Those Small Moments Of Beauty

Svenja looking through her makeup

Photographing small moments of beauty has – over the past few months – become incredibly important to me. When I am anxious I find myself unable to see the world properly. Effort is needed, either medical or physical – often both – to pull my mind out of anxiety. For some time afterwards I feel as though I’m teetering between two realities: the anxious & the non-anxious me. It’s a weird feeling but I have become accustomed to it. During the time of afterwards it helps me if I can distract my mind to help ensure it doesn’t become anxious again.

The easiest distraction can be found by cuddling my dogs. I swear that they are therapeutic! They sit with me, lick away any tears that may be lingering & do their damnedest to keep me calm.

Irina talking about false eyelashes

My habit of taking my camera along to my pole fitness classes has provided me with countless opportunities to capture small moments of beauty. These photos are my favourite to take although I’m finding it difficult to articulate why. This is my fourth attempt at this post; I can’t find the right words to express how I feel when I take the photos of these women moving in beautiful & athletic ways, nor afterwards when I look back at them. The closest word I have to describe taking the photos is joy because as I look at the movements through my camera thats often what I see, but that’s not really right. Delight probably best describes my feelings when I look back at my photos but it isn’t really that either. Why is it so damn hard to describe these feelings? I suppose for you, the reader, my feelings don’t make much difference to my photographic results. Except I think actually they do. If I wasn’t enjoying myself when I was taking photos then I don’t think I would push myself out of my creative comfort zone. I wouldn’t be looking to improve my technique or try different things; I’d simply be happy phoning it in. Or not even bothering to try in the first place. Yet because I love what I am doing I keep striving to improve, to notice even smaller moments of beauty & try to capture them.

Vee applying makeup to Becky

The photos that accompany this post were taken as we were getting ready for Aerial Showcase 2019. Yes, I took part & yes I had my camera. I couldn’t resist bringing it because I knew there would be moments to cherish later on. I found myself having to put my camera away, lest I be late getting myself ready but I’m glad I had it with me. The photos (I’ll be sharing more in a portfolio here) make me smile. What I’d like to do with them next is to have them printed. I think it will be nice to be able see the photos hanging on a wall, reminding me that yes indeed there is beauty everywhere if you look for it.

Kangaroos & Cliches

I don’t have any kangaroo photos. I thought a close up of Cadel’s paw would suffice!

Of all the cliches that exist about Australia the one about kangaroos hopping down our streets infuriates me the most. The idea that the entire country is populated by so many kangaroos that they share city life with us is to me absurd. During our honeymoon in America we were asked numerous times about roos hopping down our streets. We were even asked if we could ride them!

I’m not sure where the cliche comes from. A quick internet search suggests that it may be born out of people’s confusion over the size of kangaroos: some people think they are small like squirrels so at that size it stands to reason they would coexist with humans, just like squirrels do. Another idea about the cliche offered up is that wild bears are commonly found scrounging for food in some parts of the US, so why wouldn’t roos be commonly seen in Australia? Getting to the heart of where the cliche comes from would probably take more time than its worth finding out about.

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During summer when the weather is oppressively hot I walk my dogs as early as I can in order to beat the heat. I’m not an early bird so I tend to be walking on autopilot barely aware of the beauty unfolding around me. The sun continues to rise, parrots are chirping as they begin going about their day & the sounds of traffic in the distance aren’t yet overwhelming. Occasionally we will be greeted with the sight of a single kangaroo or more typically a pair of roos. They have been drinking water used to irrigate fig trees or table grapes. The watering holes they usually drink from are dry. Mostly they see us before we see them & are bounding away when they are noticed. Once or twice however I’ve been lucky enough to see them first. My strongest memory is of a small pair of roos, standing close to a grove of fig trees. Water is spraying from sprinklers across the tops of the trees; next to the roos is small pool of water. I anthropomorphise them & decide they look content. Happy to have enjoyed a drink. They notice me & for a brief moment we are looking at each other, them no doubt determining if my dogs & I are a threat, me aching because I don’t have my camera with me so have missed an opportunity to take a beautiful photo. They are on the opposite side of the road to us however we are walking towards them. In unison they make a slight turn & bound across the road in front of us, continuing into the vineyard that we’re walking past. My dogs would really like to take off after them vocalising to me that we should take chase. Of course we don’t, instead continuing our walk home.

