Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Melbourne Medievalism Blogging (4) The Wide Brown Land

Today is Australia Day. Recent custom suggests we are supposed to be having a barbeque to celebrate, though we had one last night, and called in the neighbours at the last minute, only to remember that Dokic was playing in the fourth round. Andy (Alan's temporary tenant) and Sophie (Alan's friend) don't follow the tennis, but Alan came in and watched the end of the first set with us. I was thrilled to see her win in three hard-fought sets, appalled to see the replays of her rolling over on her ankle at 7-6 in the third, but equally appalled at the crowd who lost its composure in the last game and cheered when Klebanova missed her serve, then equally loudly shooshed each other (itself, I guess). Given she played her best points to echoing silence from a packed arena, I thought the Russian showed a remarkable temperament, but I'm just so impressed with Dokic's composure and concentration. According to the press in Serbia who have hunted him down, her father is threatening to come to Melbourne if she makes the final. Judging from the crowd support, I think Australians would link arms at the immigration desk to stop him coming in and messing with her head again.

Today's medievalism is a bit oblique. I was listening to the radio while making coffee before (I'm reading drafts of ARC applications today; and a girl needs a break now and then), and they were taking talkback on the moment listeners came to love their country, and one woman recounted an experience I have had many times. She was flying to Alice Springs and looked out the window to see the vast expanses of red beneath her, and realised she loved her home. How many times have I climbed aboard a plane in a cold London night and fallen asleep to wake at 4 in the morning and look out to see a pale blue sky over the reddening rosy expanses beneath me. You go for hours, looking down, and barely seeing a road or a light. The wide brown land, indeed.

Why is this medievalist? Angela Catterns on the radio replied to this woman, and said, yes, it was a spiritual experience, like going into one of the great cathedrals in Europe. And there it was: the direct and easy equivalence between medieval spiritual heritage and the sacredness of land. Or home. This is, of course, quite different from indigenous notion of sacredness and custodianship. But in the sense that this vision of the red heart of the country takes your heart and soul into a different place, it's interesting to me that the analogy for this lifting out of the self is drawn from the medieval European past.

9 comments:

Pavlov's Cat said...

I have a truly lovely spooky bit of medievalism for you, a story with pictures that I plan to post about, but it'll have to wait till after the Leonard Cohen concertblogging.

In the meantime I think my first conscious country-loving moment occurred in the Curramulka Primary School classroom one Christmas when we were singing the Australian carols and I looked out the window to see that the north wind was tossing the leaves, the red dust was over the town, the sparrows were under the eaves and the grass in the paddock was indeed brown.

meli said...

oh. beautiful. that says everything i've been trying to say for the past three years so much more succinctly...

Anonymous said...

Landscape pulled me into history and keeps pulling me back there. It is also quite definitely how I make an emotional link with 'home'. In my case the very deep greens and massed rows of terracotta and concrete, glimpsed on returning flights (if I am lucky) through banks of dark grey cloud. I suspect that 'the gods of place' are neither medieval nor aboriginal but universal.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Dr Cat and Anon., yes I agree about landscape: colour, texture, light and such.

But here's a quiz: where is home for Anon.? "very deep greens and massed rows of terracotta and concrete". NZ for the deep greens? Western Europe for the rows of concrete?

And yes, the gods of place. The greatness of that phrase resonates with the underlying idea of home as sacred. I guess it's the odd juxtaposition of the red earth, and the very non-European ancientness of Australia with the idea of the medieval (to say nothing of the duality of Indigenous and settler culture ideas of home and spirit) that continues to fascinate me and Meli (and others!)

Hey, and Meli, do I diagnose the end-of-thesis feeling that one's whole thesis is derivative and can be said better by an off-hand remark on a blog???? Don't give in to it! except as a sign that you're nearly finished; and that you now know exactly what it's about. It's a good sign: you're ready to fly!

Philip said...

Thanks for this lovely Australia Day post, Stephanie.

meli said...

spot on, stephanie. thank you!

Anonymous said...

Ooh - I didn't mean to be Anonymous, but I had better stay that way now that I have become a (not too hard?) quiz.

I think your comment about the conjunction of gods of different place (within the medieval) in Melbourne is really interesting. I am not a medievalismist (is that the word?), but have encountered quite a bit of it over the past couple of years. So far, my not-very-energetic-pursuit of it has revealed one common theme - that medievalism is often a synonym for discussing European roots - in fact usually British, indeed most usually English roots - and their relevance in the present and future of the new place/time. Can the gods of place be made to travel across space and time? What happens to them when they do? And also (though I have almost nothing of this so far) what happens to the old 'home' when it gets used in this way?

'Fingers crossed' - if my current bid is successful I hope to be doing more on these histories of home (through an intense study of millions of broken cups from all over the world including M) in alliance with a very near neighbour of yours at LTU - who I met on one very happy and productive early October afternoon last year.

love
(you must have guessed by now ...?)

Stephanie Trigg said...

Oh, someone is sending me love in the comments box and I'm only 50% confident I know who it is. Yes, I remember someone I know is going to be working on home. But is that the person who was here in Melbourne in October. First initial G???

Nope. The more I ponder, the more confused I get (and that's without even a facial recognition issue). Can I blame the heat?

Anonymous said...

No - not G. And I didn't mean to tease. It's not important.

Have fun with the fish, and the ARC app and ... the heat (good to prepare my SO currently about to fly from a super-cold winter here to Brisbane, where i guess it is hotter even than M).

S