any good woodland creature, I’ve been busy hunting and gathering (wild berries, and packaged nuts from Mercadona) to stockpile for the colder months ahead.

I’ve also attached a recipe for the beetroot and fig salad pictured here. It was a wild experiment that turned out to be edible…

So, enjoy! The autumn hojarasca, or that sunny springtime feeling. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you like the poems, and if you make the salad, it turns out to be edible for you too!

nut haikus / interesting salad recipe

*for enquiries about my translation service, please write to me through the contact form in the sidebar. Seriously. I’m like super professional.