Monday, July 30, 2007
The landscape of the Monaro region, the snow country of southern new south wales, haunts and fascinates me.
I fall silent as I pass through it, watching the pale sun reflected off bleached grass and the piles of stones erupting, cairn-like, from the rolling plains.
Sheep flock the pastures, rugged as the silver fields, enacting Les murray's poem, in which
"sheep trotted and propped, and shook ice from their wool"
Feral dogs lurk on the fringes of the clearing, their dingo-ness makes them invisible enough to creeep down and steal sheep.
Eastern grey kangaroos sit on the periphery, shaking thir ears.
The sensuous hills wind all the way to the bottom of the Snowy Mountains, where they regain their very fine attire of silver tussock grass and eucalypts.
Currawongs calling, culla wong cullawong, culla wooo
Despite my love and fascination for this place, it is a site of duality: I love the open hills, but am repelled by the knowledge that they were scraped bare by human hand, tamed and exposed.
The piles of stone were once nestled between trees, before the settlers came to battle with this recalcitrant and strange land, felling the trees, splitting stone in a battle with the elements on which the settlers' survival depended.
A landscape of erasure.
This is a site where much nationalistic identity is forged, the man from snowy river, rides here in blundstones and RM Williams, splashing through the river, rounding up the wild colt. Recently, this image was re-addressed in the film jindabyne,however the landscape here seems to rupture, shifting and grating against the senses, in its alienness and its contorted wildness. Images are overexposed, glary. A girl is taken from those open plains, her pale corpse later floats on those icy waters, and this pivotal act is never addressed, only all the different responses to it.
This landscape is testament not only to those settlers, those landed pastoralists who tried to erase the possum-cloaked tribes back into the mountains, but of those sons of the Baltic, lonely Latvians and Poles, who, with the promise of a new life, toiled and scraped, to create the Snowy River Hydro Scheme. Breaking rocks, digging, constructing.
It is the history of lonely blond brides, taken from small German towns, and told to wait, until the better life arrived.
The colossal dam required the flooding of the entire valley.
They say you can see the church spire now, in this drought, of the old town of jindabyne which lies beneath the water, but i have never seen it.
Rainbow trout poke around the old windows, I imagine, and they belong there as much as a church belongs at the bottom of a dam, erased and drowned.