Sheep Country in Spring by Thomas W. Shapcott

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in rural NSW this past year, the Riverina district in particular. This is the land of Mr Books and also where I spent four years during my uni days.

We’ve loved having days of open spaces, long sunsets and watching the changing seasons unfold around my father-in-laws property. It has been a hard year, saying goodbye to him, but one of the unexpected joys has been realising that we are both still country kids at heart.

Even though we’re surround be cows and chickens, Shapcott’s poem spoke to me, this is truly an amazing bud of land!

Sheep Country in Spring

THE FLOWER SEASON fills the crescent hills
and spring is the colour of all the earth!
a bird cries HOORAH to pierce the lake-bright sky
because the wind shakes the dam in its mirth!

And this day, this spring, this amazing bud of the land,
you and I are you-and-I are us
together again in such skyblue happiness
only tried lands in the spring possess.

The country is strong and alive and, being acquainted with drought,
now exclaims massed daisies beneath the trees.
From our hill all the grazing mile-flowered territories
are us, after drought, in the earned spring’s ease.

by Thomas W. Shapcott  From Time on Fire (1961)

Below: my #countrylife photos showing off some of our ‘skyblue happiness’.

4 thoughts on “Sheep Country in Spring by Thomas W. Shapcott

  1. I've been travelling backwards and forwards across the Riverina, it's lovely country even if I do prefer desert wildflowers. We West Aussies are bringing fodder, most recently to Nyngan and before that to Moree and Tamworth. The country's quite damp by WA standards and I wonder sometimes if 'drought relief' is not a reward for overcropping or overgrazing. Yes, those towns aren't Riverina but I go home from Sydney via Wagga, Narranderra, Hay …And I'm sorry if, as I read your implication, you've had a recent loss.

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  2. When I travelled to England and Europe in my 24th year to nanny and see what I could see, besides taking a photo of my family and my then (but not for much longer) boyfriend (who turned out to be the future Mr Books many years later), I took a photo of drought stricken Central West NSW taken from atop Mt Panorama in Bathurst. At the time I thought it was a bit of a joke, but several weeks into being away from Australia, a dreadful feeling of homesickness overtook me. That photo saved the day – the blue of the sky, the dry, brown paddocks dotted with gum trees and the wide open horizon screamed of home. I could smell the heat and the dust and the gums and I knew that I would always be an Aussie girl, no matter how far or wide I roamed.And yes, I agree that over cropping, over grazing and mono cultures have had a huge part to play in the 'drought problem', but after reading Taboo by Kim Scott, I also think it's how we look at our country, still with European eyes. I can't remember exactly what he said in Taboo now, but I was left with the idea that the indigenous populations don't have a word for drought, there is water available if you know how to find it and if you respect the land.And yes, my father-in-law passed away just on a year ago. He is greatly missed, but our times at his place over the past 12 months, cleaning up and packing up, have been cathartic and healing.

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