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Monday, December 1, 2014

A new beginning.



In 2006 despite all odds I formed a tender and deep connection with Cape York when I moved to a remote Aboriginal community on my own to pursue my career in anthropology. I discovered strengths and weaknesses that I never knew I had. I learnt from the people and their country. Their culture and their stories echoed on my heart strings.

Over the years I sacrificed so much of my twenties to remain dedicated to my work. I missed family birthdays and Christmases. I grieved by myself when our family lost people we loved. I missed baby's being born into our family. I missed celebrating with friends, going to festivals, hosting dinner parties, having coffee dates, shopping at farmers markets and everything else that comes with living in the city.  As I grew and nursed my very own babies I missed the many hands who would have helped me through the tough times of new motherhood if I were able to be closer to them. Working remote is challenging not just because remote jobs are not your average job, it's challenging on a deeper level, a more emotional level. People who work remote see things that the rest of Australia didn't even know existed, they are forced to deal with situations that should not be happening in modern day Australia. I was living in a third world country which was in our very own backyard. I lived in a part of Australia that is so misunderstood or otherwise forgotten about by the rest of the world. In the wet season I was cut from basic human services and lost contact with the outside world for sometimes weeks at a time when phone and electricity ceased to work. Despite the hardships, I chose to be there. I could have run back to the city at any time. Eight years later I am still trying to process my experiences.

It was the corroborees, the quiet moments out on country, the community triumphs against youth suicide, petrol sniffing and dispossession that fuelled my determination to continue on in the Cape. It was working with remarkable local women who were leading a vision to better their people and their community. It was the community's self determination. It was the establishment of a tiny Aboriginal art centre, the inspiring workshops, and big city exhibitions that kept my passion burning. The dampers cooked in the sand at the beach by the local ladies helped to fill the emptiness in my heart from the absence of my family and friends. It was marrying my Caleb on the traditional homelands of Lockhart River that reinforced our bond to that country. It was bringing my two babies home to community and being gifted with their names from the Elders that planted my feet deeply into the Cape York soil. Some of my most unbreakable and cherished friendships came from living in a remote community. Living in Cape York has given me so much more than it has ever taken from me despite the sacrifices I have made. I have been humbled by the experiences that not many twenty-something's get to see. I have been adopted by traditional family groups who have opened my eyes and heart to so many things I can't begin to list them (but I'm planning on working on that).

Last night as Ba'il climbed into his bed, he asked me to do a meditation. I was overcome with sadness when I realized that this time next week we will be leaving our home in Cape York. During his meditation I asked him to remember all the good times we have shared together here. All the times he has been able to come to work with me, the traditional dance and art he has learnt, the dreamtime stories he has been told, our days at the remote beaches collecting shells and touching coral, camping under millions of stars, swimming in waterfalls, all his beautiful friends he has made, and his birthdays we have celebrated under the old eucalyptus in our yard. I asked him to remember all the adventures we had been on, all the crocodiles he has seen, all the picnics we have had at the lighthouse and ice-creams at the wharf. He drifted off to sleep while I tried to not be overwhelmed by the weeks that lay ahead.

Eight years of solitude in a place that has given me so many incredible moments. A place that has taught me how to be comfortable with my own company. A place that taught me how to make do with what I had because it didn't matter that my home didn't look like the ones in a magazine, what mattered was I had a roof over my head and food in my fridge because even those basics are luxuries in community. My time in the Cape has redefined my perception on what hard work really is and has allowed me to creatively shape my career and foundations for my family. I feel incredibly blessed to have been allowed the opportunity to raise my children among such strong culture and community.

This time next week a new chapter unfolds. As I embark on my thirty-something's we will close the door to our home in Cape York and open the doors to our River Nest. We will bring with us our never ending love for Cape York's country and people and replant it in our new home. We will make our nest in our little log cottage by the river and embrace it's totally perfect imperfections because for the first time in nearly a decade we will have our friends and family at arms reach. We will try to live by the notions of wabi sabi and love our River Nest for what it is and what it will become over time. Caleb will start a new job with National Parks, I will continue to work with HopeVale from afar, Ba'il will start school and Milinh will not have to endure hours of travel each week with me to work. We are leaving a place that is so deeply entrenched within us because we feel that it is time to give our children something they have been missing out on. Family.  I am daunted by the enormity of starting our River Nest dream but I am comforted by knowing we are making this move with so much more confidence, knowledge, drive and skills than I ever thought possible a decade ago. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to have the best of both worlds; to create a home close to our family as well as to continue our connection with the Cape.

And while I'm still in denial that this time next week I would have said my final goodbyes and will be on my way far south, I can't help but get excited about beginning to live the dream that Caleb and I have spent every night for so many years speaking of.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bali ~ as a family.








