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Monday musings on Australian literature: Mountain murmurings

January 10, 2011

Mountain? Because this week’s Monday musings was inspired by my recent sojourn in the mountains. Murmurings? Because it will be more pictorial than textual. And what does all this to have with Australian literature? Two things, primarily:

  • My definition of “Australian literature” for this blog series is a broad one – it is intended to not only be about Australian literature but also about the things that our literature draws on, such as culture and landscape. This post is about a very specific part of Australian landscape.
  • In my last post, on Barbara Hanrahan, I referred to her looking in vain for “the sunburned land” she learned was her home. My aim in this post is to support her, to show that in fact much* of Australia, albeit a dry continent, is not sunburned.

Here’s a little context. The second – and most well-known – verse of Dorothea McKellar‘s famous (in Australia) poem “My country” starts with “I love a sunburnt country“. This is the image which Hanrahan rails against in her novel, and it is probably still the prevailing image Australians have (or like to have) of our country. And yet, there are other images – real ones as you’ll see in this post, and poetic ones, like the following:

By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling
(The opening lines of  “Bell-birds”, by Henry Kendall)

There are, in other words, many ways of seeing Australia: not all of them are “sunburnt”, and neither are they all romantic or nostalgic, but those are not for today’s just-back-from-holiday mood.

So, to cut to the chase, here is a small selection of images from the Snowy Mountains (in Kosciuszko National Park). Enjoy, because next week we’ll be back to more serious stuff!

Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went
(From “The man from Snowy River“, by Banjo Paterson)

Snowy Mountains, near Thredbo
In the Snowy Mountains, taken from the Thredbo riverside walk
Near the top of Dead Horse Gap walk, on the Main Range

It's mid-summer, but not so sunburnt here

Eucalyptus Stellulata or Black Sallee

Weird but wonderful, a gum just at the tree-line

Snow Daisy close-up

Snow Daisy and friends

Gunn's Willow-herb

Gunn's Willow-herb may not be on the tip of every Australian writer's tongue but how pretty it is

Short-beaked echidna

You never know who you might meet on a bushwalk - such as a Short-beaked echidna nosing around for food

And finally, one bit of Australiana that all Aussies know: (Eastern grey) kangaroos, in the bush.

* Defined as the parts of Australia where the majority live. Much of the Australian continent is indeed pretty sunburnt!

20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2011 09:26

    I grew up on the edge of a national park in nsw and I look back now on my childhood and think about how lucky I was to be able to play in bushland after school each day – combing the edge of the creek and climbing over the rock formations. I love the bush and i always think that its a shame that in my adult life i don’t have as much time as I would like to explore it

    • January 11, 2011 09:42

      Oh, lucky is not the word Becky. Which national park? I spent much of my childhood in country towns and loved the freedom to wander into hills and parklands — some of that was in sunburnt country too, Mt Isa!

      • January 12, 2011 12:00

        It was Lane Cove National Park in NSW. A really lovely National Park

        • January 12, 2011 12:11

          Oh yes, it is. I spent my teen years in Sydney living half way between Lane Cove National Park and Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. Special parts of Sydney. Thanks for coming back to let me know, btw.

  2. January 11, 2011 11:58

    I am glad to see these peaceful images today, what with the harrowing footage coming from the Queensland floods. A timely reminder that beauty will return…

    • January 11, 2011 12:36

      Thanks Lisa … yes, it truly is horrendous isn’t it. I spent the first 5 years of my life in two of the flooded towns – Maryborough and Gympie. They are well-known for flooding but that doesn’t make it any easier. And what about the flash-flood in Toowoomba. I just can’t imagine it.

      • January 12, 2011 00:40

        I was going to mention this. The image of a sunburnt country is pretty far from poor ravished Queensland at the moment. Apparently, the size of flooded land is equal to the size of Germany and France.

        • January 12, 2011 09:03

          Oh yes, Mae … in retrospect, this post was poorly timed but Monday Musings waits for no-one!

        • January 14, 2011 18:10

          Actually, I was thinking about this poem while I was driving today and it is even more nice timed *because* the next few lines are, of course:

          Of ragged mountain ranges,
          Of droughts and flooding rains.

          That pretty much sums our country up. A land of extremes!

          I used to know the first 3 stanzas off by heart…not anymore though!

  3. January 11, 2011 13:11

    The language, and photos, describing the Australian “image” here are what strike close to my heart. The blue-grey-greens are what I miss when overseas, not an orange sunburnt scheme of colours.

    • January 11, 2011 15:04

      Ha, another city child who grew up surrounded more by mountains/hills than beaches and deserts. But, I know what you say – our greens are lovely. I miss them too when I’m away. I suspect it’s why I also like olive trees – they have that silvery green colour we also have here.

  4. January 12, 2011 00:43

    I think our bushland is quite underrated. We have some of the most beautiful hiking trails and cities. I bet most of the younger generation (*ahem* moi) haven’t even seen the quintessential image of the sunburnt country with their own eyes. I like you definition of Australian literature too.

    • January 12, 2011 09:02

      Yes, I suspect you are right … you’ll just have to start a new trend for your generation!

  5. antipodeanowl permalink
    January 13, 2011 14:25

    I spent a good deal of time in the Blue Mountains as a child, and even after having the opportunity to see a small sample of the world’s unique landscapes, I still find myself gob-smacked at the beauty of this area.

    • January 13, 2011 14:48

      Thanks for popping by, Ms Owl (at least I think you’re Ms not Mr?). We do have some lovely mountains in southeast Aus don’t we?

  6. January 14, 2011 20:27

    Thanks Mae, it IS a pretty good poem in terms of describing Australia isn’t it?

  7. January 15, 2011 04:18

    What nice photos! Did you ever see the movie of The Man from Snowy River? I have no idea how accurate it was but I loved it so much when I saw it so long ago. And I definitely know not all of Australia is sunburnt. The floods in Brisbane have been in the news here everyday. It sounds terrible and my heart goes out to all who are affected.

    • January 15, 2011 09:16

      Thanks Stefanie. Yes, I did see that film – it’s a pretty much romantic adventure inspired by the Banjo Paterson poem but the scenery was very real! As for the floods – thanks – it is shocking, particularly after all the years of drought. Seems very unfair for the people who’ve had to suffer both extremes one after the other.

  8. January 22, 2011 20:51

    Oh, what glorious pictures. I hadn’t seen this post, when I just commented on the Thredbo walk book- now I want to go even more. Am currently on holidays in NZ, so it’s not all that tough I suppose..

    • January 22, 2011 22:49

      No, it’s not. Lovely scenery there of course. But the Snowies are well worth exploring. Glad you liked the photos. I had fun choosing them!

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