Sunday, June 13, 2010

What's in a (Blog) Name?

I've finally been questioned about the grammatical correctness and meaning of the name of my blog. I have been meaning to write this entry for a while, the beginning would have probably been a more suitable time, but this is as good as any.

The name "In a Sunburnt Country" is a nod to the Bill Bryson book that was given to me by my friend Matt Jarvis as a graduation present after college. I had been saying over the course of that year that I wanted to move to Australia, live in Australia, be in Australia whenever something wasn't going my way. He took me seriously and gave me the Bryson travel book called "In a Sunburned Country" (so yes, he can be held partially responsible for my wild ideas of traveling on the other side of the world.) I have read the Bryson book cover to cover thrice since I was gifted it in May 2008. I plan to read it once more before I arrive in Sydney. It's given me a lot of inspiration and ideas for the trip. It's also written with humour, which sets it apart from other dry travel books and gave it more of a novel-read. Though Bryson was rather apprehensive in his travels and frightened of the natural fauna (yes, they do have quite an intimidating list of poisonous and deadly creatures on their attendance role), I can't say it has deterred me. I mean, Bryson himself confessed in his book to not knowing what boogie boarding was or being successful in doing it, something I have been doing every summer in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina since I could walk, so some of his squeamishness about the country doesn't hold up much for me. I also know it's not like I am going to be exploring the outback alone, or going places where these poisonous and deadly animals will be looking to make a statistic out of me. I'm going to watch some penguins, eat kangaroo, and cuddle many koalas. You can leave the spiders, snakes, and sea creatures out of it.

Bryson's book title was also a nod to something: a poem written by Dorothea Mackellar. Mackellar is one of Australia's best loved poets. The poem "My Country" was written by Mackellar when she was 19 and homesick in England (in 1911.) "My Country" is a well-loved poem in Australia for it's patriotic and iconic message. I have to admit, reading it myself as an American, despite our "spacious skies," "purple mountains majesty," and "shining seas," I would really enjoy experiencing the excitement of "beauty and terror" of the "wide brown land," "sapphire-misted mountains," and "opal heart."

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die-
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold-
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land-
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand-
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

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