Saturday, 30 March 2013

Angry Summer, gentle rain and Shakespeare

A night of drenching, down-pouring rain has surely ended our so-called Angry Summer. It was a season of heart-breaking drought, bushfires, floods, cyclones and other fierce storms, and it marched on into autumn, past the equinox [we had a severe fire danger day just a few days ago] outstaying the party rather like Jack Point or an ugly sister.

`Weather events on steroids’ was another description for the record number of record weather events including the hottest Australian day since records began (32.32 degrees on January 8th, bizarrely breaking the 40-year record made only the day before).

Just a few days ago the fiercely hot, dry summer bored on and on; it wasn’t just the gardeners and farmers in the south who were desperate for a break. Barely 2 states away were floods 8m high (again) while here were bushfires weeks old waiting for rain. As was all my pitifully dusty `country’, my area, my land.
The big dry meant that we filled up our birdbaths as often as we remembered; and when our sweet resident wallaby (she who eats expensive plants like so much brioche) came near the house, how could we repel her?
Delicious rain has fallen, almost the only drops (let’s ignore one other March night’s rain) since early spring’s September. Soon – I hope – Ms Wallaby will have greenery again outside the garden fence (altho’ I suspect that, even for the macropods, the grass is always greener).
And here I’ll bore you with my theory that Shakespeare must have travelled to the Mediterranean:
`The quality of mercy is not strain’d;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blest…’
(Portia, `The Merchant of Venice’.)
We in Melbourne live in a so-called Mediterranean climate and understand that gentle rain is a precious gift. But visit England (my parents homeland) and it’s an all-too-frequent pain in the neck; do the English appreciate and really understand these lines?
Today the rain is not gentle but that’s all the best for healing the parched earth and filling the tanks. And today is blissfully cool. Is autumn really here? I hope so.

Monday, 4 March 2013


Two months of dry have torched and scorched the garden, the bush, the land (south of the Black Stump); but tangerine tiger lilies thrust up sturdy stems, flung open petals, and laughed at the weather. These bulbs were from my (botanist and gardener) mother’s garden but (conservationist) J doesn’t like their spreading habit arising partly from the tiresome production of little black bulbils up and down the stems. Tenacity is their middle name: I’ve tried to dig them out and no doubt will do again – but just now they are so very nice and it comes to me that they are the equivalent of the mid-winter flower to most people (those with a normal internal thermostat, who enjoy summery days over 25 degrees when I hide and huddle in misery); and I look out my window at dry lawn, buttery leaves cascading gently, constantly, from the Robinia; and sparse herbage with leaves like parchment; and the spirit does a little skip seeing that not all the garden is beaten into submission, disheartened, or rather, hibernating (we hope). Autumn weather will come. Blessed rain will come. And like hellebores (“winter roses”) they can be my least favourite colour; at this season I just say thanks for anything. (The colour of fire is least welcome this bushfire season but conversely this over-bright orange is good at waving about and saying here I am with a grin on its clown face.)
Now it’s late afternoon and the lilies are in shade; the cool (the `coolth’ I like to think as I luxuriate in the welcome balm) has enticed some wildlife into the garden: a honeyeater, primrose-cravated, seeks nectar amongst the blooms. So I will wait another week before the axe falls on these questionable beauties.