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Byron Shire
March 5, 2021

S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Into the light

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My dear friend, Philip Rubinstein 1934–2021

I first met Phil on a rain-soaked day outside my house in Brunswick Terrace, Mullum. It was an accidental encounter, but we soon got stuck into a conversation about the parlous state of Australian universities.

Image S Sorrensen

The forest. Friday, 9.10pm

It’s a dark night. Not stormy, but very dark. No moon can be seen through the canopy, only stars flashing their history.

‘Ow,’ I blurt as a twig slips between the straps of my sandals and spears my right foot. Jeez. I pull the twig from my sandal and throw it back into the dark. I feel the wound with my hand – not wet, no blood.

I wish I could see.

I step gingerly over branch and rock, turning my head sideways to facilitate my peripheral vision as I move slowly down the track pushing deeper into the forest. It’s a bit scary, here, in the dark. But I’m on a mission. To find The Place.

I feel embarrassed that I don’t have a torch with me. In less modern times, I always carried a small torch; it was attached to my car keys. But then came mobile phones, so I ditched the old-school key-ring torch and used the mobile’s built-in torch.

Instinctively, I touch the mobile phone in the breast pocket of my jacket. Yes, I have my phone, but the battery’s dead. Strangely, I have no torch because I talked too long with my mother. Her path grows darker. She tells me she fears the darkness and hopes for light at the end. I listened for a long time, battery level dropping.

The torch shone feebly for a few minutes when I left my car and started on this track, but it soon flickered out, casting me into darkness, bereft of light and network, stripped back to my essence, alone, but determined to find The Place.

Despite the trees crowding over me, my eyes are seeing more and more in the silvery starlight. It’s pretty. My ears, too, are attuning to the shadow sounds: the rustle of leaves in the canopy, the crunch of sandal on tree litter, the hiss of tinnitus.

I embrace the moment, letting go of the fear. I am Pan, gliding like a wraith through the primeval forest (albeit in a green double-breasted suit and sandals, and the forest is more regenerating than primeval). With phone and fear gone, there is just me and this silvery path to The Place; the place where…

I hear voices. From behind me. A beam of light cuts across the trees to my left like noiseless lightning. I hide behind a eucalyptus grandis. The silence, like the darkness, is splintered. I hear voices and confident, well-lit tromping along the track.

With my face pressed against the flooded gum (it smells good), I hear the couple pass. Peeking around the trunk, I see a man with sticks in his beard and a sash of leaves across his bare chest. He carries an esky. Beside him is a woman, dressed in a giant leaf, green and red lights twinkling in her hair. Fire flares red for a moment at her mouth, smoke trailing her.

Soon, their voices and torchlight fade into a dot of light at the end of the forest tunnel. And blinks out. I waft back onto the track, adjust my suit, and, guided by the stars, walk ever deeper into the darkness, towards the place where…

After a while – maybe a lifetime – I hear music, my journey ending in a throb of rhythm and a whirl of colour. In the centre of a clearing is a little house, digital beats and laser rainbows spilling from its windows, washing over green men and scarlet women cavorting under the stars, smiles flashing like torches.

I have found The Place; the place where humans go.

I enter the house and dance in light on the Day of the Dead.





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