I have just finished reading ‘The Bush’ by Don Watson. An eloquent and poetic personal reflection on our history and interactions with this iconic Australian environment.
The Australian Bush is both real and imaginary. Real, in that it grows in various unmistakable bush-like ways, and dies, rots, burns and grows into the bush again; real, in harbouring life. Imaginary, in that among the life it harbours is the life of the Australian mind. It is, by many accounts, the source of the nation’s idea of itself.
The bush is everything from a gum tree to any of the creatures that live in it or shelter beneath it, and it ist the womb and inspiration of the national character. It is the smell of eucalyptus leaves, long shards of bark waiting for a fire, the din of galahs, the cawing of crows.
And invincible silence.
It is the blue horizon, the ute trailing a cloud of dust, the silo, the sale yard, the drovers wife. It is an uneducated cow cocky, and a private-school laird with a law degree. It is each dawn heralded by the insane laughter of a kookaburra or the warble of a magpie; and the inspiration for literature, philosophy and art – and also, some will declare, an impediment to all of those.
The bush is a social construct as well as an ecological one: as much as the things that grow and live there, we define it by the people who inhabit it.
Photo credit: Robert Waghorn.