fbpx
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

My Country Is Burning

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
— Dorothea Mackellar (1885-1968)

Every Australian kid was taught “My Country,” this stunning poem about the beauty of the Antipodean landscape. These four lines are the most famous from the much longer poem that effortlessly captures this extraordinary land.

I grew up in this sunburnt country. In Sydney. And today it is burning. As of Jan. 7, 25 people and 500 million animals had been killed. More than 13.5 million acres had been burned and more than 1,400 homes had been destroyed. 

What you can’t fathom — not if you haven’t lived in Australia — is the enormity of what has been lost; the sheer depth and breadth of Australia’s unique flora and fauna; of species that are found nowhere else in the world. 

Summers were always hot. Endlessly so. Brutal humidity. We’d want to run barefoot in the grass but summer grass always contained bindi-eyes, a uniquely Australian burr, that would mercilessly stab at the tender soles of your feet. But summer also brought out the large, lazy goannas and the blue-tongued and frilled-necked lizards that would bask and broil on smooth river rocks, sunscreen be damned. 

As a kid, my family built a house overlooking the beautiful Australian bush. We had a wooden veranda that always left slightly rust-colored marks on our hands. In the summer, my father would place chunks of raw meat on the veranda railing, and we’d watch, delighted, as the kookaburras guffawed and cackled and swooped low to feast in front of us. 

The galahs with their deep rosy breasts and rosellas with their high plumage would sit in the trees, turning the brown landscape into a whirl of deep, primary colors. We’d visit wildlife sanctuaries where we could pet koalas, feed kangaroos and pretend to be brave as emus came up, glinted at us with their steely eyes, craned their long necks and peck-peck-pecked seeds out of the little paper bags of food you could purchase for a few cents. 

What you can’t fathom — not if you haven’t lived in Australia — is the enormity of what has been lost; the sheer depth and breadth of Australia’s unique flora and fauna.

Australia’s national colors are green and gold. Green for the eucalyptus leaves of the gum trees. Gold for the wattle flowers. It was the wattles’ soft, delicate, bright yellow balls that for me always heralded the onset of summer. Their scent was intoxicating. The way they’d fluff up and disintegrate in your fingers. And then there were the gum trees. If you were patient, you could pluck a gum tree leaf and gently pry apart the stem. You’d be rewarded with a tiny, thin sap of eucalyptus and if you could split it just so, you could put that gum leaf between your lips and turn it into a whistle. Long, hot summer days were just the time to hone those whistling skills. 

It was also the time of year to explore the flora; the huge blood-red waratah flower, the crimson bottlebrush, the purple canopies of jacaranda trees. At night, the cicadas would call out endlessly. The fat Christmas beetles would spin around displaying their tinsel-colored wings. And the mosquitoes (mozzies) would dive-bomb you all night. 

At the beginning of the school year in January, we’d bake and broil like jacket potatoes in silver skins. We’d physically peel ourselves off our seats, legs red-streaked and slick with sweat underneath our cotton school uniforms. 

But every Aussie kid knew that eventually that oppressive heat would break. And when it did, there was nothing more glorious than a summer storm. Huge, pelting drops of rain. Or even hail. The size of golf balls. And we would run outside and shriek and spin and dance. And when the rain subsided, everything smelled fresh and clean and new in a way that only the Australian landscape can. 

But now, that land is scorched. So much of that flora and fauna is gone. And all that is left are the memories we carry and the hope that we can repair some of the damage. Please donate to relief efforts if you can.


Kelly Hartog is the Journal’s managing editor.  

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Massachusetts Man Arrested for Allegedly Vandalizing Synagogue, JCC

He's also accused of yelling at parents and children at a JCC.

Israel Will Be Happy With President Biden

It is important to remember that in politics, we choose between existing alternatives, not creating our own imaginary world.  

More Than 120 Jewish and Pro-Israel Organizations Call on Facebook to Adopt IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

"We cannot afford to lose any more time in fighting this bigotry and preventing violence.”

From Iraq, With Love: How to Make the Perfect Sabich

Our family still eats this meal every Shabbat and even if my mother is hosting, I make the eggplant and butternut squash.

Home Shalom Monday Message #20

Home Shalom promotes healthy relationships and facilitates the creation of judgement free, safe spaces in the Jewish community. Home Shalom is a program of...

Elton John Says He and Husband Signed Letter Condemning Racism, Anti-Semitism

"There is no room for any kind of prejudice in music, or in society as a whole."

Jewish Congressional Candidate Alex Morse Faces Allegations of Inappropriate Relationships

He argued that his relationships were consensual but acknowledged that he has "to be cognizant of my position of power."

What Midrash Can Teach Us About Our Current Social and Political Turmoil

There is a lot to be learned from the margins, and from the spaces and silences between words and sentences.

Israeli Protesters in L.A. Call on Netanyahu to Resign

45 Israeli Americans gathered outside the Israeli consulate building on Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign.

Culture

From Iraq, With Love: How to Make the Perfect Sabich

Our family still eats this meal every Shabbat and even if my mother is hosting, I make the eggplant and butternut squash.

Elton John Says He and Husband Signed Letter Condemning Racism, Anti-Semitism

"There is no room for any kind of prejudice in music, or in society as a whole."

Former Major League Player Cody Decker Says Anti-Semitism Is ‘Rampant’ in Pro Baseball

"I hate every half-measure response Major League Baseball always makes.”

‘Dirty Dancing’ Sequel Starring Jennifer Grey Announced

It’s official: A “Dirty Dancing” sequel is coming, and it’s starring Jewish actress Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in the 1987 original.

Virtual Theater: ‘Fugu’ Tells Little-Known Holocaust Story

"Fugu" is based on the little-known history of how Japan sheltered 6,000 Lithuanian Jewish refugees in the city of Kobe, to protect them from the Nazis.

Latest Articles
Latest

Massachusetts Man Arrested for Allegedly Vandalizing Synagogue, JCC

He's also accused of yelling at parents and children at a JCC.

Israel Will Be Happy With President Biden

It is important to remember that in politics, we choose between existing alternatives, not creating our own imaginary world.  

More Than 120 Jewish and Pro-Israel Organizations Call on Facebook to Adopt IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

"We cannot afford to lose any more time in fighting this bigotry and preventing violence.”

From Iraq, With Love: How to Make the Perfect Sabich

Our family still eats this meal every Shabbat and even if my mother is hosting, I make the eggplant and butternut squash.

Hollywood

‘Dirty Dancing’ Sequel Starring Jennifer Grey Announced

It’s official: A “Dirty Dancing” sequel is coming, and it’s starring Jewish actress Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in the 1987 original.

Roy Moore’s Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen Over Being Pranked Can Proceed, Judge Rules

By the time the episode aired, it was widely known that Cohen was punking public figures.

Podcasts

The Bagel Report: An American Pickle? Sounds Crazy, No?

Erin and Esther dive right into the barrel and pickle their minds in the majestic, artisanal brine that is Seth Rogen's "An American Pickle,"...

Shlomo Fischer: The Jerusalem Protests

Shlomo Fischer and Shmuel Rosner discuss the almost daily protests aking place in Jerusalem. Who are the protesters? Why are they protesting? And how...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x