In a polished wood mansion perched above a rainforest valley, hidden brook gurgling through tree ferns and lilli pillis, the bearded hitchhiker treats me to an espresso. It’s not possible to drive him to his door, set in a cabin nestled in a mountain spur above us; there’s no road. This is the nearest he can be delivered, up a pair of muddy wheel ruts, past fallen trees recently cut from the track, to the house of a nearby neighbour. A house accessible only on foot, by four wheel drive or helicopter.
Leo works in the community radio station and plants trees to complete his fifteen hours of community service each week. For this the community pays for his basic needs - an admirable system in a country where forty percent of the population lives on social security payments. But it won’t stretch to maintain a vehicle any more - and no-one's told him he's not required to do any of this now that he's over fifty. He smiles his catlike grin.
“The best thing you can do to make the world a better place is to be happy,” he says. “You can do all sorts of things, follow that whole materialist path or be serious, working to help others. But that seriousness is part of the problem, that earnest attitude that takes you away from what’s important - being happy. And that’s the best thing you can do for yourself and those around you.”
We both grin in unison. The path to happiness can be long or instantaneous. You can attempt to be happy, to put up a simulacrum of merriment in the hope that it will induce the real thing or make others believe you’re cool and happy and well – or you can be happy, and the world is instantly a better place. Be here now.
An hour later eye intercept the school bus as it winds from the cool school set like a jewel in the emerald valley above the mightiest river in the region. Wonder Boy leaps into my arms and holds me close before we go on to meet his mother. He plays a game of cards with her and two of his friends on an ornate picnic blanket while twin baby sisters sleep within the three room cabin. In this community, no-one owns the land and everyone pitches together just enough to make happy lives happier.
The boys need an adult to oversee their swim today, as the swollen and turbulent river sweeps across the rapids in unfamiliar eddies and twists. Eye recline on the comfortable rocks and watch to ensure they don’t attempt the impossible while they learn to surf in a safer temporary billabong. A week from seven, Wonder Boy furtively glances in my direction every now and then as he balances athwart the board. He needs to know his triumphs are observed by his father. He’s been through the wars recently, vivid scar wrapped halfway around his ribcage after riding his bike off a cliff, foot sprained after being run over by a car. Indomitable, he balances well, leaning into the current and going with the flow, muscles straining.
A voice is droning in my head, repeating “Remember this remember this remember this…” and eye imprint the precious scene and accompanying soundtrack into fluid memory - bush boys playing together, barely competing, learning their arts - these moments of wonder and joy that will soon be gone. Instantly transformed.
In a trance eye struggle to Be Here Now while another scene plays itself out in memory, overlaid on reality.
Wonder’s brother Beamish is seven. He’s just woken and doesn’t want to wait for breakfast before running out into the bush. Eye am impelled to say, “Every day, when you wake up, you know how you can’t wait to get up and be out there, how the world is calling to you and you just have to go out straight away?” He nods, quizzical. “And you know how the world is a fascinating new place every day and there’s always something amazing about to happen?”
“Yes?” he asks the father who’s stating the obvious.
“Well – most of the big people out there – the adulterated ones – have lost that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Many of them don’t know that the world is a magical place any more. They once did, when they were kids, but they don’t any more.”
“Why not? How could they not know?”
“Oh – so that’s why they’re like that.”
The voice repeats, “Remember this, remember this, remember this…” and eye emerge into the present again, watching Wonder Boy and his friends. My eyes were open but might just as well be closed, reality completely replaced by the memoried vision for an instant.
“Be here now, be here now,” the voice repeats.
Later eye am here, in a screen in virtuality, absent from the world again, writing this sentence. Fourteen years ago a faerie godmother sitting in a field by the same river had only one piece of advice for me.
“Ah, she said as me met, how rare! A reformed Sirian!” That got my attention, so eye sat beside her on the grass. She was festooned with velvet and beads. “All I can tell you,” Gaia said through her mouth, “is to maintain a sense of immanence.”
Rhymes with inner sense, innocence. Easy to recall. If you really want to imprint a thing, say “Remember this,” not “don’t forget.”
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