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Walking my dogs this past Friday morning we come across a large dead kangaroo by the side of the road, taking up part of the walking track that we are on. We have no choice but to walk past it. My dogs glance at it but they aren’t interested. There is no blood in sight & there is no smell of death so I assume that it was killed recently, probably earlier that morning by a car or more likely a truck. Despite the location being on the outskirts of town it had found itself on a major highway when it met its end. I feel sad for it & hope that death came quickly. I don’t see a pouch so console myself a little knowing that there is no possibility of a joey losing it’s life too. When I drive past that spot the next day the roo is gone. I wonder whose job it is to take it away & where does the body go?

Finding Joy In A Public Library

Jensen enjoying a library book

Recently I’ve rediscovered the joy of using a public library. This has happened for a number of reasons. My list of books to read is large & grows faster than I can read. And I don’t really need to own all these books. I feel a little guilty admitting this because I assume that authors earn more royalties from books purchased than they do from books borrowed from libraries. However if I purchased every book that I want to read I’d pretty soon run out of room to store them. Buying digital copies of them doesn’t always work for me either. I buy them occasionally but still struggle to enjoy the process of reading a digital book. They just don’t feel right to me.

Borrowing books instead of buying them also saves me money which is something I’ll never complain about. Most important however is sharing the library with my nephew Jensen. He is four years old & loves everything about being at the library.

Together we return books using the return chute located on the library’s entrance. A metal opening in the wall is unlocked by the presence of a book placed in front of a scanner. This is very exciting! A beeping sound is made when the chute is ready to accept another book & it shines a green or red light depending on what stage of accepting books it is in.

Once our books are returned we enter the library, and Jensen excitedly runs over to the children’s section. I don’t remember being allowed to run in the public library when I was a child. I remember the library as a place to move slowly, almost reverently & to ensure browsing was done as quietly as possible. The building that housed the library was old & dark & it did not feel welcoming to children. It was a stark contrast to the building that houses the public library today. This building is large, open & full of natural & artificial light. Chairs & tables are placed strategically to encourage visitors to linger.

Jensen isn’t discouraged by the librarians when they see him run. They don’t shush us to be quiet; they accept that this is the behaviour of kids having fun in a place they like to be. What a blessing this acceptance is.

A beautiful children’s book I recently borrowed from the library, titled Where is the Frog?

The children’s section is full of bright colours & encouraging words about the wonders of reading. Sometimes we first pick books to sit & read, other times we play with the blocks before selecting books to borrow. I love watching Jensen as he decides what books to borrow. I honestly have no idea what his criteria is. About all I can say with any assurance is the the cover needs to catch his eye. He studies the covers quickly, in stark contrast to how I select a book; I take time to assess the cover then read the blurb on the back. For Jensen however if the cover image catches his eye with something fun or features an animal that he likes then it will be borrowed.

Once the books are chosen we go to the hold area so I can collect the books that I’ve reserved for myself. The excitement then kicks up a notch again as we go through the process of checking out the books. Jensen places my card on the computer bench so it can scan my library card. We then take it in turn scanning books & putting them in our library bag. Once done we collect the borrowing receipt that the computer spits out & then we make our way to the cafe. Because you can’t visit the library without enjoying a chocolate milkshake & something to eat!

One day I’d like to take Jensen & his brother Eli to the library, to read a book that I’ve written & had published. They have sparked my interest in writing for children & it would be a perfect day if we could read together a book that I have written.

