A letter to the land – my dreamtime

Perhaps more than some who have grown up in Cities, the passion our indigenous people have for their land has always resonated strongly with me.

Their history on this land goes back tens of thousands of years, mine just my lifetime; but the feel and smell of the land never leaves you.

You were my place of dreams and; as those dreams soured, you were my solace, my retreat and the heart of everything good.

In autumn a young boy, a dog called Bluey and an imaginary friend called Bill would wander across the paddocks, kicking at weeds and throwing stones across the freshly ploughed land.

In Spring, we would watch the ewes with their new born lambs, and the cows, nudging their gangly, unsteady calves as they searched for the nurturing udder shortly after birth.

Before Spring morphed into Summer and the air was still cool, we would sit in the warmth of the dusty, fire breaks, crumbing the clods of earth left by the Scarifier.

As the seasons changed from green to blonde and then to brown, the smells and scents of the earth would change in unison and new worlds would appear.

There were summer days, spent by the edge of a muddy dam with a couple of desultory strings, bits of old meat attached; waiting for a yabbie lurking under the murky, brown surface to take the bait. I would spring into action then; throwing the line back over my shoulders, hopefully with the yabbie still attached and we would scoop it into a bag lying in the shallows, before heading home with our modest catch.

I learnt to love my “sunburnt country” and never ceased to listen in awe as my mother would recite the words of Dorothea McKellar’s epic poem.

At the end of winter, the warm, waxy smell of the shearing shed would draw me magically. I would sit with the shearers at their morning break, holding a tin pannikin of lukewarm tea and a slice of the warm cake, mum would have baked earlier. I would listen to these tough, gritty men talk of the events of the previous night as they had quenched their hard won thirst at the local pub.

Later in summer after harvest, the earthy odour of the cattle yards at marking time was irresistible and I would sit on the high fence, out of the harm’s way, watching as the men wrestled half grown animals to the ground for tagging and branding.

When droughts hit in dry, hot summers, the dusts storms would gather to the west. You could see them coming for miles, well before they darkened the sky above; smothering everything else in a fine layer of red dirt before moving on to gather and deposit as they continued their relentless march across the country.

All of this was part of the rich tapestry you wove, and as your child, I would lose myself in your expansive Idyll.

I loved you then and I love you now.

Bruce 

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