St Augustin

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.
Who lives sees much, who travels sees more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A - Z Challenge. O is for the Outback and what it means to Australians.

Today our ''country' is the land, a sacred concept to our indigenous people, the aborigines. I've taken an excerpt from an Australian writer, Mary Durack, born to the heritage of a pioneering family and one of Australian's foremost literary figures.She's always lived in the Outback of Australia so is well versed in both its beauty and its terror.

                                                      A Map Of The Australian Outback

How do I explain it? The Outback is kind of, well, more or less, sort of, all of Australia...
Outback is a term that describes rural and remote areas in Australia, the parts where not many people live. The different colours in my Outback map show population density, and as you can see, most of Australia is rather empty... (Ignore the 'I live here,' I don't, I now live in Brisbane...)

Even though 83% of Australians choose to live at the beach or within 50 klms of the coast, strangely we still think of the Outback as the 'real' Australia. My excuse is that I was actually born and brought up in country Queensland so the outback is more than just an idea to me.

Here is an extract from Mary Durack's Keep Him My Country.

"After weeks of oppressive heat the April morning was cool and fresh. The homestead still lay in the grey dawn shadow, but already the sun had touched the flat-topped range to gold and silver and the river pearl-grey with a ragged scarf of mist streaking the dark trees, was stirring to life in its deep flood-ravaged bed. Cockatoos flapped and cried and blood-breasted finches spilled like a shower of rubies over the pale grass." (p.1.)

The Aboriginal view of the land as 'country' is well known. In the novel, Durack uses an aborigine to show how he feels about the land.

Dickie felt his heart swell with pride. The billabong shone like bright enamel under a sunset sky, reflecting the wheeling birds, pale lilies and dark bordering trees. This was his 'little country', the place from which he sprang and to which he would return. His father had found him here, a shadow child in the water feeding on the green weeds. Later the shadow had appeared again in a dream, in the form of a small goanna. After a time his mother had become sick when eating lily roots and she knew then that the goanna spirit had entered her and she would bear a child. The goanna would be his 'dreaming', and this his spirit place. So much he knew but there were secrets about his country and the time long past that he would never know. He would never hold the churinga that had belonged to his father, or, since he was dead, ever know its hiding place." (p.118.)

I talk of my country in the night,
I talk of my lover...
I talk to my country for she is woman
The water and the soil of life,
That the smoke of her fires encircle him in the night
And her strong loins hold him...
I cry to my country that her voice shall sing in his blood
and her hot suns fire him.

I cry to my country -
'Keep him that he may come to my side
For I wait through the burning heat of the day
And the long quiet cold of the night.
I wake when the whirlwind scatters my fire to the dry
And its embers die under the falling rain.
I wait for my lover."

(Extract from an Aboriginal love song)

The literature:

As well as Durack's many novels - (Kings in Grass Castles is another stunner about the early cattle kings of the outback,) there is a modern memoir, Tracks, by Robyn Davisdon, which is an amazing story of a woman's trek across Australia with four camels and a dog. Inspirationsl. There is no shortage of great Australian writing regarding the outback, much of it inspired by real life trials and tribulations.

I hope you enjoyed your glimpse of Australia's Outback.


Talli Roland said...

Wow, what a great extract. So powerful. I love the poem, too. I definitely now have a better impression of the Outback!

Clarissa Draper said...

One of my International novels for my challenges is set in the outback and I can't wait.

Dawn Embers said...

How did we all guess this one right on the poll? *giggles* Great post. I like your approach on this one with the different excerpts along with images. Great post about the Outback. :-)

L'Aussie said...

Thanks guys, glad you like it.

Arlee Bird said...

Well, I've been to Outback Steakhouse (a restaurant chain in the U.S.) and I've been "out back" (as in the back yard--folks in Tennessee might say, "oh, he's out back." if someone's in the back yard).
But I've never been to the real Outback. Beautiful depiction and pictures. Someday I'd love to see it for real.

Tossing It Out
Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

Lynda R Young said...

There's something magical about the Outback, especially in the Northern Territory. The red dust gets under your skin, I think (in a good way).

Red Nomad OZ said...

The Outback is SO amazing, it lives up to all the wonderful literary imagery - not many places can say that!!

Great that you got OZ in twice ...!!

L'Aussie said...

Ah the outback. There's no place quite like it.

notesfromnadir said...

I've seen movies that were filmed there: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, My Brilliant Career & Picnic at Hanging Rock, Fringe Dwellers, Walkabout & I'm sure there've been more. It seems like such a fascinating place. Oh, & I love the name Coober Pedy! :)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Those excepts are really beautiful.

Interesting post on the Outback, Denise.