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Part 1. Los Angeles.

My family and I went to America in February for my 40th birthday. It was my first time visiting there. We had two weeks to play with, and a toddler and a nine-year-old in tow. From Los Angeles, we went to Seattle, Denver, Memphis and San Francisco, before returning to LA and flying back home.

The night before we left Adelaide, I received guidance that America’s cold temps were going to be detrimental to the health of my youngest (he had fallen sick the day before). Then my eldest got sick too, and I felt like the odds were against us. Naturally, I was worried about the kids and thought it best to postpone the holiday, but what do you do when the whole trip, worth thousands, is non-refundable?! Of course, I did not want to cancel; it was the kids’ first international holiday, and not to mention that the last time I had been abroad was over ten years ago.

Despite our terrible start to the trip and reasonable share of crappy moments: the uncomfortable flight over (due to the boys’ sickness), the excessive internal flights (what were we thinking with a heavy itinerary in such a short time with kids ?!), the airport delays (bearable usually, but beyond difficult with kids–I keep mentioning the kids, ha!), paying $500 for a doctor for my youngest, and losing our luggage for 48 hours… our short-lived nightmares paled in significance to our highlights.

We were lucky to have the blissful times that we did, so much so that it blows my mind knowing that I considered canning the trip in the first place.

With a (slight?) delay, I have gotten around to gathering a few images from my travels and writing some captions. This post is the first of a five-part series. Our highs aren’t fully represented in the images that I am sharing. I was too busy experiencing the sights first-hand. I had made a pact with myself to have my experiences without a lens–first time doing so in years. It meant not lugging my big ass camera, a plus. I know that I shocked a few folks (and myself) by not taking the DSLR with me. I did, however, take a Canon ae1 film camera, and shot one roll of film, but it did not turn out. All I have are iPhone shots and my memories. Somehow, it is enough.

So, first up, Los Angeles. This was our stop-over zone only, though we stayed an extra day (in the hotel room!) because of illness.

I’m Just Going to Leave You With This

A couple of days after hearing that Chris Cornell died, I’d planned to pen a short piece on my thoughts but then I read the excellent It’s Not What You Think by Rich Larson, which totally resonated with me — a lot of it I wished that I’d written, and then coupled with Tom Morello’s moving poem, I decided that there was nothing further I needed to say online.

Everyone that has dwelled on the news of his passing appears to have taken away something different from it: a rock era is dying (or has died), prescription medicine contributing to suicidal thoughts needs to be stopped, it was selfish of him to leave his family behind, Eddie Vedder is the last one left… to name a few, but whatever it may be, it’s not the point. Grief is grief, surfacing in different ways among us, and loss is loss, and through social media we have come together to feel this together.

I don’t really know what to take away from Chris Cornell leaving us just yet. Only that I have felt this loss deeper than anticipated. When I think of his departure, I can immediately hear the reverberating, haunting guitar sounds that he pushed onto the audience that I was part of, in 2011, at the end of his Beatles cover, Ticket To Ride. And I remember the way he stepped off the stool, put down his guitar and walked off the stage as if to say, “I’m just going to leave you with this”.

I have not been able to work on my novel since the day that I found out. I know that sounds ridiculous. Because I didn’t know Cornell. (Obviously.) Also, I am not a colossal Soundgarden or Audioslave fan (in fact, I feel about Soundgarden and Chris Cornell exactly as Rich Larson does) so why do I feel so affected?

Just who am I hurting for?

Is it the Seattle scene? Pearl Jam? The Cornell family? Soundgarden and Audioslave fans? My Pearl Jam family? The music industry? Mental illness sufferers?

Perhaps I’m hurting for all of them.

I have read some horrendous articles in the media this week relating to Chris’s decision to suicide (just seeing the words Chris Cornell and suicide in a sentence still sends chills down my spine) that have unnecessary hate angles. One such negative headline being the possible reasons for Eddie Vedder’s silence. I mention that specifically because I am (profoundly) a Pearl Jam fan (their music led me to Cornell) and I found that piece of “news” disrespectful to Cornell, and to the Vedder family, but that’s all I will say on that. I just wish that those people looking for an angle to elicit hate would go and take a long nap and come back when they remember where their heart should be and what the real tragedies are…

Such as feeling so alone that it drives one to death. That’s nothing short of fucking heartbreaking. Prescription drug-induced or not.

I can find a few positives to hold onto during this time. That the grief for him binds people together — new bonds, and strengthening existing ones. That his music reaches more fans. That his memory lives on his music. That his music continues to save people, even though it could not save him.

The only time that I got to photograph Chris Cornell was when Soundgarden were part of Soundwave Adelaide in 2015. One of the pictures that I posted of CC on social media had fans coming together and sharing a few words in their grief, which I was touched by, and so I thought people might like to see all the images that I took from the set.

