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:
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
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.
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. ♥