… of drought and flooding rains

By Kate Foy

[forecast]

Since well before Christmas the skies have been open above Queensland. The media have told the stories over and over: an area the size of France and Germany combined is under water. The NASA satellite put images to this fact. People have been evacuated from many towns. Lives and property and animals have been lost. And it goes on. We watch the skies, check the weather radar on our screens and hope that it will stop – soon. We’ve had enough.

The wonderful work by emergency services, the Police, and volunteers who’ve come from interstate to help is beyond praise. They can never be thanked enough for what they are continuing to do. This is goodness at work.

The floods are not over as I write. The weather is expected to continue relentlessly bucketing down over the state; the south-east corner is copping it right now. Rivers and creek levels are rising and people are planning evacuations. Many are unable or unwilling to chance getting to work. This is a good idea. People should stay off the roads many of which are cut, or badly damaged.

We hang tight – stay stoic, do what we can for ourselves and others. Tweet out the latest road conditions, how we’re feeling, console others who are doing it tougher.  Make jokes – the human spirit is wonderful in being able to hope in the darkest and wettest hour. I’ve been soaked to the bone a couple of times clearing gutters, digging little drainage ditches – and I’ve been lucky where I live – so far. It’s the way we cope in this wilful, lavish country. The dams are almost full, the aquifers deep below the earth – drained after years of drought in this ancient land – are replenishing. That’s good.

Here’s a poem most Australians learned in school. It was written in the early 20th century by Dorothea Mackellar OBE. It’s a bit of an anthem and it springs up as a comfort, in my mind at least, at times like this.

My Country

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!

A stark white ring-barked forest
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.

Dorothea Mackellar