So I am just going to leave you with this…

Next Steps – Writing and Photography

More kilometres have been added onto my novel journey unfortunately. In its present state (draft two), it doesn’t work, but at least I know it, and I know why, and now all I can do is hunch over my desk and just keep going. I need to make some drastic changes and the thought of the rewrites ahead leave me paralysed with fear. But I can do this.

In other writing news, I dug up a short story of mine from a few years back and I reworked it to the point where I was satisfied with it. I submitted it to one place but it was rejected. That’s fine—it was only one try and I was stoked that I actually submitted something for the first time in years. I left it for months, reworked it again very recently and found another place to submit it to this week. Fingers crossed, yeah? It’s not a traditional short story—it’s a piece of flash fiction at around 700 words, a little vignette if you will.

With my work, I am a bit like a mother duck who is worried about sending her chicks out on their own, but not only that, I have a lot of unfinished bits that aren’t submittable as they are anyway. But times are changing, and I am older, and with that I feel more confident with my writing style and more importantly—my editing skills.

And because I have been out of practice with throwing my work out there, I was surprised at how common it is to pay a reading fee for submissions. A lot of places seemed to require it, and I get the reasons why, but it’s sad that it has come to that, right?

But what is not sad is the incredible two week holiday in America that I was able to go on with my family. I will be writing more about that very soon.

In the meantime, as some folks might have caught on already, I am not shooting weddings right now but my camera is not completely gathering dust–I’m being selective with which photography jobs I take on. Below, the first two images are from my personal collection. The last three are shots that I took for clients.

Last Weekend Of Winter

Too sleep-deprived to string many words together (my youngest hasn’t been sleeping well over the last week) but I wanted to document my as-is backyard yesterday. The camera was it.

If you aren’t looking through the gallery: I found a vintage high-chair, our magnolia tree takes my breath away, I love the influences of Steiner schooling on my eight year old son, and I look forward to our finished pergola.

Back, But Battered…

My blog was offline for a few months after a mishap with my web host. (Mind you, my main website remains offline but that’s because I am still working on its rebuild.) I restored a small selection of posts from a random time but I have lost a lot. Yep, gone. That is the explanation for the missing and sporadic entries, as well as the broken images. I may be able to bring back a few posts from some email archives but more importantly, I need to move on and upload fresh content. It’s good to have this space sorted again. Thanks for your patience.

Update: I discovered that my Goodreads profile keeps an entire copy of my blog posts! It’s only until October 2014 but I am so relieved that I’ve managed to salvage more data. Hurrah!

Out With The Old

“I may have decided to pursue photography but I never told the writer side of me what I’d be doing with him. He was left hanging. Lately, whenever I had spoken about photography to someone and then heard the other person say: ‘And what about your writing — what will happen with that?’ the guilt would surface and boy, was it ever-present. Not a nice feeling.
I did ignore it at first as I thought it would pass. But on the weekend I pulled up a chair for the writer side of me and asked him to deal with it. I told him to go and take an indefinite break. Maybe we will meet up again. But right now, he has to make room for the camera.”

The above is an excerpt from a journal post of mine from 2007.

For those that don’t know, I have wrapped up my wedding photography business indefinitely. I don’t foresee that I will shoot another wedding any time soon, but who knows what the future holds. For now I am focussing on my manuscript (a novel) of which the first draft is completed. I’m currently running through the first round of edits and it hasn’t been easy. Throw motherhood into the mix, and most days it feels impossible.

In the meantime, I have thousands of photos from the last ten years sitting on my storage device and aside from digging one out for a “throwback thursday” on Instagram every once and a while, I’m not sure what to do with them.

It’s no secret that I love getting my hands onto a good project… the perfect venture. If it’s not a Pearl Jam portrait project, then it’s a forum dedicated to inspiring women (back when vBulletin software was all the rage) or a first novel. Out of my love for music and live gigs, a couple of years ago I had thought about starting my own music magazine, but decided it was not the right time to proceed. Just as well, because these days I don’t have the hunger to shoot a concert. (Even getting out to gigs as a spectator has taken a backseat.)

For a while, I looked left, right and centre for a new creative purpose. It was tricky to establish what was merely an interest, or something to pass the time, or what my ego wanted me to pursue. And then about two weeks ago, an idea finally arrived, which came nestled among an entire thought process, and I felt that this was the project I had been waiting for.

(Apologies to those who have already heard about Heal Protect Nourish in my newsletter this week.) The new project is a wellness website with a primary focus on reducing toxins in our bodies and lifestyle. It also involves a gentle advocacy for safe vaccination. The latter was probably the driving force behind creating the project. Vaccination is an icky topic, and I do accept that, but I also believe that there is a tactful way to get sensitive messages across when you have love and kindness in mind. And that’s my general approach. Quite a few people have cautioned me not to tackle such a topic, but, well, in a very non-bullshit way, I felt guided to do it. I’m still working on the website and hope to have it live in a couple of weeks time.