Celebrating 15 Years of Marriage

A foundation built on

love kindness

empathy respect

strengthened by the desire

to move through life together

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Tested by unexpected forces

proof we are better together

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United by belief

in each other

in our friendship

in our love

David & I at our wedding reception October 9 2004

I have struggled to articulate in this blog post what 15 years of marriage to David means to me, so penned the above words in an effort to do so. They fall short of what I feel but I cannot keep writing & deleting or I’ll be at my computer forever! I did consider posting something totally unrelated to our wedding anniversary today but that would feel like I wasn’t being true to myself. We aren’t actually celebrating today; I’ve got dress rehearsal tonight for Friday’s aerial showcase so we’ve decided to pick another day in October to celebrate. Maybe by then I’ll have something decent to share in a blog post 🙂

Experiencing the cold wind outside of Las Vegas
Standing on the Golden Gate bridge

Taking Stock #1

This is my favourite tree to photograph

How is it already October? Where has the year gone? I find it hard to believe that my husband & I will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary next Wednesday. 15 years! WTF? Two days after that & I’ll be performing in the 3rd Pole Fit Mildura Showcase. Yet again, WTF? It only feels like moments ago that I was doped on painkillers due to injury so I could participate in the 2nd Showcase. And it does not feel like I’ve been married for 15 years. What the actual fuck?

So considering all that I thought it a good idea to write my first Taking Stock post. As a way to feel like I’ve got some hold on life, sure, but also to take a micro look at my life & appreciate what I have. You probably don’t need me to tell you, but Pip from MeetMeAtMikes writes the best Taking Stock posts. She encourages others to take stock & kindly provides her taking stock list on her blog. Thanks Pip, I love the idea of doing this every now & again.

Here’s my list; perhaps you’d like to make one yourself?

Making Art gifts for two friends. I can’t say more, in case they read this post!

Photographing My dogs, my friends at pole fitness, the setting sun. These are my go to things to photograph at the moment.

Cooking a cake to enjoy on our wedding anniversary. Well, ok I haven’t baked it yet, but I’m going to next week.

Reading True Stories by Helen Garner. If you don’t know it, it’s her collected works of non-fiction. I’m really enjoying it. I’m also reading the latest issue of Flow magazine. It’s always an enjoyable read.

Sipping Japanese Sencha tea from T2. It ties for my favourite tea, along with their Melbourne Breakfast.

Looking into buying a new washing machine. Ours is 10 years old. It’s not working very well anymore. I have no idea what I want, other than a machine that actually works. So I’ll be doing lots of online research before laying down any cash.

Listening to Garbage, Amanda Palmer, Florence & The Machine and Lorde. I can’t get enough of these women lately. They’re all my favourites & I love listening to them nice & loud.

Wishing that we were living in our new home. Not long now, hopefully.

Black & White double exposure photo

Enjoying eating meals that I made in bulk & froze into servings for two. Makes life easy, although I don’t seem to always be organised enough to cook this way.

Waiting for daylight savings to start. Extra daylight in the evening is great, it always feels like I get a lot more done. I’m more productive of an afternoon & evening which is probably also why I like daylight savings so much.

Loving my A5 Cahier notebook from Pebble Stationery Co. It uses 52gsm Tamoe River paper which is so beautiful to write on. Pebble is an Australian company & I have the pleasure of interviewing the founder Lois Ho for an episode of the Art Supply Posse podcast. Which I am going to encourage you to listen & subscribe to 😉

The aforementioned Pebble Stationery Co notebook

Liking making the incredibly indulgent XXL Death by Chocolate Cookie by Sally’s Baking Addiction. I make these when I’m craving chocolate. Really craving it, but don’t actually want chocolate. Which seems like a misnomer I know. I make them as two larger cookies; the first time I baked this recipe I made it as one but couldn’t eat it in one sitting. It could probably be made into smaller cookies, but where’s the fun in that?

Buying a beautiful teapot from a store from a store on the Japanese website Rakuten. I accidentally broke my favourite teapot on the weekend. It’s no longer available, of course, so I spent way too long looking for a replacement. Warning: if you’re as in love with all things Japanese like I am, you’ll be tempted to buy all the things. You have been warned 🙂

Watching series 11 of Gruen, by the ABC. I love Wil Anderson. He’s one of my favourite comedians. This show never disappoints. I’m also loving the comedy panel show Insert Name Here, with comedian Sue Perkins. She’s great & so is this show.

Hoping that I get through our showcase performance uninjured. Last year I had a spectacular fall at the beginning of our piece during full dress rehearsal on performance day. It meant I had to pull out of one of the pieces I was to perform in. And I performed whilst on a lot of painkillers. I won’t post a photo here of my bruised & battered knees. They took the full brunt of my fall. It’s not a pretty image.

