Monday, February 16, 2009

Patterns of Connection

Poster photo of Black Saturday shown in New York

New York, Valentine's Day 2009. The "Australian" restaurant on 38th.

I was standing in the crowd of mainly Australians, at the Bushfire Benefit. I stared at the photo on the wall. Even without my Canon Elph's lack of focus, it looked ghostly.

Australian accents all around. Glasses of beer and wine held a-high. But I wasn't part of the ebb and flow. I was transfixed by those ghostly figures photographed outside their devastated home in the Australian bush February 2009.
Patterns of Connection
From "Patterns of Connection" - Leah King Smith 1991
What is it about our Australian bush? And the "dreamtime" so aptly called?

Several years ago I stood at an exhibition of Australian photography and gazed at Leah Kings Smith's reproduction of a photo (left) of a young Australian aboriginal in the 19th century, Healesville. Probably not far (in space) from the place where the photo at the Australia" restaurant was taken. Healesville was one of the places affected by the 2009 bushfires.

I don't know an Australian who is not attune to the Australian bush. Even those of us who have lived most of our lives in cties, have an affinity to those scrubby green-brown landscapes of eucalypts. Even those of us who came to Australia as adults, and who were not brought up on a diet of Mae Gibbs bush babies and banksia men, grow to love "the bush".

I remember when I first came to the US about 14 years ago. A friend drove me from Oklahoma to Illinois. Impressive country-side. Fertile, cultivated, orderly. But the trees! Symmetrical and foreign oaks and elms. All monotone green. Where was their character? Seen one, seen 'em all. Where were our straggly gums, teeming with character with subtlety of color of every hue of grey-green. Where were the motley and dappled crooked trunks? Where were the gumnut fairies and banksia men? Where was the dreamtime which I may not understand but know that is there?

How we Aussies miss our bush. How hard it is for us to watch it and its inhabitants burn.

Aussies' coats on 38th Street, Manhattan

And so, on a chilly New York night, and no doubt in many other cities throught the world, we gathered.

Remembering. Missing. Giving.