Category Archives: Photos

How is it Almost December?

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As quickly as November was ushered in, it has been rushed out. Things seem to be moving faster now, and I find myself worrying again about time. Where did this year go? How is it possible we’re a month today from Christmas? I’m running out of time.

Healing

But recovering from this broken wrist has forced me to slow down, to sit. To ponder. I’ve spent mornings reading, enjoyed lunches at my mate’s cafe, afternoons writing and walking the dog, and casual dinners with friends. I tried to listen to what my body needed, and taking care of myself has reignited my creative spark.

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There’s a real buoyancy and energy I’ve felt as I’ve progressed through the stages of healing. I’m still months off regaining reasonable movement in my wrist, but it’s slowly coming along. Each time I am able to do something for the first time again, I take note. Three seconds of downward dog? Check. Putting my hand on my hip? Check. I am feeling reenergised in a way that had eluded me before. I can’t put my finger on why, but I’m not questioning it. More please!

The Land

This land recharges my spirit in a way that I so desperately needed. The overexposed summer days. The infinite blues of the sky. The cool green/blue waters. The smell of an impending thunderstorm. The purple Jacaranda flowers carpeting the green lawns. The searing heat with kiln-like winds blowing in from western NSW. The colours are the first thing I miss when I’m overseas. They cannot be duplicated, replicated.

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The New Year

I’m returning to the Bay Area in the new year, but not before I have my fill of blinding sunshine and roasting hot sands of summer. I am looking forward to going back, but know that it’ll be harder to leave Sydney, my family and friends this time around. It gets infinitely harder every time.

Early Morning Plane Spotting and Thoughts on MH17

Being a night owl, I rarely get out to the airport in the early morning. But on Thursday, I was on pick-up duty, so I dragged myself out of bed a little earlier to make it down to my favourite spot before I was due at the Arrivals hall. Vietnam Airlines Lost parcel Botany Bay It was the morning before we heard the tragic news about MH17. As I watched the stream of airliners touch down at Sydney Airport, I guess — in retrospect — I was happy.  I stood alone at my favourite spot, a rusting chain link fence separating me from the runway a few metres away. I silently thanked the person who had strategically left milk crates so I was able to get a clear shot of the beautiful machines between the fence and the recently added barbed wire on top. Without my favourite lens and shooting directly into the hazy Sydney light, these photos weren’t going to be my best, but I didn’t care. I was out doing what I love, admiring the grace of these planes as they raced by me in the pink-tinged morning light, past the golden grasses and the calm waters of Botany Bay. Yet another moment to bottle for posterity. Qantas747Sydney Tower Sydney Airport Korea777 Planes, for me, are inherent symbols of freedom and adventure. They’re stunning pieces of man-made technology and seem to have distinct personalities. I love to know where they’re heading, thinking about who could be onboard and what they’re all going to do at their destination. It’s partly an exercise in imagination, and it makes me appreciate these machines on a more human level: as a vessel for hundreds of tales of love, loss and adventure. Each of those on the flight leaves behind or are arriving home to the big, juicy hugs of loved ones. They’re all of varying age, education, social status. Some are mere babes in the safe arms of their parents, others are enjoying the twilight of their youth, others for business. Some travel alone, others in groups. But they’re all valid, and real.

As I processed these photos, I thought about what is left after a tragedy like MH17. What it means for the people involved, but also for those on the ground and those left behind. What society will lack without these people. SydneyAirport34L JapanAirlines777 Over the last few days, we’ve heard a handful of the stories of those onboard. The half dozen of notable AIDS researchers aboard the flight, men and women who had devoted their lives to helping others. A grandfather ferrying his three grandchildren home from a family holiday in Europe so the parents could have a few days to themselves in Amsterdam. Six members of a Malaysian family who were relocating back to KL after living in Kazakhstan for three years. And a Queensland couple who — through enormous odds — lost both their son and daughter-in-law in the disappearance of MH370 in March, and now their step-granddaughter and her husband on MH17 this week.

Each of these passengers on MH17 have had their stories cut short in a most brutal and tragic manner. Their family and friends are left to grieve and to close their stories as best they can into a neat little bow. Though such an ending could never be classed as neat. The macabre details and images that have been documented serve to remind us that these people existed, but none have taken the time to put the tragedy into context, preferring only to reveal gruesome photos for shock value. We’re doing these people a disservice by only reporting part of their story.

