I love the rough Australian landscape. I love its rawness. I love its sound. I love it for my work.
We had the amazing good fortune to have a river boat on the Murray river for three fantastic days, (My cousin has Moama on Murray holiday resort with luxury house boats for rent). Michael was our River Captain and other than a sharp learning curve steering this great unwieldy ship around bends and boats and people swimming in the water and trying to park the thing on muddy slides and to coax her out in the mornings doing his courageous three point turns between the audacious graces of skiers whizzing by, he was great, taking us up river from Moama to the Barmah Forest. The boat itself was a luxurious beast, sporting incredible kitchen and dining, leather lounges and 5 star beds, an upstairs deck with barbeque and spa, definitely meant to be partied on. Just us and Jake and Jaqui. Prosecco and beer in the spa, listening to the scratchy last shrieks of the cockatoos, before twilight sinks into the oblivion of night. Walking in the morning through the rough bush, getting lost when making a detour, ending up on some other bend in the snaking river, upon following it, finding us an hour down the track, further than the five minutes we had accounted for.
The bush a mess, filled with the debris of people’s grog filled camps. Tins and bottles everywhere, the whole bush a toilet, paper floating aimlessly, caught in twigs and spider webs. Everywhere in the day was noise pollution, full throttle engines, burning up and down the river, agitation in ourselves, longing to get this hulk way up into the upper reaches of the Murray, away from so called civilization and its mad delinquency.
The Murray was amazing to see. It seems so long since we had seen it with any water in it, the drought has been so bad for so many years. I think, sometimes, that the Victorian bush and landscape of Australia is an acquired taste. Its reference isn’t to spectacular vistas of high horizons, of verdant greens or special atmospheres or turquoise rivers. The Australian landscape as I commonly know it to be, is rough. The trees, when they are not part of a rainforest, are squiggly raggedy yearning growths whose leaves hang despondently in the warmest shades of olivey green, in fact there is so much red in the green that the shade is not refreshing.
The great old red river gums, their powerful limbs rolling out around them, are often broken under their immense weight and lie at the roots, nests to untold animals and lizards and snakes. The horizon is low and the sky is huge and open and the light is so clear that it hurts your eyes. Little seems able to grow from the tough old dirt, though of course there are beautiful farmlands, yet the bush is dour. From within it, live an astonishing array of character birds; cockatoos, parrots, lorrakeets, kookaburras, magpies, currawongs, chuffs, whose strange calls resemble the scratchy, yet also harmonious, harsh texture of the bush. And here on the Murray, the brown muddy water sweeps around the clay cliffs, eroded and exposing the roots of trees and the inevitable falling cascade of their trunks down into the river. It is an acquired taste, I am sure, but to see it, I love it. Its earthiness, and its struggle to live, is like a tired old body, that has loveliness in its wrinkles and constancy, its colour, warm, in a monochromatic way. I love it for my work, the scoured, pitted earth a texture to record and use.