Letters: Wide Brown Land

I made a quick dash up to our national capitol on Thursday, to see my grandchildren before we go overseas …. they will be going away for three months just as we return … so I might not see them for many months. I wanted to visit the National Arboretum where 94 forests of rare or endangered trees from Australia and around the world have been planted. My son wanted to see a relatively new sculpture up close … Wide Brown Land … which consists of letters, perfect for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

wide brown land

wide brown land

An overcast sky and subdued light lent a sombre atmosphere to the scene. Deciduous trees had already lost their leaves as winter approaches. People hugged their warm jackets around them as they stood on this hilltop gazing over the arboretum to the south and Black Mountain to the north.

Children played, as they always do, warming themselves with activity! I think there was a very small sign somewhere about not climbing on the sculpture, which I am sure is only for insurance purposes … of course children will climb on something so inviting.


From some angles you cannot distinguish any words or letters at all, just a writhing twist of steel across the landscape.

IMG_2002Dorothea Mackellar’s poem starts “I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains … and continues until the final summation  ” …a wide brown land for me” We all learnt it at school in the 1950’s, but I never fail to be stirred by the love of our land that shines through every word. Just viewing the sculpture lifted my heart!


Set high on this hill overlooking the city of Canberra, and surrounded by country freshly greened after rich autumn rains, both the sculpture and the love of our land are wonderfully present. The day before had been hot and sunny, but I enjoyed the soft tones of low light and grey skies.
IMG_2101Zooming in from the Chapel for one last look at the Wide Brown Land, sculpture by Marcus Tatton, Chris Viney and Futago.




44 thoughts on “Letters: Wide Brown Land

  1. I’m not even Australian and that scene and those words make my heart sing. They embody the way you feel, when you have been away from the home country for awhile, and you then catch that first glimpse of your “land” again.

  2. McKellar’s poem embodies the spirit of Australia for me…….and yes! I did learn the words at school in the 1950s!
    There’s something of the innocence of the children showing through, as they clamber over the structure, in that they are not overwhelmed by “art” and accept it as a part of life.

  3. You know I’m going to love the sculpture, stunning and perfectly placed. I think children should be allowed to clamber around it and physically engage with art. Thanks for the link, it led me down paths to the poem, really interesting with the English connection. Dorothea must have been an amazing young woman.

    • a talented young woman … who did not feel at home in Europe … yet I love the English countryside when I am there … although I would probably long for ‘home’ eventually … it was striking to us on our first visit to England that it all looked ‘right’ so the genetic information is still there despite the life experience 🙂

  4. I love this Christine! I’m not much into sculpture but this is so raw and ragged and wild, and somehow simple; so much related to the earth and your land. The start of the poem reminded me of another poet – Robert Service, who wrote about the north in Canada. I think his most famous poem was ‘The Spell of the Yukon’.
    Great post!

  5. What a wonderful sculpture, Christine. It’s so perfect for this challenge. I think I’d have been climbing on it, too. It looks almost like it invites climbing.

    • you know I thought so too Robin … and no-one seemed to mind … it is a really lovely sculpture, and meaningful, designed after the poets handwriting 🙂

  6. I hate the way htere are sign everywhere these days saying; “Do not climb on ……….” – things like this sculpture should be climbed on by children. You may me get a lump when you started reciting: I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains …”, oh how I have loved that beautiful piece of writing and still feel a sense of awe and wonder when I hear it today.

  7. I’m impressed with how the sculptors planned this piece through bending and twisting flat sheets of steel. It’s wonderful and I’m with Jo. I love how children are playing on it. Sculpture ought to be felt, climbed on, and seen from all angles. The poem is powerful, too. Your “wide brown land” has the same spirit as our “amber waves of grain” in the US. Thanks for sharing this with us, Christine.

  8. oh Christine, how lovely is this! i always find it amazing that something as solid and firm as steel can look so fluid, flexible and soft. not unlike the sculptures by Michaelangelo…. quite something. enjoyed this. thanks for sharing. am including the shortlink to my ‘letters’ as well. http://wp.me/p1hfki-51a

  9. I love it when a scupture does what it is supposed to do. Wonderful sentiments summed up beautifully. It makes me think of a thin strip of squared leather, all kinked up — or toothpaste, if it was brown and squirted from a square hole. 🙂

  10. What a neat sculpture. I especially like the illegible side view. Thanks for explaining its context to “up overs” like me.

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