Monday, January 25, 2010

Under the Shade of a Coolibah Tree

"Once a jolly swagman sat beside the billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing matilda with me"
Waltzing Matilda

Through Twitter and Plurk, I've become acquainted with a number of educators from the Land Down Under.

I can roughly estimate the time of day there, and have a working knowledge of Australian seasons, weather, and school calendars.

One of the Celtic tunes my husband and I listen to, Back Home in Derry, begins:
In 1803 we sailed out to sea
Out from the sweet town of Derry
For Australia bound if we didn't all drown
And the marks of our fetters we carried
In rusty iron chains we sighed for our wains
Our good women we left in sorrow
As the mainsails unfurled, our curses we hurled
On the English, and thoughts of tomorrow
and ends:
Van Diemen's land is a hell for a man
To live out his whole life in slavery
Where the climate is raw and the gun makes the law
Neither wind nor rain care for bravery
Twenty years have gone by, I've ended my bond
My comrades ghosts walk behind me
A rebel I came - I'm still the same
On the cold winters night you will find me

Oh..... I wish I was back home in Derry
Oh..... I wish I was back home in Derry

It's a common perception in the U.S. that Australia was exclusively a penal colony, a wild and barren place of exile and punishment. We often fail to take into account the large numbers of others who chose to settle there: those in search of adventure, fortune, refuge or freedom.

To my online friends Jo, Sue, Judy, Amanda, Dean, Jenny, Anne, Sue and to all those who live in Oz, I send my wishes for a joyful Australia Day in your beautiful homeland.

The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze…
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly. -Dorothea Mackellar, My Country

"Australia Day BBQ sur la Cotter - 13" by Pascal Vuylsteker


murcha said...

Thank you Diane for your good wishes for Australia Day and blog post on Australia. It is always a proud day for us and I have just returned home from the Australia Day ceremonies at Port Fairy (which is a 30 min drive from our home). That also reminded me how proud I can be to call myself Australian and we often refer to Aus as the 'Lucky Country". There was a free breakfast (sausage in bread) at the Surf Life Saving club in Pt Fairy. So against the blue backdrop of a gorgeous sea and the clear morning blue skies, we also acknowledged and awarded some of our most notable local Shire community members - both young and old. The national anthem, Advance Australia Fair was sung with pride and the songs "Once a Jolly Swagman " and I "Still call Australia Home" completed our ceremony.
We would love you to come and visit us one day so that we can show you our special home land. From Australia, we wish you a happy day as well!
ps At this time of the year, I can't help but think of you and so many of the other US friends I made two years ago at this time on twitter. You have been such great connections and colleagues especially in my early days of embracing web2.0 technology.

diane said...


You and the other Aussies I've mentioned have really made your beautiful country come alive for me.

If ever I make the journey to Australia, I'll won't feel like a stranger, thanks to all of you.

As we move through our northeastern U.S. winter, I'll think of your sun and surf and smile.

Anonymous said...

How absolutely delightful to read your lovely thoughts as we celebrate Australia Day. We've spent a quiet day with family, but we noticed so many cars that had Australian flags flying from them as we travelled across Sydney to our family gathering. My favourite song when I was young was Bound for Botany Bay. Even though my parents were immigrants, it captured something of early adventures of Australia for me. Cheers and have a wonderful 2010.

jennylu said...

Hi Diane,

It's so kind of you to think of our wonderful country on its day of celebration. To think, I'll be able to thank you personally tomorrow!! How small our world has become. I hope you do get an opportunity o visit us one day - rest assured, we will help you navigate your way around our fair isle.

Jenny : )