Drought, Poetry and Roses

Image by Nick Moir

Today’s post is inspired by a flower – a single rose blooming in my garden. Bless that rose, and all she means to me…

A few years ago we weathered eight years of the most horrendous drought. Our farm in the Lockyer Valley was baked brown, and it seemed surreal to be without water up there, and then to come back to Brisbane (an hour’s drive, door to door) where the pop-up sprinklers in the neighbours’ lawns spilled gallons of water into the gutters each night and everyone took twenty minute showers.

It took a few years before it affected Brisbane, but soon water restrictions became a way of life. As the drought took hold, the restrictions became harsher. At the farm, in town, gardens withered, trees died, wildlife dissapeared.

It was one of the hardest and most dispiriting times of our lives.  Friends walked off properties held by their families for generations, depression and suicides were rife in our farming community. There was no water to be had.  No feed to be had.  They were desperate times.

The moisture, the very life of the land, was sucked away, and all we were left with was dust.

This poem describes one hot, miserable summer morning at our farm:

DROUGHT BIRDS

Dawn breaks grave quiet

There is no chorus,

no cicada buzz or insect hum.

The sky is empty but for sun.

The dying here is silent,

swaddled in summer’s thick blanket

of heat and dust.

Drought birds perch in spindly-limbed trees

their white coats stained rust

chests puffed to give a futile impression

of longevity.

They gasp shallow rents

of earth-baked air,

song long forgotten in their misery.

Hard to gulp down,

this breath which desiccates the living

from the inside out.

Slowly bodies become hollow fragile things,

skin a ragged quilt of lice

and dirty feathers.

Drought birds.

They cling to the memory of wing.

If you reached out and touched one

it would crumble to nothing in your fingers

and blow away on the wind.

Drought birds litter empty waterholes

carcasses light as a dream.

Everything changes. Eventually the rains came. And with them, one small miracle.

Our Brisbane house was built in 1937. Down each side of the house they planted roses. Some of the original plants had survived all those years.  But the drought killed them off, one by one, these old darlings.

Or so I thought.  After a summer of soaking rain, one gnarled old stump shot up a single strong water shoot.  Within a fortnight it bloomed – one magnificent red rose.

Now, whenever this old rose blooms, I am back there in the hardest of times, and simultaeneously I am reminded of hope.  Everything changes, and life has a bitter-sweet beauty I would not trade for all the ease in the world.

Of course since then, we’ve had floods.  And once again the Lockyer Valley took a beating. I wrote about it here – Musings on Melancholy – my own little ‘Lost In Translation’ Moment. In the end we sold our farm and moved away. It was the right thing to do. I’m sure you’ll understand. Now we are nestled in gentle coastal country that is always green, always lush. It has rejuvenated us in a way that only nature can.

Seasons come and go, inspire poetry, life moves on, roses bloom, hope springs eternal. ♥

33 thoughts on “Drought, Poetry and Roses

  1. It is so wonderful how the lushness and exquisite greens of nature can heal, revitalize and rejuvenate….and to be nestled in the midst of that…ahhh…so lovely….I’ve had that happen too…how fortunate that you were able to relocate to such an area. And that single rose…it’s so beautiful.

      • We had a very brave little rose bush in back of our home…one that would get very scraggly in the fall and then produce one or two roses…just the color of the one in your photo..in the very middle of winter…(Northern California, so cool, many frosts, but not too cold)…I never picked any of the blossoms…only looked at them with a sense of deep appreciation and wonder! I can see why you smile at that rose….I smile just to think of her…

  2. What an amazing story about resilience and change. I loved the poem. Great imagery.

    It must have been sad to let the farm go and move away, even though it was the right decision to make. Do you ever go back to visit?

    • One of our best friends has the farm next door, and we still have property there so we do go back. The country looks beautiful right now after all the rain we’ve had. But we don’t regret our decision, even though I still miss the smell of the land out there, and the majesty of the trees. It’s a very different landscape to our new farm. Still, life moves on… xoxo

  3. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, sad, touching, hopeful, real, beautiful xxx
    I don’t think there’s a post of yours that hasn’t inspired or touched me in some way since you started! Beautiful, beautiful 🙂 With thanks x

  4. Thanks Nicole! Life marches on and if we’re lucky, our hope does spring eternally! New seasons of life bring all kinds of blessings. I wonder what’s next? ( :

  5. Last summer was brutal to Texas … to its farmers, ranchers, livestock, and all of nature … it broke 100 year old records for temperature and drought. I cannot fathom enduring 8 years of the same. This is an amazing story and poem … the resilience of nature is incredible … evident by the survival of the antique rose. Thank you for sharing. I want to remember this should another drought induced summer arrive. Many blessings to you and yours!!

    • I was going to mention our drought and heat, the entire month of August with temps over 100C, but this covers it nicely. I also remember a drought from my childhood. We lived in the country and learned to play “path tag” (staying on footprint mazes we dragged into the dirt). because all the fields had turned to dust. But, like this spring, after it finally rained, the wildflowers were astonishing.

      Beautiful poem!

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