The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Spring in Palestine
Winning beauty in the wake of battle, and healing earth's wounds, Spring has Come again to Palestine. Hills and valleys that but yesterday were bare, are clothed Bow in green velvet. Where the dust lay deep barley and wild grasses hold dominion, tempting horses to browse, and their riders to loiter and dream of Springtime in other lands.
Spring has worked her will, and raised beauty out of the dust. From range to sea the land has blossomed, so that it seems an idle fancy that the red tide of war ever surged over it. Death, perchance, lies hidden beneath the poppies and the yellow flowers, but the smoke and tumult of battle have rolled away, and Southern Palestine is responsive to Spring under a tranquil sky.
Ride across Palestine, down the blue ways of dawn, and you shall gather loveliness as children do flowers where war's echoes are faint as the notes of a dove in the palms. You may ride with the song of the sea in your ears, or far inland where larks rise from the long grass, and sing with dew on their wings. Ride alone or with some good comrade, over the plains and away to the hills; everywhere is the magic of Spring.
Bedouin homes are dotted over the plains; the tribesmen are tilling old fields with wooden ploughs, and shepherding flocks of sheep and goats, as they did in the days of Peace. These wild folk harmonise with the landscape, and their pastoral pursuits seem as natural as the grass. But they people a country whose beauty is no more to them than it is to the jackal. Spring transforms the earth, it cannot change the Bedouin. He lives to-day as he lived a thousand years ago, though his children wail for backseesh when soldiers pass near the tents.
Among the rippling grasses wild flowers grow, a hundred kinds or more. Some are stately, as the lilies, swaying on slender Stems; others are seen only when wind blows the grass blades aside. Palestine has been called the land of wild flowers, and no one who has seen it in Spring is likely to deny it the right to that title. It is a land of blossoms and birds, pleasant to wander in.
In many places, yellow is the dominant flower colour, though scarlet and blue are close rivals. Far as the eye can range, the landscape gleams, as if a volcano had sent Streams of golden lava flowing over the plains. Hill slopes and quiet little vales are flushed with delicate purple and pink, or carpeted with white daisies. There is infinite variety of shape and colour. Nature is never careless in painting her Palestine pictures; handling her colours with marvellous skill, she uses the sky for symphonies, Sweeping cloud shadows over the plains to tone the pomp of poppies, or win new wonder from "lilies of the field."
Rugged and unlovely in other seasons, the wadies in Spring become beautiful. Their clefts are starred with poppies, purple anemones, little pink cyclamens and many other flowers. Grass grows in the old water channels, and melon plan's trail over the crumbling ledge, putting forth pioneer leaf and tendril to claim new territory.
Lupines, both the white and the blue— flowered species, are abundant in this pleasant land, whose flora lures botanists from far countries. Asphodels, tulips, blue salvias, Ranunculus asiaticus, the very names are potent. Blue and red pimpernels blossom everywhere. The "Star of Bethlehem", burdened with the harsh name Ornithogallum umbellatum, is not rare. On the plain whose name it bears, the Rose of Sharon blossoms and withers. There is also a "Rose of Jericho", with white blossoms. This is the famous "Resurrection flower", which expands from a ball shape when placed in water. Rock roses grow in beautiful profusion among the hills.
It is Spring in Palestine now, and the land is filled with a "laughing light of flowers". Butterflies float over them in the sunshine, and wild birds nest in the shelter of their leaves. Blossoms and bird music are Spring's richest gifts, and Palestine has them both in abundance. Larks are singing above the ruins of Gaza, singing to their mates, whose breasts are warm against small grey eggs amongst the scarlet poppies.