Breeza

Breeza is a small town not far from Gunnedah on the Liverpool Plains, New South Wales, soon to be decimated by mining. In April 2013 a group of artists assembled to document The Plains as they were then. Moved by their splendour, I wrote this piece.

Breeza, goddess and protector of the plains, raises a shaped and pencilled eyebrow as the convoy rolls in from the north-west. At odds with the gentle landscape, the trucks roar and screech as they approach the town—a homely cluster of cottages, sheds and windmills straddling the railway tracks. They slow, then rumble on down the highway with their precious cargo of black gold ... coal bound for China and beyond. Tweaking her perfect powdered nose, Breeza inhales the acrid fumes they leave in their wake, overpowering the sweet smells of the bush.

She has grown accustomed to change. When the nomadic, dark-skinned people first came wandering through her kingdom, Breeza had feared their presence, but was reassured when she saw how they respected the land and her creatures. She worried about the roads and the houses, the felling of the trees and the crude machines that cut the land and separated it into plots, the strange plants that grew in rows and the woolly animals that grazed in packs, tended by different white men. Crops, herds, machines, cars, trains, electricity ... The white people seemed to need these things. Breeza had learned to accept, and adapt.

Now, from her air-conditioned pedestal she surveys the scene. In the distance, purple mountain ranges loom beyond the rolling wooded hills and the fertile pastures in their splendid raiment of yellow, cream, pink and brown seem to stretch on forever. Fluffy, drifting clouds cast pleasing shadows, tempering the warm autumn sunshine. A sighing wind rustles the blue-green leaves above her head and bows the rusty, knobbed heads of the sorghum.  Native birds twitter and warble in the treetops as a flock of spotted fowl wings by then lands gracefully on the mirrored surface of an untroubled waterhole.

The sudden invasive scream of a train whistle jolts Breeza back to reality. Reclining cattle, sheltering beneath spreading eucalypts, struggle to their feet, bellowing a bovine protest as eighty coal carriages lumber by. Pink-breasted galahs join in the ruckus, screeching and diving, wishing the invader gone.

With a heavy heart, Breeza contemplates this animal that is mining and the changes it brings. Rumours tell of great gouges in the land, of drilling and blasting and poisoned water... The tempting fruits of progress leave a bitter taste.

                                                                           

 

                                                                                         Richelle da Costa (April 2013)