Category Archives: Writing

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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The Creative Catalyst

I’m not someone who has a lot of faith, but the little faith I do have, I put into searching for moments. And occasionally the moments that I seek, and that I desire, arrive.

Since returning home to Australia, my creativity has flatlined. Life has taken up the space where creativity grows, numerous half-finished projects before me with little insight into how they will be finished. Images of never achieving that to which I aspire gain greater clarity with each passing day. It’s as though I feel the gravitational spin of the earth more acutely and have a greater awareness that time is running out. But the act of writing something, anything, lately has brought me pain and I’ve wanted to avoid it. So, for the most part, I have.

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The catalyst

The last week, I watched a short film. But it was not the subject matter that inspired me, but the experience. It stirred something in me. Like an old car – coughing, spluttering – my creative soul awoke. After hunting around for it, finding something that truly inspires me gives me such a thrill! Great ideas were released, unleashed, and my hand struggled to keep up the pace as they poured forth.

Inspiration = elation, energy, excitement

This new inspiration has produced great feelings of elation, energy and excitement. By opening myself up to new experiences, it proved a catalyst for unlocking the next layer, one that I had been labouring in vain to unlock for myself.

For me, creativity doesn’t work like that — something you can flip on with a switch. My creativity needs external input and action and laughter and sadness and elation and moments of brevity. Maybe that’s what it is I seek when I travel: Moments of magic, moments like this.

And so I dance: a choreographed movement of starting and stopping, of being inspired and searching for the inspiration, of squandering time and trying to improve my inner discipline. I’ve not known anything different. Only with each sequence comes greater urgency, greater force.

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A new period of creativity

But right now, I am in tune with my own ability to create and I am celebrating being back in this space and being inspired. But this is not the easy part. Actually harnessing the energy to sit down and write is tough. It requires moments of reflection, development, problem solving, projection, discussion, revision. But it’s what I love to do. It’s what drives me. And I know I’m not alone in finding the whole process challenging.

I opened my ideas book to see I’ve already had at least ten other ideas of varying degrees of awesomeness, and they’re all worth pursuing in some fashion. So now, I’m switching off, plugging in to the world of my characters and trying to see where they will take me.

Signal by Coffee Cup

I think there might be spies in my building.
Spies who communicate with other spies through the placement of coffee cups left on security checkpoints.

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And what makes this really odd is that there’s no McDonald’s even close to my work.

Bouncing Back

One minute, you’re walking along making to do lists in your head and planing out the rest of your day, then suddenly you’re falling down a drain and sprawling forward, unable to even get your hands up in time before your head kisses the concrete. That was my Friday.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting multiple doctors to assess the extent of my injuries and following up with the HR department of the company who owns the car park. Instead of tofu tacos and drinks with friends last night, I was wrapped up in my PJs on the couch icing my knee and bathing my grazes. It was where I needed to be.

But even in the middle of the maelstrom, I was thankful. I was counting my lucky stars that I didn’t break any bones or suffer any greater injuries, like tearing my ACL or getting a head injury. I was thankful for the kindness of strangers like the two nurses who helped me and I remembered to thank them in the moment. And in a strange way, I am thankful that it happened to me and not people who would have been less able to weather such an experience. Under strain, I was able to practice all the things I’ve been working on: clarity, breathing, gratitude and mindfulness.

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And today, I am feeling better. Still sore and suffering from lack of sleep (from my left side being too tender to sleep on), but okay. I have been plodding along not expecting something unexpected such as this to happen to me. It’s a good reminder for all of us to expect the unexpected. 

So now, I am sitting outside on the deck, a cuppa in one hand and the sun warming my face. I am thankful that I am okay in the grand scheme of things and that I can get on with life and know I am heading in the right direction.

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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.

My Chicago: my new short film

I’ve been home for a few months now and thoughts on my experience living in Chicago have had time to crystallise. As they took shape, I found I was inspired to make a short film — my first solo effort — and one I call ‘My Chicago’.

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Initial thoughts about Chicago

For me, Chicago was always a ‘why not?’ destination, instead of a ‘YES!’ destination. I stressed about the cold, the snow and the ice; wondered how people were able to go out and perform daily functions, such as commuting to work and grocery shopping in the middle of blizzards. I had little idea how I’d manage living in a climate vastly different to what I was used to, but I was willing to give it a red hot go.

Initially, I found the city abrupt and unforgiving and it appeared the feeling was mutual. But I gave it some time, and before I knew it the city grew on me. It grew on me far more than I could have every imagined. I made myself a life in yet another new city, learned to dress for (and deal with!) the cold and make new friends. I dove into the freshwater Lake Michigan, ran down the Lakefront trail and visited the animals at the free Lincoln Park Zoo only five-minute walk from my apartment. I spent nights at Kingston Mines, afternoons learning yoga, and weekends playing netball and watching baseball. I went to museums, navigated the public transport and spent countless hours wandering Lincoln Park to photograph the row houses. And after surviving the Polar Vortex, I can survive anything that’s thrown my way!

The people are what make Chicago extra-special

I encountered wonderful people in Chicago — real, like-minded people — who were so friendly and welcoming of me. These are the kind of people who stop you on the train to tell you that you’re looking good, those who say what they think and those who love a laugh. After those initial tough first weeks, it was like a giant hug from the Midwest acknowledging that it was glad I was here. I feel indebted to the great people I met at #703 and the Chicago Netball Club and who made my experience so memorable.

I cried when I left. In fact, I cried a lot. I was incredibly emotional leaving it all behind and that surprised me. Elements of Chicago had become part of me, and I’d like to think elements of myself had also been exchanged in return. That’s the mark of a great city: somewhere you’re sad to leave. I stand on this side of the experience and love the city as though it was my own.

Acknowledgments

The Hanovers — thank you for those initial weeks and for a wonderful Christmas sledding and eating and laughing. I miss having you guys so close!
The Williams Family – thanks again for your hospitality, the opportunities and for the loan of that phenomenal winter jacket.
To Olivia and the girls (and guys) at the Chicago Netball Club – thanks for your friendship on and off the court. It was great getting to know you all, and I hope to return soon to play another season.
To #703 – thanks for all going out of your way to make me feel a part of the team and for being so patient with my millions of questions. I enjoyed my time with you all immensely, and really miss working with each of you. And my taste in music has undergone some refinement after closing regularly – I listen to a lot more Robyn and Chvrches!
And to Kat — thank you so much for taking a gamble on me. I really made your apartment my own and was thankful for having met you. I think you’ll see just how much I enjoyed my time at St James in my film.

My Chicago

I dream of returning to live in Chicago again, one day.
But perhaps just for the summer months …

So, without further ado, here’s My Chicago: