by Dorothea McKellar (and NOT Banjo Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda) is perhaps Australia’s most popular poem.
This is a wall hanging (Country Friends stitchery design by Wendy Briggs) inspired by the poem that I made for a friend a few years ago.
The most well known verse is the second stanza:
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me.
But we inhabit this ancient and fragile land at a cost. Many Australians have endured record-breaking heatwaves the last couple of weeks, in South Australia (with at least 31 deaths reported) and Victoria. Sydney has had some extremely hot days but nothing of the kind of heat they have had further south. Flooding rains are causing devastation and illness (350 cases of dengue fever and rising…) and death in north Queensland. One of my facebook/twitter friends posted that Cairns has had 12 inches of rain in February so far!
But the horror that is saddening all Australia is the worst bushfires in our recorded history. Worse than Ash Wednesday. Worse than Black Friday. 108 126 181 209 fatalities so far (with 5 000 7 000 homeless), and the death toll will rise.
More bodies will be found, some of the seriously wounded will probably die (Melbourne’s bigest trauma hospital ran out of morphine) and 31 fires are still burning. Marysville exists no more. The town was razed. Kinglake is just an hour or so north of Melbourne. I went raspberry picking there many years ago. I remember it as lush and forested.
Australia is indeed a country of beauty and terror. I’m praying for those who are walking in the valley of the shadow of death, praying that they will be showered with goodness and mercy by those (us?) who can touch their lives.