Australia. Fire and Ice


The weather events of the past few weeks have reminded me of one of my favourite poems.

Some of you may be aware of Australian poet Dorothea MacKellar but for those who aren’t she was a women before her time. Well at least for me. She wrote a poem called My Country at age 19 when she feeling homesick during a visit to England – this would be around 1904. It was published in England under the title of Core of My Heart but when my father use to recite it to me we called it My Country. It describes the wonderful county I call home and why shouldn’t it? Dorothea was drawing from her experience from one of her families properties that is located a little more than 45 minutes away from my home town.  Like Dorothea, I will always love my sunburnt country.

The diverse conditions we have experience in my little part of NSW, and southern Queensland, over the last couple of weeks has reminded me of  Dorothea’s most famous poem and I just had to share.

It is early spring here in Australian and already it is looking at being a high fire danger summer.  The main concern being there was reasonable rainfall, well better than there was when we were under the effect of the last El Nino that caused a devastating drought in 2009, and as the Australian bush does, it burst into new growth as a result. This now provides a lot of fuel when the conditions are dry as only the strong vegetation survives. You have to remember quite a few Australian native plants rely on being burnt off to survive. Only after being almost cooked in a bushfire does seeds that have lain dormant for seasons finally shoot and grow rapidly to produce more seeds that will drop, mix in with leaf litter, fallen trees etc and wait for the next fire to go through.  As a state of Australia, NSW was reminded of the build up of fuel as bushfires of different intensities, size and severity raged up and down the coastal areas as well as inland.  In my local area we were less affected however it served as reminder it has been at least 20 years since we last had major fires through our region – we have to clean up our environment and be prepared.

Bushland is tinder day with lots of bush fire fuel.

This was around October 5 but later that week that wonderful surprising lady, mother nature, sent us a curve ball and, ta dar, I witnessed for the first time ever on my phone weather app the symbol for snow in reference to my town. Okay, it did change to showers but there was a drop of about 15 degrees in temperature. Although the snow didn’t fall in my town it was less than an hour away by car. Check out these images from the local paper.    At this stage I was cursing myself for changing the bed sheets over to the light cotton variety and was unpacking the blankets I had just washed up and packed away for the summer.

We got less than 10mm of rain over the two day period the massive low pressure system took to move out of our area. We are below average rainfall and it looks like water restrictions will be the topic of conversation again this summer but the snow on the trees in the state forests has probably been the death blow for those not meant for cold conditions. More fuel for possible fires.

By October 18 there were 11 fires within a 150 kilometre radius of my postcode reported through the local bushfire organisations. Of this number, four were less than an hour away, yes in the same areas that just had snowfalls. My town was shrouded in smoke and the air smelt of eucalyptus gums and burning timber. Walking out my back door my eyes stung and each breath was a reminder of campfires and wood barbeques. The hills that look over my home town were ghosts and vehicles loomed out of smelly fog along our roadways.

This is what it looked like around 8.30am from my doorstep.

Smoky hills at 8am (c) Jillian Carlon
Smoky hills at 8am.

This is what it looked like at 6pm.

Smoky hills 6pm (c) Jillian Carlon
Smoky hills at 6pm

I’m now sitting at my computer hiding from the heat outside at nearly three on a Saturday afternoon.  A fan is pushing a breeze around me, and ceiling fans are on in each room in the house. It is a balmy 34 degrees outside, the top is forecast for 35 degrees but we are on daylight saving time and it doesn’t really reach the top temperature until around 4pm so we will see how we go with that.  It’s hot and it’s going to get hotter. They say we have a fifty per cent chance of one to five millimetres of rain tomorrow but thankfully no storms, lighting strikes are bad in dry forests at this time of year.

It’s only spring and the temperature really rises around January so I have a feeling it’s going to be a hot one.  But I love my sunburnt country, it’s what we do here. Dorothea understood this.

Core of my heart, my country,

Young Land of Rainbow Gold-

For flood and fire and famine

She pays us back three-fold…

Over the thirsty paddocks

Watch, after many days

A filmy veil of greenness

That thickens as you gaze…

 

An opal-hearted country,

A wilful, lavish land —

Ah, you who have not loved her

You cannot understand…

…The world is fair and splendid

But whensoev’er I die

I know to what brown country

My homing thoughts will fly!

An excert from Core of  my Heart, Dorothia MacKellar. http://www.dorothea.com.au/dorothea.php

 

For more classic Australian poetry and storytelling check out two other  Aussie authors, once again introduced to me by my dad – he has superb taste.

Banjo Paterson: http://www.wallisandmatilda.com.au/clancy-of-the-overflow.shtml

Henry Lawson: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/andy-s-gone-with-cattle/

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Australia. Fire and Ice

  1. I had tears as I read that poem. My friends used to mock me a lot about my patriotic fervour for Australia. If we were driving somewhere one friend in particular always started the journey by saying: “Please Jo…we know how beautiful it is.” So you just won me over. Aussie poets are the best and The Banjo is my favourite bard of all time.

    1. Thank you Jo. I must admit, I love the story telling of the “our” original bards. Maybe I don’t read enough poetry these days but there hasn’t been many that can paint the mind pictures for me like Banjo, Dorothea and Lawson. 🙂

  2. Thank you. I’m hoping I wont feel compelled to post more graphic bushfire images I have taken myself this summer. So far as global warming is concerned a lot of talk has been around that Australia is a major contributor to the world’s carbon problem, apparently we have too many cows and the gas they release (farts) are of major concern in the creation of unwanted carbon in the atmosphere. 😉

  3. Wonderful post. Thanks for the intro to Dorothea. Love the second pic – does that ever remind me of walking in the Aussie bush. I’ve written about bush fires, here in Spain, but mainly on my Landy blog.

    You’re getting ready for a summer drought and we are expecting a winter drought. Again. Although we may have water in a few days time. Still, there is no climate change or global warming because those who know better tell us so.

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