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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

One Summer's Day

One Summer's Day.

A little soft breeze and then a chilly dawn. Along the river the froggy chorus gradually fades into silence. The eastern sky changes rapidly from palest ash-colour to bright amber; suddenly the sun shoots up as though pushed by invisible hands from the midst of the Hills of Moab. There is no "rosy morn" in this country—the Eastern aspect of dawn is dispiriting and unlovely. Dank murk arises from tht river and small birds flicker through the undergrowth, they, at least, seem glad to be alive. Looking west, the sun strikes fire from the sheer Judean Hills, forks of light ripple down the spurs like molten silver, throwing the gorges into purple shadows and causing each rock and mound to stand out in strong relief. On the plains the sun's first ray comes with a shock, as though a furnace door had been opened suddenly.

As the day advances clouds of chalky dust rise sullenly from the roads, and with no wind to stir them, mount higher and higher until they streak the coppery heavens. Heat haze wavers over the landscape, and with the deadly stillness produces a sense of an intangible, weighted something pressing one down. The Judean Hills are just now a white hot blaze resembling a magnified asbestos grate. Southward down the narrow valley, on a far horizon which marks the limit of the Dead Sea, a few clouds hang motionless in a sky of dull, steel grey. The Sea itself is rippleless—a sheet of glass cunningly fitted within it's sheer and rugged frame. Northward, an undulating landscape covered with dancing refraction, a strip of green to mark the river's course, and distant hills of murky blue.

Midday, and a haze settles over everything, the few parched bushes on the plain take grotesque shape and join the devil's dance. The hills are now obscured from view. Two, three hours of this and then from out the haze bounds a mighty wind. There is no warning of its coming, but suddenly the tindery grass is caught and swirled to highest heaven, clouds of dust and flotsam, paper straw and what-not, stream across the plain. The tormented bushes bend and sway and cling frenziedly to earth and life. The mirror of the Sea is chopped into little bubbling waves which, overtaking one another, splash shoreward in demented haste. Then, as suddenly, the wind drops to a gentle breeze and the landscape unfolds like a developing negative. The fiery sun sinks slowly, hangs in an angry blaze of protest above the mountain tops, whilst the shadows from the foothills creep out across the plain, and then dips from sight with rays shooting skyward like signals of distrees. Then, from the eastern sky, a purple cloud arises, gradually spreading across the heavens—the coming pall of night.

Ten million flies linger in the fading light, and drouse reluctantly to rest; one by one the frogs break into chorus, some bird cries, and it is night—blessed night—again.