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Byron Shire
March 22, 2023

Here & Now #17

Latest News

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S Sorrensen

Sandon River. Saturday, 11.30am


I wish Tony and Kevin were here.

I wish they were sitting next to me. If they were, they’d see something I bet they hadn’t seen in a long time. They’d see thousands of soldier crabs rolling across the mangrove flat like an incoming blue tide.

I can’t remember the last time I saw such a vast army of soldier crabs. And I can’t help smiling. Tony and Kevin would smile too, even without a camera present.

When I was a young fella, I saw lots of soldier crabs at beaches I visited. But, over the years, they disappeared. I haven’t seen this many soldier crabs for decades. Blue battalions are advancing across the Sandon River mangrove flats like Alexander’s well-drilled Macedonian regiments crossing the Persian plains searching for Darius, leader of the Iranian barbarians.

Soldier crabs, like most beach wildlife, are in decline, but in this place, they have refuge.

Around the corner, on the surf beach, expensive 4WD tyres are crushing whatever lies under the sand. But here beside the river, the thought of a scratch on the Nissan’s paintwork from a gnarly bit of mangrove scares the stuffing out of these weekend freedom seekers, and the river flat remains 4WD free.

I reckon Tony and Kevin would enjoy seeing the crabs. They would remember them from when they had some contact with the world.

I would like them to sit with me for an hour or so. Sure, it wouldn’t be fun for me, but I reckon it’d be good for them. They would have to ditch their minders, turn off their phones, loosen their ties and just sit here with me on the sand as phalanxes of soldier crabs manoeuvred tactically around us, as if the evil Darius were supposited in the tight crevasses of our damp arses. Tony and Kevin would, of course, have to resist kissing them. (Crabs that is, not arses.)

I’d want them to remember the last time they saw soldier crabs.

I’d want them to reach back to their humanity, to discard their useless politics and fake concern.

I’d want them to shut up, breathe in the salty air, dangle their feet in the clean water, and watch the fisherman. I’d want them to wonder why they don’t see soldier crabs much anymore.

The fisherman will not catch anything, because the fisherbirds, who have much more knowledge than he of these waters, are not fishing. They’re basking in the sun, on a sandbar.

But the fisherman’s casting keeps a pleasant beat as it plops into the clear water every couple of minutes. I want Tony and Kevin to march to this drum, not to the pealing of the polls. I want them to acknowledge the life supported by clean air and clean water and make decisions based on that reality, not on electoral advantage.

I want the boys to grow up.

The pelicans watch the fisherman’s casting with a casual interest. The cormorants hold their wings out to the sun. Heads down, terns run after smaller crabs which flee towards the mangroves whose fingers are holding this river together and through which the soldier crabs march.

I want Tony and Kevin to become men, to be motivated by more than self, to rise to the huge challenge, to confront the powerful enemy, to lead like Alexander, to not follow like crabs – to not wallow in a shallow pool of irrelevancy as the tide of opportunity ebbs away.

Fat chance.

Tony and Kevin won’t sit with me. They’re very busy doing nothing. There’s an election.

I don’t care about it. Without knowing who will win, I already know the outcome.


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