I feel we should be trying to understand that each of these bodies unceremoniously strewn in fields thousands of kilometres from home represented a person, a life. Events like this ask us to consider what is important to us. And it’s also a not-so-subtle reminder that we — just like those passengers on MH17 — could be taken at any time.

Memento mori: remember that you will die.

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Today My Grandma is 90

Today is my Grandma’s 90th birthday. And it’s not everyday you make such a significant birthday and I’m very thankful I am at home to celebrate with her. In a few hours, we’re going to be having a high tea for her.

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I was allotted the task of compiling the photos to display at the event. And I came across some amazing ones from the family archives — it was wonderful seeing all the photos of her as a young girl, new bride and new mother.

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L-R: Grandpa, Elvie (Grandma’s little sister), Grandma

One of the things she loved to do back in the day was cruise around in the sidecar of my Grandpa’s motorbike. This is a pic of her lunching on her honeymoon at the Entrance in 1953. I love that she was a bit of a badass in her day, because the only way I’ve ever really seen was as ‘Grandma’.

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Happy 90th Grandma! Love you lots.

Climbing Pigeon House Mountain, NSW

IMG_4931aWhen I was studying a few months ago, I taped a list of things I wanted to post-uni to my wardrobe door. I added to it when inspiration struck and it gave me an extra push, knowing that I could achieve all of those marvellous things once I was finished. And one of these grand plans was hiking Pigeon Mountain on the south coast of New South Wales, three hours from Sydney. My sister and I hatched a plan for Easter and cleared our schedules. Now the time had come to finally tick it off my list.

We were up at dawn, the earliest I’d seen of the AM hours in a while. My sister – a morning person – drove. The first half of the journey was filled with sleepy-headed silence and nostalgia of all the trips that had come before it. The field beside the highway where giant sunflowers used to bloom now lays sadly idle.

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We passed through a town that gave way into small rural allotments, then small farms. We saw cows crossing, lawns of lavender and the beehives that produce the Pigeon Mountain honey I love. The wide open paddocks were the shades of vibrant greens after the previous month’s record-breaking rains – a rare sight in a drought-prone nation. The sealed road gave way to a wide dirt surrounded by protected bushland. This marked the start of our off-roading journey.

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“The first part is hardest. So we’ll power through and then take a rest when we get to next section of the hike,” she said as we pulled into the car park. We were in the southern section of the Morton National Park, 27km down a dirt road, and miles from civilisation. We were effectively in the middle of nowhere and it felt like it.

The rating on the trek from the National Park and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was ‘hard’ and suggested four hours each way for the journey of 5km.  There were to be no sherpas on this expedition so I was conscious of not overpacking. I settled for some food, four litres of water, a first aid kit, a camera and a light jumper.

It was a chilly 12 degrees Celsius (53F) and the sun had not yet reached us on the south-western face of the mountain. We each put in our ear buds, and set off with little ceremony or fanfare.

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The first section of the trail was steep, the track was wide. The NPWS had formed uneven steps into the terrain to assist hikers and help prevent erosion. Trees stood at arms length from each other as though they were fearful of contact. But this soon changed as we climbed higher, giving way to more dense eucalypt and ash forest and small grey boulders to scramble around.

We climbed in silence, each listening to the music that motivated us. I listened to a mix I’d made to run along the Lakeshore Trail in Chicago, so I spent the first part of the climb reliving recent memories and trying to recall the sights and sounds of my regular run. The volume on my iPod was turned way down so I could (potentially) hear the slithering of snakes on the path and the clomp of oncoming groups. Being that I was in two places at once, this section passed pretty quickly.

We emerged at a slight clearing and stopped for some water. Just off the main track was a large boulder, and so we ventured out on to it to soak in the view. We caught sight of our destination – Pigeon House Mountain – rising up before us, but it looked so far away.

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We resumed our steady pace and in a few minutes came into what was definitively the second stage of the trail. It was mostly flat, scrubby bushland that ran the length of the natural ridge that led up to the next stage of the hike. In spring, this section of the track is wall-to-wall wildflowers, but in autumn, the only spot of colour came from a handful of orange grevilleas.

