I never thought roads would become a real sense of imagery for me.
Cars I would understand. I have always loved driving since getting my drivers licence. This was after a lengthy test on my 17th birthday administered by a large police sergeant, who patently thought 17 year old girls should be kept off his roads. But at that time it did not seems to me that very much importance could be attached to roads themselves!
But now, as I drive along highways with deeply wooded median strips whose native flora reach high into the sky, I remember, with some admiration for the road makers, the trips and my destinations when I was being regularly held up by the road widening and median strip building on those very stretches.
That this aberration of mine is shared, to some extent by the population at large was shown to me by the recent ABC radio’s coverage of the 50th birthday of the Gladesville Bridge. I well remember driving from the city to Gladesville as the bridge was under construction, anticipating how apparently random roads would connect, and delighting in revelations as they did. The memories were heightened by the fact that it was my fiancé’s (and then new husband’s) mother we were visiting. I also remember my own engineer father’s delight at this new bridge. (He also admired the harbour bridge but bemoaned the addition of the purely decorative pylons.)
Some roads even awake childhood memories, such as being driven to the Town Hall for “Young Australia Sings” concerts. I still get a frisson of that old excitement when I approach the lights of Sydney at night. On the other hand the beautifully paved Monaro Highway brings recollections of my childhood trips from Cooma to Canberra on a dirt road.
And I have memories of the immense and impressive construction of the new toll road which has now become the M1. Now a Freeway (what images of prospective liberty that title contours up), it is just near where I now live. My son has christened this area “Roundabout World”. The Central Coast is, indeed, very beautiful and much larger and more varied than “Sea World” (and it has even got quite a lot of its own sea) and the plethora of roundabouts may well conjure up many more images than “Dream World”does.
Whilst not even one of the roundabouts here is as challenging as the ones I used to use on my way to work in London, such as Marble Arch or the roundabout that led to my then home or to Victoria Station, it must be acknowledged that for safety in the negotiation of those particular roundabouts the special courtesy of the English was needed. The laconic nature of Australia is more suited by those we proliferate on the Central Coast. However Australia must certainly be able to claim the most politically correct roundabout – the one in our National Capitol which uses the wonderful new Parliament House as its centrepiece.
The old English saying “take time to stop and smell the roses” is not needed here. On our wonderful roads we just need a bit of fresh air through the window to drink in (and perhaps sneeze at) the yellow wattle or hear the beautiful bell birds chiming “in the canyons of coolness” that we pass through.
We have roads by our beautiful lakes, our foamy seas, through our magnificent deserts. We can see our wonderful rainforests by road.
And we learn about life from our roads. As I bemoaned the fact I almost missed an overseas flight due to an accident which delayed the traffic, my son pointed out the obvious lesson, that one cannot expect to still have “emergency time” remaining once one has used it on the emergency.
And signposts! The sight of a golden guitar makes me think I am getting close to the next landmark, the wonderful mountains, perhaps once a haunt of Thunderbolt, leading to the beautiful city of Armidale. The indomitable big merino has moved from its position in the heart of Goulburn to be closer to the Hume Highway, presumably because there it had more interesting things to survey – the highway itself.
And we need to take a lesson from him. There is so much to see on a road, not only the surface but all that needs our concentration on each highway or byway. No detail can be too small. We must see it all. At crossroads we have to stop and make decisions, at roundabouts we can go with the flow. And then we have our wonderful rear vision mirror which shows us, so clearly, where we have been. In these more reflective times that we now live in we have two extra mirrors which also show us what we have left behind us. This gives us two other perspectives on what is passed.
Perhaps these reflections of roads, past and present are giving us a message. It is not the destination that is important. It is how we make the journey.