It feels as though years have passed since I’ve sat down with a blank screen, a white and endless space to fill. For a woman who spends a huge amount of her life neck-deep in service, it’s a thrilling prospect.
The new year came and went; I made goals, drunk on that fresh January feeling, just like everybody else. A journal pulled out in lieu of the absentminded scroll, a handful of habits to kick, a book order to place, some new things I wanted to learn. The newness felt good though the oldness humbled me into place: Discarded band aids stuck to the floor that fill me, still, with an improper amount of rage. The desire, at the very end of the day, for not a single breathing soul to be interested in me. The dishwasher and my repetitive affair with it.
January fools me into thinking that if I make plans, our year will unfold correctly. But as always, a phone will ring with a devastating diagnosis, we’ll wade through hard conversations in our messy kitchens well into the night, deadlines will need to be wrapped up, a friend will be hurt by us, our marriage will need tending to at the most inconvenient of times — all because life sees to it that we’re aware we’re not in control long enough for us to feel the free fall of it.
And eventually – learn to go with it.
See the magic in it.
Start to trust it.
But it happens in the in-between. When we’re booking our cars in for services, looking up tabbouleh recipes, squeezing sunscreen out of dried-up tubes, wondering how people are supposed to stay on top of things.
I wondered how to launch into this fresh year, what to start writing about after I gorged myself on Outlander and only came up for air because the seasons ran out. To quote Mr Willoughby from season three, “A story told is proof of a life lived.”
Perhaps this is why any of us write. Take photographs. Make art. Because we want evidence that we were there. That what we did and who we were and what we made of life go somewhere, instead of dust. Is it in vain – to tell stories?
Do they matter?
Are we silly to think it’s important – documenting our lives, our minds, our hearts like this?
It does matter. Not because doing so makes the outcome any different – one day we will become unknown, once more; our lives and minds dust, the people we once loved all gone, too. We don’t tell stories to make our lives permanent, or matter more. We tell them because of how we experience life when we turn it into a story. In other words, we write and photograph not for the outcome but for the process.
Is that not the same for everything in life? I am learning to garden not for the tomato – I can easily buy that from the shop – but from who I become when my hands are brown with dirt, the tending leaves me in awe, soft, patient, the learning keeps me curious, growing, engaged. It matters not what the end result of life is – even if it’s nothing. What matters is how we spent it in between and how, when we turn our lives into stories and art, it makes it richer, more full, and beautiful. Mary Oilver once said that to pay attention was our endless and proper work. Paying attention amplifies our experience. That is the point, and the gift.
I love to do a highlight wrap-up of each year, it’s a great exercise in gratitude – photographs that actually pull me through them, into the moment again – how it felt to be there and that what I work so hard for is good.
I spent most of the month hunched over a bucket. Ella started school and she barely looked back.
We celebrated Billy’s 3rd birthday and his love of whales with an Under The Sea party.
And then headed to Seaward for extra icing.
Valentines day rolled around and I used my love of Hallmark to make things special.
Baby had its first photograph.
Ella celebrated her 5th birthday with a kid’s day spa party and we celebrated her My Little Pony obsession with a cheat cake because I was still spending most of my days clutching a vomit bowl.
The month Joel had also been waiting Ella’s entire life for: the age she could start aikido.
We found out we were having a baby girl.
I started to feel better and indulged the kids in last-of-summer things like lemonade stands.
And autumn-ifying our future plans.
We took a short farmstead to Maleny,
Ella lost her first tooth,
We made easter bonnets for school,
and we jumped into all the easter traditions we so love.
We welcomed new baby chicks,
and our kids – Ella especially – went through some heartbreaking learning about life and death.
We watched bumps grow,
and did autumn tradition things like eating cinnamon donuts at our favourite autumn leaves place.
Winter started and with it our winter traditions – first marshmallow toasted,
annual ice skating,
our first strawberry pick of the season.
Bonfires at my brother’s property,
A special whale watching trip,
Nesting for our soon-to-arrive baby girl,
School holidays spent doing lots of crafts,
After which Ella left mainstream schooling and we enrolled her to start at a Montessori school.
Soaking up the last weeks of just me and Billy days,
packing labour bags,
and finally meeting our baby girl.
Settling in to our new life with Georgie,
Ella’s first aikido demonstration,
and we watch the ever-beautiful jacaranda season unfold.
We continued to fall in love hard with our baby,
and we celebrated Halloween with pumpkin carving and Superhero trick-or-treating, courtesy of Billy’s deep infatuation.
The month we spend Christmasify our home, planning advents and gearing up for our beloved month of December.
And lastly – December.
Oh, December. When we jump right into all our beloved traditions and feel so grateful for these children of ours who make it all so special.
These years we’re in are loud and full – the ones of raising small children, renovating houses, chasing ambitions, building a life. They whizz by at rapid speed and we do our very best to just jump in and hold on, if for nothing but the sheer thrill of the ride.
Our stories told are proof of this life we work hard to live.
“Ma sighed gently and said, “A whole year gone, Charles.” But Pa answered, cheerfully: “What’s a year amount to? We have all the time there is.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder