Saturday, October 6, 2012

True blues

Flying out of Sydney I think as usual of how interesting it would be to see this coast from the sea and imagine how it appeared to the first white visitors.

This is Port Hacking, just north of the Royal National Park. North of here, Captain Cook sailed straight past Sydney Harbour in 1770. From the sea, he thought the south, middle and north heads of Port Jackson simply defined the circumference of a short bay, not that Middle Head was the tongue dividing two separate harbours, one quite massive.

In Melbourne I constantly revise my impressions of my birthplace. This time I noticed just how much Sydney and Melbourne are differentiated by their native stone.

Whereas Sydney's is a golden honey colour,

Melbourne's is a dark blue

Blue is the colour of mountains in southeastern Australia. In Box Hill, near where the Australian Impressionist painters (Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts) taught us that the natural colours of southeastern Australia are blue and yellow,

I looked out at the Dandenong Ranges in the distance:

In 1930, the great soprano Dame Nellie Melba retired out near where those distant blue hills rise. When I see them I remember how the Australian (Melbourne) composer Percy Grainger (claimed by Americans) described Melba: "Her voice always made me mindsee Australia's landscapes, her voice having some kind of a peach-fur-like nap on it that made me think of the deep blue that forms on any Australian hill if seen a mile or more off."

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