Here & Now with S Sorrensen - Feb 4

Rock Valley, Friday, sunset:

Melancholy. Now there’s a word. It sounds... melancholy.


I say it out loud as I drop the Barina down to fourth gear to negotiate a left-hander. It nips through the corner like a sports car. (Okay. Maybe one from the 1920s.) I know this road well. Automatically I veer to the right at the apex of the corner to avoid a dip in the road that can bottom out the suspension. (But then again someone leaning against the Barina’s bonnet can do that.)


I roll the word around my mouth. Despite its Latin and Greek origins meaning ‘black bile’, it has no taste. But it’s how I feel.

Melancholy, unlike depression, isn’t black either. Today it’s a golden green. With the sun squatting like a jaundiced toad on the ridges of Mackellar Range, the green of the valley is shafted by languid yellow sunlight which shimmers in the light rain.

On the stereo Van Morrison is singing: “Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this.”

Van knows about melancholy. I turn up the volume. I feel quite sad but I shouldn’t. Things are going pretty well for me. I’d rather be me than anyone else, put it that way. So, what’s the problem? Why the melancholy? Has the global suffering of the innocent caused by the greedy finally got to me? Or is it a blood sugar issue?

My melancholy is not that bad, really. It’s not like depression. I know a man who fights depression every day just to get out of bed. He takes drugs to save his sanity but his living so close to the void and his compulsion to peek into it have taken their toll. Mid-sentence, his mind can drift and an awful terror wracks his body.

The melancholy I’m experiencing is not like that.

It’s pensive. It’s a thoughtful sadness. I’m more doleful than desolate; more lugubrious than woebegone. It’s Depresso Lite.

I shift back into fifth.

I don’t why it’s happening. Maybe in a life bristling with the distractions I’ve created to keep me happy, sadness just wants some recognition, some quality time. But nobody likes sad. Why? Sadness reminds us of something.

I think back to the Friday-after-work gathering of friends I have just left in Lismore. Plenty of laughter, glass chinking, witty quips. This is a milieu in which I normally thrive.

“What’s wrong?” they asked me. “Why?” I asked back.

“You’re very quiet.”

I wanted to say something but nothing came to mind. That’s strange for me. Normally my ripostes are razor-sharp and reliable but today they seem to have packed away their rapiers and left home without so much as a note. I felt awkward under scrutiny. So I drained my drink and left to get another. The kitchen was comfortably empty.

In front of me is a long straight. The last ray of golden light snags on the crown of a large silky oak next to an old stockyard. The ray, now fractured, momentarily taints a mist gathering on the road ahead with a yellow glow.

I race towards it. It’s beautiful. It won’t last of course. The sun is nearly set. But that makes it even more beautiful. Everything is transient. Everything. Even life. But that makes it even more beautiful. My melancholy reminds me of that. It’s a sane sadness.

Van has finished. I can hear my breathing, which is deep and slow. I can hear a loose tappet under the bonnet.

As the Barina smashes through the glowing mist and into a dank dusk, I sing, “Mama told me there’ll be days like this.”

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