I've had some stuff to write here recently, but I just haven't felt like it.
Bushfires are one of those things that we accept as part of Australian life. We learned all about them at our parents' knees, as we learned the other hows and whys of survival: stay with the car if you breakdown in the bush, clean your fish well back from the riverbank in crocodile country, and how to distill radiator fluid, seawater and urine with a plastic bag and a twig if we're ever stranded without water. We read February Dragon and Ash Road, we helped burn and clear fire breaks on family properties, and once we sat in the car, giggling with half-terror, as Mum drove through a National Park where a controlled burn was getting a bit carried away.
These days we make our plans, we switch on the fire wireless every morning and keep one eye on the horizon for smoke, especially on those 40+ days when there's a total vehicle movement ban and the only things moving across the paddocks are the willy willies and the wind.
Fires happen, and usually they're cause for brief concern. There's a flurry of activity from the local volunteer brigade (and their wives: "Zulu Base, Zulu Base, this is Maureen- the ham and beef sandwiches are on their way, but there's a delay with the egg. Norma is running to the co-op for more mayonnaise!"), and with remarkable efficiency they get things under control. They always get things under control.
Last week in Victoria, hell came to earth.
There's not much else I can say, except that every time I pick up the newspaper, listen to the radio or sit down to type on this computer, I think about those fathers and mothers driving blindly in the smoke dark, holding their children tightly as death thundered in. Nobody had any control.
Dorothea MacKellar has been part-quoted and misquoted repeatedly in the last week or so.
© 1904 Dorothea MacKellar
The love of field and coppice, of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance, brown streams and soft, dim skies-
I know but cannot share it, my love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror- the wide brown land for me!
The stark white ring-barked forests, all tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains, the hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops, and ferns the warm dark soil.
Core of my heart, my country! Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us we see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather, and we can bless again
The drumming of an army, the steady soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country! Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine she pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks, watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness that thickens as we gaze.
An opal-hearted country, a wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her, you will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours, wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country my homing thoughts will fly.