Needing more sleep. Its the story of my life at the moment

Wearing whilst unpacking (see below for more details) I found a bikini set that I bought a couple of years ago but haven’t actually worn. I think it will be perfect for wearing to my pole fit class. I shall wear it to tomorrow nights class.

Following I interviewed Jane Mills for an episode of Art Supply Posse, during which she talked about streaming on Twitch when she makes her art. I knew little about Twitch, other than that its a platform for gamers. Turns out there’s more to it than that. That chat led me to join Twitch & I’ve watched her art streams a couple of times now. I’m really enjoying it. If that’s you thing give her a follow. You won’t regret it.

Blossom on one of my peach trees

Noticing my stone fruit trees are all in various stages of blossom. So is the lemon tree. I love this time of year, the beauty of the blossoms & the promise of fruit to come.

Sorting through the boxes that we’ve had in storage for the last four years. Almost everything we own has been in storage in our shed as we build our house. As it’s nearing completion I’ve begun unpacking. A lot of it is going to goodwill or into the bin. It turns out there’s a lot of stuff that we own that we don’t actually need.

Getting excited to see U2 next month in Adelaide. I’ve seen them every time they’ve been in Australia since Popmart & I’m excited for the Joshua Tree tour. I know it’s going to be great.

Saving offcuts & scraps of vegetables, coffee grindings, used tea leaves etc & dumping them all into my new Bokashi bin. I had a voucher for Biome Eco Store & had to buy myself one. It feels good using all that waste to create good stuff for the garden.

Bookmarking various writing websites. Both as a means to look into courses to take to improve my writing skills but also publishers so I can submit my children’s stories to the slush pile. I hope to break through the pile to become a published children’s book author.

Coveting Fujifilm’s newly announced X-Pro3 mirrorless camera. I have the original X-Pro1, bought at a terrific price once it had been on the market for 18 months or so. I love it, but its time for an upgrade. I’m hoping when the price is announced in mid October, coinciding with it becoming available to buy, that I’ll be able to afford one.

Opening a zine called Scotland On Film. I purchased it from a guy who posted a thread on Reddit. It arrived today.

Giggling when listening to comedy podcasts. Or any comedy really. But comedy podcasts are my thing. Two new episodes of The Little DumDum Club & DYKWIA are waiting in my podcast app to listen to which I’ll do once this post is finished. Give them a listen too, once you’ve listened to Art Supply Posse 😉

Feeling a sense of renewal. It’s a bloody wonderful feeling, throwing away all the unneeded stuff we own. I highly recommend it.

Hearing the gentle breathing of Zena & Cadel as they sleep. I love my dogs 🙂

Obsessing about the aforementioned X-Pro3. Yes I’ve got it bad!

Well thats my list done. I’d love to hear if any of this resonates with you. And go write your own taking stock list. It’s a fun little exercise.

Reflecting On My Breakfast Art Practice

These colours captivate me every time I look at them

I have been looking over some of the different art that I’ve made since I began my daily breakfast art practice. They consist of a variety of different types of art; some are more complex than others, some shine because of their simplicity. The common thread that ties them together is that they’ve all been made as I enjoyed eating breakfast.

A piece of art created in an old book
I’ve found repurposing an old book for art to be a liberating experience

There are reoccurring styles: backgrounds created by applying fountain pen ink & water to paper to which I use black or gold markers to create Japanese inspired wave designs feature frequently. As do the seemingly random application of colour to a page creating not so much as art in the traditional sense but rather a pleasing group of colours.

A blackout poem
A blackout poem, inspired by Austin Kleon

I look forward to making this art daily. There are some nights that I fall asleep thinking about what I could create the next morning. Yet the mornings when I have no idea what I’ll create are the most exciting to me. Art that is made with no intention except to create something gives me a wonderful feeling.