It's been five years since I last travelled to Bali. The last time I visited was pre kids for a week of daily massages, cocktails and deep relaxation with a dear girlfriend. The time before that was for our honeymoon. This time around was my third visit and by far the best, for different reasons. 

Holding my left hand was my husband, in my right hand was my four year old Ba'il and wrapped in a sling close to my chest was my 9 month old Milinh. We spent nearly three weeks as a family exploring our favourite parts of the island paradise. Bali never disappoints, especially with kids. 

After 12 hours of flights and waits in airports, our first stop was Ubud. A favourite of ours for the traditional handicrafts, lush jungles and a good dose of culture. After a week in Ubud we drove down to Sanur to catch the fast boat to Nusa Lembongan. Pure paradise is all I can say. Next time we will be going to Lembongan first because this 4km wide island induces holiday mode as soon as you step off the boat. I suppose it is a little more of the 'old bali' and we loved every bit of it (but that's a whole other story). After four days on the island we travelled back to mainland and spent another week in Seminyak. A total buzz and a great civilisation fix for us bush folk. 

Even though our children are accustom to travelling, this was their first time overseas. I worried about 'Bali belly', fussy meal times, and how much relaxation we would actually get. As it turned out there were no sore tummies, plenty of peaceful mealtimes and we made sure our days were long and slow. 

Two months later back on our home soil I can still smell the sweet sea breeze and the frangipani blossoms and during my long days at work I am often caught up remembering how wonderful those slow and steady days were. I try to remind myself there will be plenty more family adventures to come but for now I will let the memories of Bali linger for as long as possible. 

P.S. Yes Ba'il is wearing the same clothes in every photo. I plan on writing a post about what to pack when travelling with children. In my experience less is best. x 

Monday, April 21, 2014

14, 15 & 16/52









14/52 

Ba'il - Blowing pixie dust in your Panni's garden, down on the Mornington Peninsula for Great Nanna Merle's 90th birthday party. 

Milinh - Your the youngest of her Great Grandchildren. Sweet as pie the both of you. 



15/52 

Ba'il - Driving the tractor with your Bis Nonno on his farm. My clever Dad captured this moment when they took Ba'il to visit the farm post cyclone Ita. 

Milinh - Sitting in the very same washing basket I sat in when I was your age. 



16/52 

Ba'il - Waiting to catch the small plane home. Finally. 

Milinh - Your brother bursts with love for you. 


We are home. Finally. The cyclone clean up begins and will continue well into the next month. I'm hoping for 'normal' to resume as soon as possible. I'm also hoping my poor neglected blog gets a little more TLC over the weeks to come. So many stories to tell yet so little time. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

13/52



A portrait of my children once a week, every week for 2014. 

Ba'il -  It's nearly holidays and we are all looking forward to a few weeks of slow days. 

Milinh - Admiring your brother as always my little honey girl. 

April already. Seriously? Somewhere amongst the blur of the last month I even forgot to take a 11/52! I've been lost in a haze of returning to work, having two children and feeling rather exhausted. In exchange for blogging I've been trying to catch up on work and sleep.

I sigh a little relief as we are about to embark on three weeks away from home. Firstly with a week in Melbourne to celebrate Caleb's Nan's 90th birthday. After the family gathering and birthday party we will wave goodbye to Caleb and I will stay on the Peninsula for a few more days with family. I can't explain how excited I am for some crisp evenings, good coffee, tasty food, shops and a hairdresser. The simple things.

After my city fix I'll be flying to the opposite end of the East coast to work in the Torres Strait for a week - with Milinh on my hip and Ba'il spending a week with my beautiful parents. Our little family will then rendevu at our beloved Top Shed at our River Nest for a rest over Easter before we head back home. 

Phew. Wish me luck… suitcases to pack and chickens to feed. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

12/52



A portrait of my children once a week, every week in 2014.

Ba'il - You chose the cottage cake from the trusty old Women's Weekly cookbook. A favourite childhood memory of mine was choosing which cake I wanted for my birthday. We are continuing the family tradition with you.  You'll be 4 on Monday! I still can't quite believe it. 

Milinh - No time for sleep when there's a big wide world to explore. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

11/52






A portrait of my children once a week, every week in 2014.


Ba'il - The tropical weather has subsided and a change is on the way. You won't be bare bumming it at the dinner table for much longer…… and I can't believe that this time next week you will be 4!

Milhn - Slow down girl. 5 months today. Your sitting up and crawling like a true champion. Nothing is going to stop you now. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

9 & 10/52









 A portrait of my children once a week, every week in 2014. 