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The scrub gives way to heath along the third section. As we climbed higher, the trees became taller and more dense, the track less sandy. This part of the trail was more of a muddy, temperate forest and it was here I was able to test out the waterproof quality of my new hiking boots.

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This was my favourite part of the trail: still steep-ish and entertaining but with interesting views through the canopy. It was up here we heard the call of a lyrebird. I’d recently watched a documentary that showed the phenomenal ability of the lyrebird to imitate the call of other birds as well as human sounds (such as the click of a camera, a car alarm and a chainsaw), so it was special to be able to hear it in the wild.

At the base of the sandstone cliff face that made up the peak was a series of ladders. This was final stage of our ascent and we were making great time. An old man we passed on the trail spoke of his memories hiking Pigeon as a much younger man, when the only way to reach the peak was via a series of ropes. I’ll take ladders over ropes any day!

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The ladders were ice-cold to the touch (which is always preferable to red-hot) and relatively easy to manage even though we both struck our shins on them multiple times. Two of the original steel ladders are still in use today.

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At the top of the ladders, we had to scramble over a few boulders to reach the summit. It was a relatively clear day and we could see as far south as Tuross and as far north as Jervis Bay. From above, the Budawang Valley looked similar to the Blue Mountains – with its wide valleys, long plateaus and colours.

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We had reached the summit, but I was not as enraptured as I thought I would be. Few things are as enjoyable in the moment as they are for me in memory. But I took five minutes to commit the views and my feelings about achieving this to memory, snapped a few photos and turned for home.

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The return journey was fast, comparatively, and we passed plenty of groups on their way up: young couples, old folks, families with young children, and one ultra-marathoner. When we set out, the carpark had only three other cars and over 20 when we returned. We weren’t the only people with this idea over the Easter long weekend.

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We made great time on the trail, too. Instead of the return journey taking us 8 hours, we managed to complete the trail in 2h16m (perhaps the NPWS were just erring on the side of caution?).

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When you rely on cars or public transport every day, the simple act of using your own feet can bring a great sense of achievement. It’s a great reminder for me to use my abilities to achieve bigger things, more often.

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Where the Forest Meets the Lake Meets the Sea

It took less than two hours from the time I touched down at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport to the time we were packed and in the car, headed down the coast to Lake Conjola. I shook off the Chicago winter, popped on my thongs/flip-flops and threw myself into the southern hemisphere summer. IMG_1994A IMG_1997A It’s a part of the world where the forest meets the lake meets the sea. You can see how much the trees have grown since I last took a photo from the above spot, too. Another reminder that time has moved on here whilst I’ve been gone. IMG_2001A IMG_2003 When you find yourself in sunshine this bright, it makes the past — and the present — feel like a dream. Was I ever in Chicago? Was it a regular -12C only a day or two ago?  Now my legs are being whipped by a refreshing southerly. I emerge from the cool blue waters of the Tasman Sea refreshed, reenergised.

For me, homesickness can only be cured by a trip back. And a big part of returning is soaking up the colours that I only seem to be able to find in Australia: the infinite blue skies, the spectrum of greens in the flora, the pinky tinge to the Sydney sunlight, the blues-greens-and-inbetweens of the ocean. These colours, this salty air and Mediterranean food recharges my spirit.  IMG_1998A IMG_2004AIMG_2002a

It’s great to be back.

At the Edge of the World: Navy Pier, Chicago

Chicago’s Navy Pier is a happening place in summer. Warm summer breezes straight off Lake Michigan, ice cream stands, Ferris wheel rides. But for me, there’s something so beautiful and haunting about visiting places that define summer near-abandoned in the winter time. 

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We took a jaunt down the road to Navy Pier the other day, in the midst of a snowstorm. Minus 12C. There were a handful of people around, but very quickly they dispersed and we spent our time almost alone as we wandered around the concourse. It was eerily quiet.

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The ice cream stands had closed before the first snow all those months ago. No one was sitting outside in the sun, sipping margaritas. It was grey, isolated, frozen. Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the Chicago River was completely solid, the river cruise boats tied up to the docks until it thaws out and the crowds return. And to me, it felt like the edge of the world.

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