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Here & Now with S Sorrensen

Sometimes I spot the Wongavale pigeon at my place under the cliffs. A fat bird with a rather formal 'V' marking on its chest, it squeaks when it flies, as if its wings need oiling.

The Wongavale pigeon is a quiet bird (apart from its squeaky wings) hanging about solo or in a pair. I like that. With gangs of noisy parrots regularly invading my place like drunken teenagers; with mobs of magpies tut-tutting about the unseemly behaviour of the bloody parrots; with packs of miner birds hassling everyone like tattooed security guards on a dull Saturday night, it's refreshing to see the Wongavale pigeon sitting quietly, just observing the world.

Wongavale is the southernmost range of the Wongavale pigeon. Not many people know that, but I do.

Just north of Wongavale is Chelmsford. I drive through Chelmsford most mornings on my way to Lismore on a straight stretch of road that follows Leycester Creek.

This road is also the range of the Chelmsford Chap.

Every day at this time I see him. He wears a high-vis fluoro shirt and wanders north then south along the road. An older man, his rolling gait is underpinned by strong, slighty bowed legs.

Today, his back is to me. He's heading home.

I wonder where his home is. There are just a few homes along this stretch of road. They seem to be occupied by young families. On my left I can see the detritus of child rearing on one of these homes' lawn: trampoline, BMX bike, a football.

Near this home is where the Chelmsford kids wait for the school bus. I have seen the old bloke chatting with kids at the bus stop on cold mornings, their frosty words visible in the air. I have seen him chatting with the mothers in their dressing gowns as they see the kids off and pick up the football. I have seen him chatting through the window of an idling car in which a father sits, the car anxious to get going to work.

Maybe the old bloke's home is set back from the road where I can't see it; a well-worn weatherboard home with leaning cowbales and a broken stockyard. Perhaps photos of his kids, who have moved far away, sit on top of a kitchen hutch along with the special tea pot that was a wedding gift. Perhaps his wife is making their breakfast now, their many years together respectful of the habits that create a shared life - like getting up early to milk the cows. The cows, like the kids, have gone but the rituals are sacred.

As I draw nearer to the bloke, the sun bursts through the cloud cover. He stops walking and looks up at the sky. His fluoro shirt is illuminated and shimmers. The dew on the roadside grass sparkles. The hills glint green. He slides his hat off his head and is bathed in sunlight.

It's a beautiful day. He's in it. He's sucking it in. He's living it.

I'm in Morrison (my van) sucking in the fumes that leak up from under the seat, and am already anxious with thoughts of coffee, CSG, imminent deadlines and inescapable appointments.

As the sound of Morrison's motor reaches him, the old bloke turns to me, his face blissful.

In a ritual we have established, I salute him first (it's a sign of respect, saluting first), my finger flicking away from my forehead.

He raises his open palm to me, his smile widening.

That's the difference between the old bloke and me - I'm trying to understand stuff; he just appreciates.

He's very wise, the Chelmsford Chap.

It is a beautiful day.

Topics:  opinion


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