9/52 

Ba'il - The honey birds made a nest near our front door and you would sit quiet as can be to watch them feed their baby each day. You fell so much in love with them that you phoned your Nanny and asked her to make you some honey bird wings. 
Upon our return home from Cairns you discovered that the baby  bird had left it's nest. It was the first time I had seen you truly heart broken and in a sobbing mess. 

Milinh - A busy week back at the art centre and a few naps on my office floor. Your known as the little HopeVale princess. 


10/52 

Ba'il - My artistic and expressive one. 

Milinh - Everyone in HopeVale says you have bun'dii eyes. Bun'dii In Guugu Yimithirr are little black native berries. Seems that your bun'dii eyes are too busy taking in the world to sleep. 

I've been so absent from here lately. With Caleb away for work so frequently I'm lucky if I can fit in a shower, some dinner and a decent nights sleep little only blogging. This week he's away again. Week 6 since the beginning of the year. It's been a struggle to say the least, especially living remotely with a wee one and my return to full time work. More on that later. For now I'm enjoying having all of us home for the weekend.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

7 & 8/52





7/52

Milinh - There is nothing you love more than bath time with your brother. 

Ba'il - Super sick and all you wanted to do was carry your orangutan around in a sling, just like your Mummy carries Milinh. 


8/52 

Milinh - In your Daddy's arm on a rainy afternoon at the beach. These moments are far and few between lately. 

Ba'il - Walking your Copper dog and splashing in muddy puddles. My barefoot bush kid.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

River Dreaming - Projects

Source. 
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Lately I've been inspired by outdoor dinner parties and the art of table dressing. 

I've been collecting ideas and drawing up plans for the completion of our Top Shed outdoor bathroom. 

I'm also manifesting a teepee into our lives. The perfect addition to our Top Shed retreat. 

I'm dreaming up new adventures and being brave enough to leave it to the universe to decide. 

I'm wondering when my pantry will truly ever look this good. 

And hoping that one day I'll have enough time to get creative again. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

From bush to bright lights.



The speed limit drops to 60 as we approach the city. We stop at the first set of traffic lights and Milinh starts to cry. She's not used to all this starting and stopping. Ba'il gets excited about driving past the airport and seeing the planes in their hangers and A380's taking off to far away places. We only have 12 seater planes and smaller out bush.

Finally after 5 hours of driving, we are here. Its a tough gig travelling long distances with a baby and a toddler by yourself. This was already the 3rd trip for the year. I had hoped this trip would offer me a little bit of relief from the month of being a solo working parent. As I drive through the city I feel overwhelmed. The appointments, the traffic, the humidity, the people, the picket fences separating one box home from the next. I go to sleep hearing the suburbian dogs barking at each other. I wake in the morning to hear the neighbors conversation echo in their bathroom. And after a few days I seem to hear nothing at all. 

For this visit I had big plans. I planned to catch up with friends and their children who I hadn't seen in months. I hoped to use the beautiful picnic basket Caleb gave me for Valentines Day and to buy myself a new pair of wet season sandals. As always I would take Ba'il to as many playgrounds as possible. And this time I even planned to see a movie with my Caleb, for it had been so long since we had seen each other. And finally I had hoped that with some extra family hands I would get ontop of my never ending looming funding reports. 

Instead I spent the week endlessly breastfeeding a very miserable congested sick baby. Wiping up toddler tears and endless runny noses. Trying to disfuse tantrums as well as washing endless sheets and towels and wondering when I would ever have my hands free to hang them out. My days were spent sitting in doctors waiting rooms and going to sleep at 8:30 with Milinh. The nights were no better as I woke up at least five times a night to settle the poor feverish babe and tend to Ba'il's throbbing ears. This week was my first taste of mothering two sick children at the same time, while the rest of the house worked long hours and I juggled working and mothering from home. There were indeed a few tears on my behalf.

Overwhelmed and exhausted I spent my last night in 'civilization' reflecting. I listened to the neigbours noisey clothes dryer and to the distant hum of constant traffic. I thought about the next night when I'll be back home in the wilderness. My mum won't be down the hall way when I needed her to take the children for a few minutes or to help settle Milinh in the wee hours of the morning. My friends won't be down the road when I need a coffee or a hug. The playgrounds won't be there when we all need a break and fresh air. The shops won't be there for my every need and worst of all Caleb would be away for another week. 

To say the last few weeks have been a challenge would be an understatement. I felt so isolated even though it was the least isolated I had been in months and before I know it I'll be home in the bush and the silence of the wilderness will be almost suffocating. There's a fine art to getting the right balance when you live remote. And so it seems that lately I've lost the balance between the bush and the bright lights as I long to be both places at once. I'm find comfort in the buzz of the city as well as the stillness of the country. Now more then ever I am feeling a pull to call our River Nest home (pictured above). 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

6/52



A portrait of my children. Once a week, every week in 2014.

