Australia's wells are deep and full,
But every shallow thinker looks afar
And says, "There is no water here;
The windlasses are new,'
And yet tradition ranges through our land
Mary Gilmore

From Swans at Night

Within the night, above the dark,
I heard a host upon the air,
Upon the void they made no mark
For all that they went sailing there.

And from that host there came a cry,
A note of calling strange and high;
I heard it blown against the sky,
Till naught there seemed but it and I.

A long and lonely wraith of sound,
It floated out in distance wide,
As though it knew another bound,
A space wherein it never died.

I heard the swans, I heard the swans,
I heard the swans that speed at night;
That ever, where the starlight wans,
Fly on unseeen within the height.

I never knew how wide the dark,
I never knew the depth of space,
I never knew how frail its bark,
How small is man within his place,

Not till I heard the swans go by,
Not till I marked their haunting cry,
Not till, within the vague on high,
I watched them pass across the sky.

O trackless birds, far journeying,
What guide have you, or swift or slow
To give you trust in strength of wing
That must upbear you as you go?

What mark is set before your way?
What urging burns within the heart,
That bids you, at the close of day,
Uplift the wings of your depart?

What visions drawn from inner sight
Declare to you the way you go;
What power upholds you in your flight
To that unknown you cannot know?

I heard against the phantom sky
The swans their hollow music cry,
I felt the loneliness on high,
The dark where they went sailing by.

They say the swans sings but for death,
They say he wans in height to die;
Has he no more than that sharp breath
That whistles outward on his cry?

Is he but offspring of a vast
Where no hand shaped but gusty chance?
That draws no future from the past?
That move unconsious of advance?

Nay, though we were but shaken dust,
Nay, though in darkness still we went,
We still must measure by our trust
The Power that lifting o'er us bent;

And He Who held within His Hand
The trackless bird, by night and day,
Guided him out by sea and land
His hand will never cast away.

I never knew how vast the sky,
I never knew how small was I,
Until I heard, remote and high,
The distant swans' far floated cry.

Mary Gilmore



Decorative "BirdscapeTM" Nicolet Bird House .... by Naturally Fallen Timber Sculptured art for home or outdoors, made from hand gathered pieces of nature. More birdhouses.

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Christmas Eve

With the arrival of Christmas Eve my search for a unique tradition is coming to a close. In 1939 poet, Mary Gilmore wrote about the search for tradition.

Never allow the thoughtless to declare
That we have no tradition here!
They have not heard the strong tread of the feet
That, as first-footers, crossed our inland plains -
Vast as Sahara and silent as Siberia
Nor have they seen the solitary wing
That climbed the very heavens for purchase o'er
The nether world that is the sea;
Nor have they watched, as though a star,
The fitful beam of some small fire
Shooting the dark, and by remoteness marking where
Some Ringer of the land had made his camp.
extract from The Ringers by Mary Gilmore

Gilmore loudly proclaimed that 'Tradition lies with deeds, not time...' This Christmas Eve I will be stopping to reflect with awe, upon the 'strong tread of feet' that have left clear trails for me to follow.

However, perhaps more importantly, I am establishing a tradition of my own. Tonight, as a tribute to Dame Mary Gilmore, whose stunningly beautiful Swans at Night moves me to tears each time I read it, I will be listening for 'the distant swans' far floated cry.' Tonight, instead of leaving a slice of cake and a drink for a mythological character, who has come to represent repulsive commercialism, I will be leaving out food for the real life characters who will wing into my property bringing their priceless gifts of awe and wonder.

Black Swans

Early European settlers were easily bewildered by many 'strange' Australian animals. One source of great fascination was the discovery of a black swan, Cygnus atratus, first spotted by Dutch navigator Willem de Vlamingh in 1697 o n what is now known as the Swan River of Western Australia. There is really nothing peculiar about black swans other than their blackness, which is relieved by white wing tips, clearly visible in flight, and an orange-red beak with a white bar near the tip.

The Black Swan

North-east by north, in an inky sky,
Five hundred feet o'erhead,
With stately stroke of wing they fly
To the land where they were bred.
The scent of the far-off billabong
And the gleam of the lignum brake
Come to them as they swing along.
Led by the old grey drake.

With flash of pearly underwing
And swish of rushing wind,
The reeling miles astern they fling
And leave the sea behind.
For well they know the summer's past
And there is a sense of rain,
And winter has returned at last!
The swamps are full again.

So two by two, in echelon,
With the old grey drake ahead.
All through the night they swing along
Until the east is red;
North-east by north, on tireless wing,
All through the glaring day -
And as they go, a chorus sing,
To cheer them on their way.

And as I lie awake at night
Upon my restless bed,
And hear the black swans in their flight
Five hundred feet o'erhead,
And listen to the old grey drake
Calling his cohorts forth,
I would be flying in his wake,
North-east by north half north.

C.H. Souter


Christmas Eve Activities
'Tradition lies in deeds'

1. Make a simple bird feeder to put out tonight.
2. Make a recycled bird house to hang in a tree in your garden

3. The good news is that it is now 365 days until next Christmas Eve. Did you know that each year, 5 million extra tons of trash is generated between Thanksgiving and New Years in the U.S. alone. Think about how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle. Begin making some presents with recycled objects to distribute next year. Eye off the Christmas cards that you received and consider how you can recycle them.

Bird feeder Recipe:

Mix 1 cup of peanut butter with cup of honey.
Spread mixture on a pine cone or bagel.
Roll the pine cone or bagel in bird seed.
Add a piece of yarn, and hang the feeder from a tree.

Associated Links

Attracting Wildlife to the Garden
Attracting Birds and Wildlife
Wildlife in your garden
Backyards for Wildlife