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Byron Shire
June 26, 2024

S Sorrensen’s final Here & Now: Everything changes

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Image S Sorrensen

My place. Thursday, 5.30am

It’s early. It’s that special time, pre-dawn, when birds fill the valley with morning sonatas. For the last few years, this time of day has become more special to me because bellbirds aren’t early risers, they’re still dozing in the lantana, so this time belongs to the other birds.

This year, in January, the bellbirds came – in force – to the valley, their relentless chiming signalling the start of the end for the eucalypt forest that surrounds my shack under the cliffs.

Everything changes.

Eight years ago, cane toads invaded the valley. Goannas, once the rulers of the range, pretty much disappeared. And it’s a painful death when you eat a cane toad. The goannas’ disappearance left a hole in the local ecosystem which was quickly filled by scrub turkeys, who went forth from the forest and into the gardens – and multiplied.

Everything changes.

I slip gently from the bed trying my best not to disturb an angel who lies there. (I don’t know if there’s God, but I do know there’s heaven.) When I see her face, I stop my exiting for a moment to watch her sleep. Love is all I have – all we have.

Her eyelids quiver and open. She smiles. God, I love the pre-dawn. Her lips part and a croaky ‘Coffee?’ escapes.

I have been writing a weekly column for nearly 15 years. During that time, many things have changed. Local newspapers have suffered from the rise of digital media, social media has emboldened cowards, politics have become unworthy and barramundi is from Vietnam.

All the while, the ecosystems upon which we all depend are being broken by a toxic system that places money ahead of people. This system, which has the planet in a choke hold, cares nothing for me or my children. It demands compliance and consumption and, in return, offers bluetooth baubles and extended credit.

‘Yes,’ I say to the angel, grabbing a sarong and heading to the kitchen.

Everything changes.

I used to be a journalist working for the Lismore Echo when it was an independent community paper. That’s when I started writing a weekly column. When that paper was killed, my column moved to the Echonetdaily where it has happily lived for six years. I also ditched journalism and became a teacher at uni. (My mother was so proud.)

Everything changes.

I used to drink tea in the morning, but coffee is the new ritual. I put beans into the grinder and press the button, adding my own noise to the birds’. It’s loud, but it’s music to my ears.

The digital age has us swimming in an ocean of words. Some are truths; some are lies. Fact and fiction, reality and virtual are confused. The Great Barrier Reef is dying. Truly. Go there and see. It’s a tragedy in the real world, but most of us don’t spend much time in the real world anymore, so we are impotent there.

Everything changes.

There are three parts to the coffee ritual, and every part has a smell. There is the grinding where the aroma is first released from the bean. Then there is the smell when the coffee is on the stove, hot water seeping through the fresh-ground beans. At this stage, I heat and froth some milk.

I pour the steaming coffee into cups made by Pilliga Pottery, a supporter of the Pilliga forest where, in the real world, people are defending the land (which they love) against government-backed vandals.

I add the milk, and the third heavenly smell wafts through my shack, calling.

The angel appears, luminous, beside me. The first bellbird tolls.

A thought rises like the sun, clear but inexplicable: This is my last Here & Now column.

Everything changes.

Thank you, dear reader.

Want some more quality summer reading? S Sorrensen’s previous columns can be found in our Here & Now archive.

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  1. Thanks so much for all your “Here and Now” writings S …. the first thing I turned to whenever it appeared in the Echo, both the paper and this digital site. A real treat of writing. If you are making another anthology, would love to buy it. Happy New Year and new adventures! Lina

  2. In a First Nation tribe of the USA, the Lakota, lore, there is a character known as the Heyoka. In a way he’s the joker of the pack; perhaps more like the court jester of old, the only one who could tell the truth to the ruler without incurring his wrath. He’s the messenger who doesn’t get shot for speaking truth to power, becauss he wraps those inconvenient truths in humour and music in a way the ruler can respond to without anger and without losing face.
    The Heyoka wears his hat on his feet, his shoes on his head, and rides into town sitting backwards on his horse.
    This is a long preamble that leads me at last to how I want to respond, dear S, to the announcement of your retirement from Here and Now.
    There’s a story of a Heyoka whose grandmother is dying. She brought him up, passed much of her wisdom on to him and has always been the centre of his universe.
    As she draws her last breath, he leans in close to her ear, his face wet with tears, and whispers:
    “ I will never miss you”.

  3. Loved reading this and at the same time it made me sad to here my beloved mother country has changed so much and not for the better s sorrenson has always been a talent I grew up listening to him sing and recite his poetry with one of his sons being a kindred spirit all as hippy children where at the bueatiful billen cliffs I loves this so much all the way from Brisbane it brings me back to a time and place that I hold dearly in my heart and the coffee well let’s just say I can relate

  4. Dear S,
    Thank you for all you Here and Now columns, absolute treats. I have watery eyes reading your last column and writing this. Your dedication and commitment is inspiring. All the best for the next adventure. Darmin

  5. Hi S,

    First, thanks for your words, so thoughtfully collected, sorted, and sentenced.

    Second, if everything always changes isn’t that the same? Maybe nothing has changed at all.

    Xx Paris

  6. Thanks S, long time reader, one of my rituals … read S in the NR Echo, … went away … came back, found you again. Thanks for the different and gentler slant on things when the world was going crazy … keep enjoying the coffee and the love.

  7. I live on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula in Victoria at the moment we are battling AGL to try and stop them from installing a platform in Westernport, with which they will process gas brought in from all over the world which when processed will be shipped back to others countries, probably in second rate ships, which could leak oil or worse, severely damaging our eco system so as you say it seems money and greed are all that matters to industry

  8. Dear S, Thank you for so many years of incisive and ironic insight into the human condition, plus the beauty and tragedy of human existence on this Earth. Your writings will be much missed, but the spirit of your perspective will long live on. Love and Blessings.

  9. Thanks, S, it’s been such a pleasure and we had a great band going there for five minutes too! Love your work. Try not to focus on the here and now. Species have come and gone as shall we, coral reefs have disappeared and reappeared elsewhere, the ice has been two miles thick and not there at all. Our brains are just half a bucket of neurons, inventing monsters, on a tiny blue speck in the middle of nowhere. Nature will continue its great and beautiful work.

    • Craig Potter you are infinitely right. It all revolves it’s just that it takes so long we, think that it’s gone forever. Don’t fret just enjoy.
      Desmas sister.

  10. All the best & ‘thank you’ s. There’s not enough calm let alone
    positive thought left in the world. Now, 3 lines for you…

    Hush! It’s just the sound
    of the ground turning
    ‘upside’ down

  11. Hi from Brisbane where I will sadly miss my online Thursday reading of your contribution to humanity and sanity S. I feel you speak my thoughts quite often and was very pleased to have finally met you when at Billin Cliffs a month or 2 ago.
    Best of luck for whatever the future brings your way and I do hope that you may consider an occasional contribution to the site here if you are able.

  12. What an inspiring journey following your column has been. You will always remain part of the essential fabric of what makes this place special.
    Thank you so very much S. Have a wonderful life.

  13. Thanks S! Your columns have provided some sanity in an insane world. What are we to do? At least there is still the morning coffee ritual.

  14. Everything changes but never for the better. Thanks S for all of your inspiring reading. I treasure your book (will there be another?) and your musings. It has been nice to know someone else cares about the world.

  15. So enjoyed your refreshing, meaningful , deep and humourous words. Totally loved laughing with you and old mate at your gigs in Woodford, looking forward each day to what outfit you managed to conjure up, a festival favourite for many years . Sad to see you go and so glad you have your angel by your side. Thanks and wishing you well


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