Ba'il - In the midst of the monsoon watercolours brighten your day. 

Milinh - We changed your pusher from the baby bassinet to the big girl chair. My goodness you were happy. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

5/52




A portrait of my children once a week, every week for 2014. 

Ba'il - By the sea my free spirited boy sits. 

Milinh - The gusty winds of Cooktown were still for once, so you visited the beach for the very first time. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Little hands.






With his little hands he has been helping me a lot lately as he slowly rediscovers his role within our newly grown family. Eager to help wherever he can by fetching face washers, nappies and keeping an eye on his wee sister while I hang the washing on the line. He has taken it upon himself to feed the animals on a daily basis - the dogs, the fish, the chickens and collect the eggs. With anticipation he watches his seeds sprout and herbs grow and carefully waters them when it's not raining. He packs up his toys at the end of the day without a complaint. I can only hope this is the start of something wonderful.

The other day completely out of the blue he asked for pocket money to buy new lego when we next went to Cairns and from then on has been requesting more and more 'jobs'. Since that day he has done some tasks daily, others only once and the 'boring' or 'yucky' ones not at all. But that's ok because he's understanding the moral of working as a team and reinforcing just how important his role in our family is as the big brother. 

His eagerness comes with perfect timing as Caleb starts his five working weeks away. The first of many times apart for 2014. It's been daunting for me to say the least. The quiet lonely nights are the worst. During the days I have two children, house duty and full time work with a stack of funding reports due at the end of February. Getting back into work is a welcome relief from the rather lonely days spent up here away from friends, family, cafes, sidewalks, parks and all the other distractions that city life has to offer. I've been flooded with so many different emotions over the last few days and haven't known how to put pen to paper but today Ba'il's enthusiasm and simple acts of compassion have reassured me that we will be ok. 

His little hands are finding their way and inspiring me to do the same as we embark on this journey together. Him as a big brother and me as a remote working mother of two. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

4/52




A portrait of my children, once a week for every week in 2014.

Ba'il - It wouldn't be an Australia Day weekend without the sprinkler on the trampoline. 

Milinh - You found your toes and it's oh so adorable. 

I'm learning very fast that to photograph a child you need to be spontaneous and quick. They don't always like having their photo taken. A big difference I have noticed in Ba'il from this year to last, as a toddler grows into a child. 

A baby on the other hand can lie there all day and smile for the camera so more creativity is needed. I'm attempting to capture Milinh's milestones in my 2014 series. Child and baby, I'm absolutely loving the challenge of documenting their growth throughout this year. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

3/52




A portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2014.

Ba'il - Early summer morning tending to your little garden. 

Milinh - And just like that your rolling and moving. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The home of Ol' Man River.




                                                  











This is the home of Ol' Man River, my rather eccentric father-in-law. He built this home from scratch with his bare hands and bartered and salvaged all of the building materials which have created this abode. Every single one of the stones in the wall were lifted from the river and placed on top of each other to carefully create this home. When my husband first left Melbourne at the age of 12 to live with his dad on the River, this home had bark walls and a hard mud floor. Caleb used to do his homework by the light of a flickering candle. A stark contrast from his Mum's sea side home on the Mornington Peninsula.

 My very first visit to this home was back in 2002 a few weeks after I first met Caleb. It was a cold winter's night and after a long unfamiliar four-wheel-drive trip along a dark dirt road I fell instantly in love with this home and Caleb of course.  I was welcomed by the stone walls, the dim lights, and the open roaring fire place. I adore it's warmth, it's tribalness, it's freedom, it's earth element, and it's rebellion to everything suburban. The walls are adorned with nick nacks collected from around the world and precious artefacts given as gifts. Each feather, crystal, skull, painting and book find their space within the wall joins and support beams. 

Over the years I've seen it transform and grow, just as our family has. We used to bath under the big old tree outside under the stars, we now shower inside in an enclosed stone walled bathroom. The kerosene lamps and candles have been replaced by solar power. Tents were once bedrooms and now we rest inside on sheep skin covered beds under soft cotton mozzie nets. The patio where we used to have early morning coffees is now a sleep out. The front verandah where I used to lay in the hammock with Caleb when I was 18 has now been enclosed and the hammock is no more. 

The walls of this home have seen many good times. People have come and gone from this space, often falling in love with it just as I have. And while there may be months in between our visit here, as soon as I walk through the door I am flooded with decade old memories of love, laughter and tenderness that this home and family have provided me. 



Over 2014 I look forward to documenting more stories of dwellings and the people who live in them especially as my parents move out of our family home of 24 years. There is truly something special about the space we create around us and the walls in which our families are raised.