A close view of an art background made by mixing yellow & blue ink
Stunning green shades created with Nick Stewart Ink, available here

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I find myself about to return to ‘normal’ work, which is to say going to work in a business as opposed to only working from home. This work will be part time but I am accepting this reality with trepidation for I know what may come. Overwhelming anxiety leaving me without the ability to walk in this world with ease was what caused me to quit working full time. The reality is this might happen again. My coping mechanisms such as the breakfast art practice & daily dog walking will work to help keep me on an even keel, at least that’s the hope.

I’ll look into increasing visits to my psychologist & GP. I’ll try to remember to ask for help when I need it. Do all the things that are needed to protect myself so anxiety doesn’t take over every waking thought. Fingers crossed.

Unexpected Truths From Podcasting

For approximately 18 months I have been interviewing people for the podcast Art Supply Posse. I’ve chatted with a variety of artists as well as retailers of art supplies. Everyone from Kevin Murphy – whose art has been commissioned by such luminaries as The Rolling Stones, Game of Thrones & now runs his own art school, Gosia Orlinksa who is an artist & an art therapist to ceramicist Julia Skott who challenged me to label myself as an artist.

I love bringing these chats to our listeners. I try to guide our conversation in a gentle way so that it sounds like a chat between two friends as opposed to a question & answer type interview. I don’t know about you but I prefer to listen to a podcast where it sounds like I’m listening to a couple of friends have a conversation. It makes me feel like I’m in the room with them.

That might sound like it’s difficult to achieve but I’ve found that once people start talking about the thing they love, such as painting with watercolours or pouring alcohol based inks onto canvas, the conversation flows naturally. People slip into that world, their world of art & creativity & their conversation carries you into that world too.

Talking to so many artists who are often at different stages of their career to each other has made me realise a few things about myself & my long held views of my creative abilities. And I suspect these realisations have occurred to some of our listeners too.

By far the majority of artists have had family support to pursue their creative endeavours. Some have or had artistic parents & most have or had parents who encouraged the creativity when they weren’t creative themselves. Yet even artists with family supported have occasionally had doubts about their work. This goes against my expectations; surely only those who suffer from doubting their art are people like me who were actively discouraged from making art?

Turns out that’s not the case. Self doubt seems to affect a lot more artists than I expected. The more I hear this expressed by artists, the more I realise that its almost common among creative people. I’m always grateful when someone I follow on Instagram posts something about how they’re in a creative rut that they’re having trouble getting out of. Not because they are in that place but because they are sharing it. The more creative people can see that self doubt is common, the better. It will make it easier for us all if we know that self doubt is common & can be worked through, if thats what is wanted.

Everyone I have spoken to has encouraged our listeners to continue following their artistic pursuits or to take up something that they’ve always wanted to try but haven’t had the courage to do so. The more I hear this the more encouraged I am to continue with my creative loves. I can now say I am a writer & a photographer. It turns out, despite my fears otherwise, admitting these things won’t kill me! It doesn’t even hurt me!

Give it a try yourself, if you’d like to call yourself an artist, a writer, a filmmaker or photographer or whatever it is you know deep down you are. It won’t hurt, I promise! Start saying it out loud to yourself, then try it on your pets. Pretty soon you’ll find it easy to slip into conversation. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make a living from your creativity & it doesn’t matter if you don’t ever want to pursue it financially. Claim the thing you are. You claiming it & proclaiming it will make it easier for someone else to claim their thing. That I can also promise.

Oh Anxiety

Tomorrow is RUOK Day here in Australia. Today’s post wasn’t going to touch on mental illness but i feel like I’m surrounded by it at the moment so it feels like I should write something about it.

Someone close to me experienced anxiety for the first time in their life recently & I felt it was an eye opening experience for the both of us. Person X (an easy way to reference this person without giving them away) had up until recently gone through life without experiencing a mental illness. Sometimes I would think how lucky X was, to not have first hand experience of being mentally unwell. I would occasionally feel a little jealous of X, because of my familiarity with mental illness. I’ve had diagnosed depression three seperate times & am sure I had it in my late teens although it went undiagnosed. This coming November will see the third anniversary of my diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

So when X was given an anxiety diagnosis I knew I’d be able to offer support. I watched the mind of X (yes, writing that makes me think of an old school spy movie, but I’m committed to using it now so I’ll chuckle to myself & keep writing) loop over & over in the anxious way I know intimately. A thought would occur & despite reassurances from me or others it would loop over & over on a constant thread of what if.

