Lifting The Spirits #2

The stories of strangers. My spirits are always lifted by them. Funny, sad, thrilling, shocking, they are confirmation that the fabric of life is indeed a rich one.

fisherman Des

This is Des. He fishes down at the point every morning. I know he seems far away but he really didn’t want his photo taken. I began hearing his stories after asking him if he ever caught much. I also wondered if he ate what he caught because everyone knows you shouldn’t eat anything caught in the Harbour because of the high incidence of heavy metals in the water.

Des began telling me stories of what the waterfront was like when he was a boy. The waters were abundant with fish of all kinds. Bream, flathead, yellowjackets, orange roughies; even prawns. People used to fish there all the time. Many people were able to feed their families on what they caught.

The waterfront was still a working port when Des was a young man. If a man happened to be short of a dollar or two he could speak to one of the foremen at the port authority and get a day’s work. Good money too.

The mangroves grew right up to the water. Bird life abounded, there were even heron and sandpipers. Crabs popped up and down in rhythm like the valves in pipe organs.

Where the waterfront apartments are – apartments that cost up to two million a piece – there were artists’ studios. The Blackwattle Studios. On a still day you could smell the oil paints and hear the canvas being stretched. Rumour had it that the legendary Brett Whiteley painted there on occasion and his paintings sold for more money than a man could hope to earn in his lifetime.

As well as being a fisherman and a great teller of stories, Des is a bit of an eco warrior. He regularly trawls the waters in the bay for what he sees as the bane of modern existence – plastic. Sometimes his little boat is filled to the brim with slimy, filthy plastic that has been thoughtlessly thrown away. He is on a quest to get NSW Maritime to clean up the waters. I have no doubt that he will succeed.

I have gleaned an entire history of the place I live from making a passing comment while walking one morning. It is one of the things I love about life – sharing knowledge and experiences. The stories of strangers. Another thing that lifts my spirits.

21 thoughts on “Lifting The Spirits #2

  1. PAUL:
    I agree. They have lived such full lives. I sometimes feel that along the way we have forgotten to revere them as much as we should. I have learnt so much about life and local history from talking to my elders!

    It’s true. Sometimes there is a greater ease with a stranger. There is less of that baggage that can come with someone you know. I really like chatting to people in the park!


  2. My brother-in-law once sent us a CD of ‘Family Chronicles’ … he got his father and all his uncles to write down their early memories. I think I liked Uncle Jim’s best … I had him figured as a boring old bugger, but some of the tales he told ….


  3. Selma dear, I’m sorry but today you failed. This didn’t raise my spirits but made me feel sad.Recently I watched Oprah where she showed a garbage dump in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that is the size of Texas. It just whirls around full of plastic bags and other awful things from passing ships but also from rivers that flow into the ocean so even those not near the casts are at fault. It was shocking and shameful.


  4. love stories of people, without them, where would be, how would know what happen in the past?

    loving your Lifting the Spirits series so far


  5. Amazing the stories we have collected, the stories out there waiting to be heard…if the right person asks, listens. I love the line: Crabs popped up and down in rhythm like the valves in pipe organs


  6. One of the things I loved the most about my gig at the community paper was the opportunity to speak to people about life “back then”…

    The former police chief who spoke of the field which are now filled with urban sprawl. It seems like eons ago… but really, it was only a decade or so before I was born… and look at us now. (Take that how you wish.)


    Some people surprise you with the tales they have at their disposal. My grandad was like that – a very softly spoken man but oh, the tales he could tell!

    I know, hon. I am constantly at war with plastic. Did you know that if they take a geological slice of the earth in a few thousand years it will have changed its composition? It’ll be igneous rock, metamorphic rock, sedimentary rock and plastic. It’s the legacy the 21st century will leave to future generations – plastic in the soil and the water table. And if you’ve ever seen a seabird die from ingesting a plastic bag you would weep for a thousand years….
    Sometimes I can’t stand it.

    I’m glad you like it. It’s kind of uplifting to do it. I do like hearing the stories of the old days. One of my favourite things. I could listen for hours!

    I like that line too. Have you seen those pipe organs they have at carnivals? Every time I see one I think of little crabs popping out of wet sand.

    You’re right, there are so many stories. I hope we don’t lose them all!

    I feel the same way. I don’t know if the urban sprawl will really benefit us in the long run. You just can’t beat wide open green spaces!


  8. i just like picturing you talking to des, out of the blue, and having him reveal this all to you. that’s a spirit lifter – the human connection, undone but for a bit of fearlessness on yr part.


  9. I grew up fishing the bridges of the Florida keys. This story reminds me of the older gentlemen I would see on the same bridges all the time. It brings back memories. Thanks Selma.


  10. JASON:
    It does involve a bit of courage because some people really don’t want to talk, but most are glad of the company. I have met many lovely people that way!

    Hope you are having a good weekend too. It’s cold and wet here. We are watching the footy. Our team is winning. Go the mighty TIGERS!!!

    Now that is a beautiful image of you fishing on the Florida keys. I can just picture it. How lovely!


  11. My vocation has offered me the gift of meeting many “strangers” and hearing their stories…… often in their own homes, sometimes on the street (this happened the other day), at the market, at the park, and in my office. For years I didn’t write. It just wouldn’t come out of me. Then, one day after meeting a stranger, my desire to write again materialized. Somehow through our conversation, he tapped on that door inside me and it opened again. My writing hasn’t stopped since. And what I realized that for years I was a story keeper…. I had held them in my heart and head. So many stranger stories were inside me! And in one encounter, I turned into a story teller. I am forever grateful for meeting the human beings I have met from all walks of life, for they are part of my own tapestry. They have taught me life lessons far greater than I have ever been able to help them. 🙂

    May Des continue being an eco warrior and may he continue to watch out for others down by the water.


  12. DANA:
    What a profound moment that must have been for you. From storykeeper to storyteller. How beautiful. How moving. Sometimes it is strangers who have the power to release something in us. It can be a stray word or look that is imbued with meaning. I agree about the life lessons. I have felt that too on more than one occasion!


  13. MELEAH:
    Des would love to know that. He would like that someone on the other side of the world is a fan. It’ll make his day!


  14. You have such an ability to make strangers friends. That’s a true gift! 🙂 Another thing that strikes me is a the writing conference we were told to always be looking for stories from either people – they are God’s gift for the creative soul – their stories somehow weave into your own. And here you are doing that innately… bravo!


  15. Oh good on him! I know he will make a difference.

    I wish I could do what you do – strike up a meaningful convo with a complete stranger. It’s an art.


    There are stories everywhere. I hear FAB stories on the Sydney buses. You would not believe some of them. It’s better than a soap opera!

    Sadly, I think that’s a common story these days. Penang is a beautiful place. You must have very fond memories of it!

    He will make a difference. He doesn’t give up. At first it is nerve-wracking to talk to strangers, but you would be surprised how easy it gets over time. Also, I like to chat!


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