Outside of my inner world, the bubs is starting solids, the hubby and I have been pinning ideas for the extension on our home, one of the cats (Ivy) has left the abode for good, and I gotta say it — Pearl Jam’s current American tour seems phenomenal so far (thanks to the tease of social media).

You’re There, I’m Here #3

This is the third post from the project series You’re There, I’m Here.

[My friend Donnie suggested an idea for a collaborative project where we each take a photograph outdoors on the same day. The purpose is to showcase the contrast in our surroundings as we are 16,504 kilometres apart.]

See all posts here.

MARCH 20, TWENTY SIXTEEN

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Jennifer: Twenty days into autumn, this is my back door, some metres away from the house, through our fig tree, way after dusk. Though it’s home, it’s a perspective that I’m not familiar with.

Donnie: On the first day of spring, there in the back side of an old wall, atop rickety steps and weathered wood rails, was a door that someone had felt the need to proclaim as new. For a while I debated the truth of the scrawled words, then I realized that ultimately, a door is a door, and opening it is a new beginning.

—-
My image probably looks a bit eerie, could be King’s latest book cover even, but to be honest it had been a strange day, and the vibe had stuck around for the evening. Earlier that day I had visited my paternal grandmother at the nursing home, and speaking of unfamiliar perspectives, it truly saddens me to write that I just don’t recognise her anymore–she is suffering from Alzheimer’s. I was also waiting on news from my maternal grandmother’s back surgery after she’d had a fall. On top of that, one of my cats went and ‘fashioned’ this horrible gash on her back, most likely from a fight with another cat, and I was worried about it, and needed to take her to the vet. (Mind you, she looked like an animal extra from The Walking Dead.)
And so I had intended to capture some sort of well-isn’t-it-lovely-that-autumn-is-finally-here moment, and how refreshing the cool is in the evenings now, but it didn’t work out that way. Then again, that is one of the things I like about photography: you never know what you’re gonna get. Come to think of it, that’s very similar to my writing process, too.

Donnie and I don’t share beforehand what we’re planning to shoot, and so I love that we both ended up in front of a door. I can always appreciate a nice dose of synchronicity.

See Donnie’s post here.

You’re There, I’m Here – #2

This is the second post from the project series You’re There, I’m Here. The first can be found here.

DECEMBER 24, TWENTY FIFTEEN
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Adelaide: A subtly-lit gumtree at dusk that Jennifer tried not to take for granted on Christmas eve.
Lexington: A bright Santa made Donnie take notice of the dreary weather on Christmas eve.

I had aimed to get my shot outside the hall where my extended family always get together on Christmas eve. However, the surroundings were a little banal. I took a few shots anyway, totally uninspired, and then I saw a dandelion head in the air. I liked the idea that perhaps an angel was nearby and so I tried to follow it and shoot at the same time. A photo didn’t work out, but during my movement a gumtree (that I had initially passed off as ordinary) got my attention in the end…

I know that my photograph doesn’t exactly scream Christmas. But I love that the floating dandelion was my reminder to live in the moment during the Christmas chaos, therefore making me really feel the spirit of the festive season.

See Donnie’s version here.

You’re There, I’m Here – #1

My friend Donnie suggested an idea for a collaborative project where we each take a photograph outdoors on the same day. The purpose is to showcase the contrast in our surroundings — with perhaps an emphasis on the season — as we are 16,504 kilometres apart.

This post is the first from our project series called, You’re There, I’m Here.
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Adelaide: Late-spring grapes begin to grow from a vine that is over a 100 years old.*
Lexington: Late-autumn leaves were aglow in a backyard.

Donnie’s post is here.

*My family and I have been at this property for only 18 months and it was our neighbour that informed us about the age of the vine. The grapevine is planted right on the boundary between our home and the neighbour’s. Years back, when there were plans to put up the adjoining fence, our neighbour didn’t want to see the vine destroyed as a result. He arranged for the fence to be erected on his side of the boundary — for the love of preserving the vine.

My husband had never pruned a grapevine before. He winged it during the first spring at this home, and a couple of sizeable bunches sprung forth. Since then, he has become quite the avid gardener. He tried a new pruning technique this year and consequently there are grape bunches sprouting everywhere. However, time will tell whether his research paid off, or if there are in fact too many grapes on the vine…

PS – Following on from my last blog post, I now have a baby boy and a finished first draft of my novel. I am still amazed at both accomplishments. I have shared details of these two significant happenings on my Instagram profile. Next step on baby front: enjoy every moment with him as he is already six weeks old! Next step on manuscript front: take it out of the drawer where it has been germinating for the last seven weeks and begin the first edit. (When I’m not feeding, changing nappies, and sleep-rocking.)