Summer is here again and already we have had a few very hot days in Canberra. This poem by Judith Wright relates to Edge, her former home in Braidwood, and to the Australian summer and how nature must accommodate the disturbance by man and the effect of bush fire. It was written towards the end of her life.
This place’s quality is not its former nature
but a struggle to heal itself from many wounds.
Upheaved ironstone, mudstone, quartz and clay
drank dark blood once, heard cries and the running of feet.
Now that the miners’ huts are a tumble of chimney-stones
shafts near the river shelter a city of wombats.
Scabs of growth form slowly over the rocks.
Lichens, algae, wind-bent saplings grow.
I’ll never now it’s inhabitants. Evening torchlight
catches the moonstone eyes of big wolf-spiders.
All day the jenny-lizard dug hard ground
watching for shadows of hawk or kookaburra.
At evening, her pearl-eggs hidden, she raked back earth
over the tunnel, wearing a wide grey smile.
In a burned-out summer, I try to see without words
as they do. But I live through a web of language.
from Judith Wright Collected Poems – The Shadow of Fire (Ghazals)
JW shows strong identity to the land commenting on the effects of man … a land which drank dark blood once … the killing of Aborigines … and a land once subject to mining … her words describe the attempted recovery by nature … the attempt to revert to previous conditions – which of course can never happen.
JW also shows strong empathy with the natural environment … with knowledge of local animals and insects seen at Edge. The environment adjusts to the disturbance by man … shafts near the river shelter a city of wombats … and the environment must adjust to the destruction of nature by bush fire … suggesting this is a greater problem … trying to see without words … … creating words always detracts … many survivors of bush fires would identify with the intensity of thought conveyed by such words.
… it is fascinating to see how diversity manifests through continual evolution … species adapting to changes to environment and the resultant changes to other species … the total connectivity of life as it creates a future by the process of the survival of the fittest … or put another way survival by those best able to adapt to change.
… now this may be Ok when evolution is gradual, although of course some species become extinct, but what happens to this evolutionary process under sudden dramatic disturbances, humanity-made or not … and more important how can humanity act to ‘better the evolutionary process’ … humanity being the prime custodian of the world … having the key role in the very determination of the nature of existence. Global warming is of course one consideration for attention.
… there may of course be other influences at play in the evolutionary process such as spiritual connectivity … but a little foolish and quite a cop-out to think that God will protect the world from destruction … however this could become an indirect truth … if humanity allows God to work through humanity … by humanity listening and responding as appropriate.
… I really love the first two lines … This place’s quality is not its former nature / but a struggle to heal itself from many wounds … the quality of nature is in its resilience and ability to adapt to change and to heal … I am an an optimist of course.