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Byron Shire
July 23, 2024

Here & Now #76 Simply living

Latest News

Byron and Tweed Councils pursue housing project dreams

Long-held council dreams of new, affordable housing on public land in the Byron and Tweed Shires are closer to being realised, mayors say, with state and federal government support.

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Why the backlash towards David Heilpern?

I am visiting friends in Byron this week and looking at the letters section in The Echo I was...

Maintenance work Blackwall Drive, Wardell

Maintenance work is being carried out on Blackwall Drive, Wardell starting Monday 22 July.

S Sorrensen

Larnook. Monday, 5.50pm

When I get home, I must send off that email – oh, and I have two phone calls to make. (Really should have done them yesterday.) And then dinner. Got to buy some more rice at the –


Image S Sorrensen
Image S Sorrensen

Check out the golden trees beside the road. They’re flickering like lit candles blown about by birthday wind.

A few weeks ago these trees were nondescript: smudges of blue-green foliage closeted among other blue-green smudges, noticeable only by a silver hue to their blue.

But I knew then that these trees, hiding in their forest closet, were just biding their time.

For decades I have rumbled up this road in a variety of four- and two-wheeled contraptions: a HZ Kingswood with a coathanger through the grille, a 1969 R60 BMW motorbike with a death wobble at 60mph, a Camira with such a malleable frame a different door would stick or unstick with every bump, and a rusty Hi-Ace with enough bed room for a party of three (yeeha!).

But I have never stopped for the trees.

For decades I have rumbled up this road, noting the whereabouts of the silvery silky oaks loitering among the eucalypts and exotics. They wait for the warmer weather that comes when the planet thrusts its pelvis to the sun, then a hundred Grevillea robusta come out as dazzling divas, their gold flamboyance anchoring the sunset to Earth as I barrel home from Lismore.

But even then I have never stopped. Too busy. I have money to make, beers to drink, sleeps to sleep, a routine to follow. I never stop. Never.

Damn it.

On impulse, I pull the Subaru off the bitumen, skidding to a rather precarious stop beside a Coke bottle in a drain. Across the road is a silky oak, shimmering in the sunset like a drag queen shimmying, glamorous in gold lamé and silver sequins. This hill is her stage; the road her audience, and I her admirer.

Routines are chains, hobbling us with mental links forged in fear. They stop us from stopping. Stop us from really living. They keep us safe and numb.

I never stop. I have things to do. A garden to water, a sadness to avoid. Stopping here is not on my list.

But a silky siren calls.

I cross the road to touch the golden tree. I’m not sure why, but I do. Maybe because touching this tree has no point. Maybe because freedom serves no purpose. Maybe just because the tree is beautiful…

My daily routine doesn’t involve a lot of exercise. I don’t go to the gym because I’m allergic to television and lycra. I don’t run because I have a car. I don’t even walk now I have moved my toilet inside. (Yes, I know it’s a disgusting concept, but that’s the modern way.)

So I don’t deftly duck under the fence; I inelegantly stumble through it, catching my best pants on the rusty barbs. My stylish leather deck shoes have no tread, so after freeing myself from the fence, I slip and fall on my bum.

It’s a shock. A slap. I’m smacked into life. I lose unconsciousness.

Something long locked up, but now knocked free, wells up inside me like a methane bubble. It feels like a memory, something I once knew. It’s happy and sad. It hurts magnificently.

This emotion with no name bursts from me, making a sound like a sob but leaves me grinning.

In the golden light of the last moments, sprawled under Ms Robusta’s luminescent skirt, I reach out to touch her fine trunk, to love her. For no reason.



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  1. How bloody-well eloquently put, we were only commenting on the same scene on Sunday as we drove along the Lions Road between Rathdownie and Kyogle and having a great time enjoying the wonder of the beautiful green countryside and listening to the Bellbirds. The silky oaks were like a cascade of gold through the green.
    We really do live in the green and gold. We are lucky enough to have three of these beauties in our yard, well lucky may not be the correct word, I did plant them there about twenty six years age now because I have an abiding love of all trees, but the silkys in particular.
    On a more somber note, I was saddened to see people drive right past the big yellow contribution post that is there to help the Lions to fund the maintenance of this road which was built on land donated to the Lions club by the farming community and built with the aid of the farmers and public contribution.

    Regards, Sel Pilgrim

  2. Love this! Spoken like an artist….which I can relate to…..I “see things” all the time!

    I nearly drove off the road yesterday on catching a glimpse of a magnificent sunset over the valley.

    I too have noted the silky oaks in all their magnificence.

    Feeling blessed to have the awareness.

  3. At a recent chance meeting i said my thanks for your column S. You humbly replied that you sometimes wonder if anyone even reads it. In reply i write:

    An Appreciation.

    Muse of our time, mirror of our place
    Humorous herald of the serious;
    Gentle poet of the sad,
    Historian of the ridiculous and the beautiful.
    May your sarong grow ever longer! (no – that might be inconvenient..)
    May your pen always be full and your eyes stay clear
    That you may continue to tell us of the whimsical beauty
    And the wonderful diversity of our special place on Earth
    May you know that your voice is a ray of light and a freshening breeze
    Even when cynical and satirical
    Your words wax lyrical to me!

    Thanks 🙂

  4. Been revelling in the golden silkies too, this dry old spring – a dry that has seen all the flowering beauties all over the Shire, arrayed in such volumes of blossoms that are often not so prolific in the wet times. I often am gob smacked when I see people stumbling obliviously onward whilst the glorious and the wondrously magic is going down all around them????


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