As I write this, it is raining outside. It rained all night too.
This time last year, it hadn’t rained for months and months. The country is green now, the grass thick, clover everywhere. The stock are fat and shiny, big calves, chunky lambs. This time last year they were painfully thin, or dead. The dams are overflowing, the creek almost flooding. Last year the dams were bone dry, the creek a tickle
Two Summers. Same farm. Totally different landscape.
I’ve lived on the land for twenty five years now, and I never cease to be amzed by the beauty and power of Nature. Sometimes she’s really kind and looks after you. Sometimes she swats you like a fly. If you’re not careful it can really get to you, and make you sad. But if you can look at it in another way, it’s just all part of living on the land.
The land is actually filled with stunning beauty. As a farmer you can easily become blind to that beauty, but every now and then you see something that pulls you up and makes you think again. It can be something as simple as an eagle circling in a china blue sky, or a spider’s web frozen into filigree. It can be a new lamb bleating, or helping a heifer give birth, or the first realisation that the season has changed. It can be something as small as a gnarled piece of wood, or as big as a flood, torrents washing everything away. Or it can be a drought, with its cloak of deathly grey. All these things are part of rural life.
On the land you see Naturein all her different moods, and I wanted to get that feeling across in this book.
So I used a young as the narrator, just as I did in My Dog. There is a kind of freedom in viewing the world through a kid’s eyes. You cut all those emotional strings that can get in the way of a good story. In a way you are “telling it as it is”, rather than dressing it up in the garments of emotion. As such, you can deal with quite complex issues without hammering a clumsy message home.
In My Dog it was war. In Two Summers it’s the battle that farming families fight to stay on the land. But by using the eyes of a young boy, you don’t spell it all out. It’s there in a subtle way, understated, often not even stated at all. Some readers fill in the gaps. Sometimes the illustrator does it. In Two Summers, Freya Blackwood’s illustrations have allowed the text to be reduced to an essence.
I can’t overstate the delight I find in Freya’s illustrations. I find myself looking back through the book, over and over. I’m looking at it now. Her illustrations have a wonderful gentleness about them, and a simplicity, both of which mirror and extend the narrator’s voice. They capture perfectly the mood I was in when I wrote the story.
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