“But what if this happens? Or what about that scenario. Won’t this other thing then take place?” Over & over & over the same things were repeated, making me wonder sometimes if I was being heard at all.

It felt a little like I was having an out of body experience. I watched X run through their anxiety & think to myself ‘this is what I do.’ My mind will latch onto a thought, an often ridiculous, impossible or sometimes catastrophic scenario & loop it over & over in my mind, seemingly unable to stop. I would sometimes feel tired from repeating my words to X & knew in those moments X had felt the same tiredness from conversations with me.

Or I’d be reassuring X to try to stop the anxiety & knew that X had been in this exact same position, offering reassurance & support to me while feeling the fruitlessness of their words washing over me & having little effect. This must be why X has expressed the desire to flick a switch & turn anxiety off.

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There have been people other than X talk over their anxiety with me this year & other years & I’ve done my best to offer support, letting them know I’m here for them when they want to talk. Or sit with them when they need to get angry or just to offer a shoulder to cry on. If I can offer them just a tiny bit of support, to let them know that they are loved, then I hope that it helps them in some way.

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So what is the point of this blog post? I’ve touched on living with anxiety in previous blog posts & I will again in the future. It’s a constant on my life & touches everything thing I do. Increasingly it’s impact is smaller on my life, due in large part to my daily anxiety medication & frequent GP & psychologist visits. I’m learning to use my experience with anxiety for good; the above photo forms part of my small but growing body of work trying to photograph the world as seen by me through the lens of an anxiety attack.

If you’re one of the lucky ones to have not had a mental illness you can still be supportive to those who have. You don’t have to have experienced something to be empathetic. But if you feel you would like to learn more, there are countless places online to learn. Beyond Blue is a great place to start, Sane Australia is another. Spend a few minutes getting to know the signs of someone who might be experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. Learn how to ask someone if they need help. Or to tell them that you’d be happy to sit with them so they can talk to you. Learning these things will benefit you & possibly allow you to see signs of someone’s undiagnosed mental illness. Do it with compassion & love. You’ll be a better person for it.

Dogs In The Street Is A Genre For Me

I was lucky enough to meet with a good friend in Melbourne last Thursday. We’d decided earlier on this year that we needed a break from our lives & flying to Melbourne for a few days away seemed like a good idea. It gave us a concrete point in the future that we could work towards, coming in handy when we were wondering if we could get through what life was throwing at us at various times this year.

As I am wont to do I packed my camera into my handbag, expecting there would be opportunities to take photos of something, somewhere. Thankfully, Melbourne delivered. The weather was beautiful & the vibe in the CBD seemed to echo the weather. I had Friday to myself whilst my friend attended a conference, so I spent the the day walking with my camera.

I thought taking my time to wander the city slowly, sitting down whenever I felt like it & paying attention to the light & people within it would hopefully provide me with some opportunities to take photos that I could be happy with. As I moved through the day I found myself yet again being drawn to people with their dogs. Many were walking together, some people were carrying their dogs in their arms & others were sitting with their dog by their side.

I find dogs more interesting than their owners, although I pay attention to the owners in case it is worth focussing on the them in lieu of their dog. I want to know what the dogs are thinking & feeling & try to capture that. I like to think this guy in the photo above was watching me, making sure that I wasn’t going to be a threat to his owner & then wondering what on earth I was doing. To him I probably looked weird standing nearby, relaxed but holding a strange thing in front of my face. He relaxed once he knew I wasn’t going to be a threat & moved his attention elsewhere.

Reflecting on this moment & looking at other opportunities I’ve had trying my hand at street photography I’ve realised that the genre of street photography of dogs appeals to me. It ties together two things that I love – taking photos & dogs. It seems like a natural fit so I’ve decided to improve my skillset within the streets of where I live. It’s not enough for me to wait until I’m in Melbourne or another city. I want to take these types of photos more often so the sensible thing to do is to do it locally. If I have any luck with this project I’ll post images here.