Here & Now with S Sorrensen

She's standing in an esky talking about something. I'm not sure what she's talking about but it's generating a lot of laughter. (Or her standing in an esky is.)

With a Corona in one hand, her feet in an esky and a huge smile on her face as her voice shrills for emphasis, she looks like a talking long-neck in a kaftan. Her free arm waves, and jangles with bangles.

Storytelling is a human activity. Here on the verandah we don't have a talking stick; we have the talking esky.

Okay, that may not seem that humorous to you dear reader, but if you were here, you'd be cracking up for sure. You'd be grinning from the joy of just being here, now. I'm laughing and I'm not even following the story. I'm not being rude; I'm just letting the sound of her voice waft over me like the little breezes seeking shelter under the verandah roof from an unfiltered sun. They flick the back of my neck and the corner of my sarong like phantom diurnal micro-bats.

My friends and I are recovering from last night's celebration of the 30th birthday of the community where I live. Thirty years is not a long history for a community. I was in Hanoi when it celebrated its 1000th birthday a few years ago. But 30 years is a long time in my life and I was here at the community's birth. Thirty years is a good start for a new village in these uncertain times.

Recovery day is being spent on the verandah of my shack under the cliffs at the end of the world - but maybe today it's not quite the end of the world. Today I feel some optimism; a small ray of light piercing the gathering darkness that looms over the land like a inky storm.

Yes, last night's festivities were as much a celebration of hope as they were of music, art and dance. The hard-won longevity of this solar-powered, nature-nurturing community is a little victory in the larger battle being fought. A battle for our future. A battle for a future.

Recovery days are my favourite days.

Exhausted by the celebration in the hall and the consequent late-night power-ballad dancing in my shack, we are in a mellow mood today, hanging out like sleepy cats with hair of the dog; hanging off the verandah like wet rags drying out in the heat, tongues flapping languidly in those ghost winds.

Traditions, hallmarks of humanity, are created on days like these.

Before the woman stepped into the esky to tell her story, a bloke had stepped into that esky on his way to get a beer from another esky. The talking esky is filled with cold water and a peppermint tea bag: for hot feet. The cooling magic of the talking esky stopped the bloke in his tracks. With happy feet, he embarked on a story that twisted and turned and finally smudged to nothingness like a wisp of cigarette smoke.

The tradition of the talking esky was born.

In this world where material wealth is the yardstick by which communities and people measure their happiness, and also the stick with which we bludgeon the world that feeds us, we, who have bugger all except a few beers on ice, an esky to stand in and the time to do so, are the richest people on the planet. We tell stories, create traditions. We are human.

With a gust of laughter that temporarily blows the black storm back from our valley, the woman in the esky finishes her story.

She's about to start another tale but gets cold feet.


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