Another Summer in Lake Tahoe

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I lay on my stomach on the bow of the boat, my hands dipping into the cool water when it surges. I am riding the gentle waves of the lake and all feels perfect. The sun is hot on my back and Alba is fast asleep. The patterns of the waves put me into a trance. I am smiling at everything.

The lake house where we are staying is a mansion of a cabin. Our bedroom window overlooks the woods and as I lay with Alba I watch for grizzly bears. The backyard dips down into the lake, reflecting the bright blue of the sky. It is cleansing after the last few days of smog in LA, and the stressful flight from Australia before that.

Alba runs across the lawn after a butterfly. She is quick on her feet now, I watch her and I see flashes of the little girl she is becoming. She pulls me into a hug and my eyes close tightly as our faces touch. All of her unexpected affection reminds me to be deserving and good. I know I am not always deserving. Doing this trip alone seemed a small thing back at home, but I’m quickly realising I was wrong.

It’s strange to think that I am here because of my passion. Because a young actress in Hollywood fell in love with my photographs when I was still in highschool and her Mama flew me over to visit. Now that glowing girl is Alba’s Sunmother and her family are like my own family. The luxury of this lifestyle is a contrast against the world of my upbringing, and I can appreciate both worlds.

I spend a lot of time watching the chefs cook. They are a beautiful pair who make the most beautiful food. There are always delicious dishes in excess for every meal and I give my appreciation in excess too, because I understand the hard work that goes into creating it. I eat slowly, savouring everything, remembering where it came from. The bags of organic produce from the markets on the counter, the berries being washed gently beneath the tap, the kale being massaged, the radicchio being peeled layer by layer, the dough being kneaded.

Nick and Alba dote on one another here and I am thankful for it. Alba traces the colourful tattoos on his arms, asking “drawing?” and he says “yes baby, drawing”. When she falls over he scoops her up and kisses her better and tells her he loves her. One afternoon she falls asleep on his chest on the trampoline on the lake and the moment is bursting with tenderness. He leaves earlier than the rest of us, and that day she runs to his cabin and stands outside his door calling “Nih” over and over but he’s already flying home to LA.

Alba takes a while to warm to everyone. I can understand her shyness, everyone and everything is new. But I still long for her to be trusting. To have my own space to breathe. Thankfully, at the end of the week she is completely at home, running around making everyone laugh, picking flowers to give away and talking in her own language to her new friends.

She’s learning new words every day, like strawberry and drawing and boat and cuddle and water, and it is amazing to hear her speak. When we skype with her Papa she spends the whole time covering the screen in kisses meant for him. How can it be that she is only one? It feels like she has been with us for so many years.

We take canoes out on the water. From the middle of the lake I take pictures and as I watch my friends through the lens I realise how important they are. They are so different to me in many ways, but I love them. I feel accepted here. I wish I could have a circle of friends this strong with me always, but instead they are scattered all over the planet.

One night I am particularly lonely. Alba is asleep and I am sitting on the grass by the water. It is late, the air is cold and my skin is goosebumped beneath my jacket. I am surrounded by beauty but I am too overcome with longing to notice. I miss my love and parenting alone has been tough.

Whenever I am feeling down I remind myself that I have the power to change it. So I run inside and see if anyone wants to go swimming with me. Most think I’m crazy, but two boys and Zelda’s Mum say they’ll come. We run down the dock and strip off. I throw myself into the cold air and then the icy water hits me hard, chews me and swallows me.

The water is so cold it feels incredible. I can’t stop giggling. I swim out in the blackness, laughing and feeling totally alive. After a while everyone gets out and I swim to the trampoline on the lake and jump into the night sky. When I join the others in the spa afterwards my teeth are still chattering but all my sadness is gone.

Everything is always so peaceful at the lake house, just like I remember. In the evenings Marsha is doing puzzles on the deck, the chefs are busy making dinner, music is playing and my friends are talking around the fire with glasses of wine. Being around them reminds me that I am 20, that the yearning for experience and connection is still unsettled in my chest. I am the youngest here and it’s strange how I can feel like a Mother and a child at the same time.

I hug Marsha for a long time when we leave. I can’t find the right words for how grateful I am to her so I try to put it all into my embrace. I don’t want to say goodbye so I tell everyone I will see them again soon. Alba kisses her tiny palm and blows a kiss goodbye.

We fly back to LA, sunkissed and happy-hearted, with more adventure to come.

 

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  1. 7shelby7

    The one of Marsha holding Alba brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful photos, Nirrimi.

  2. Alex

    I’ve been following your blog for like ever..i remember waiting for your baby so well, its been as if you were really close friends of mine. Now I haven`t been here for a while though but nevertheless coming back feels so familiar! I love every single one of your pictures! They`re so full of emotion, passion and beauty of life that I seriously have tears in my eyes everytime I look at them! The most beautiful thing though is your baby! She became the cutest girl ever, I wish you guys allllll the best for your future!

  3. Monica

    Hey there! Your photos are beautiful! I wonder what lens did you use?

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June, 2013

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I am writing this from Los Angeles a month late, and all of this seems a world away. Alba is sleeping with her head on my chest and her Papa is on the other side of the world. Life changes suddenly for me, there is no order. Sometimes I write notes in my phone when the feeling strikes me, so instead of trying to recollect I’ll share those from June.

(These images are from our trip to our family in North Queensland, and a visit to the community gardens near our new home. I wish I took more photos. I was disconnected from photography this month.)

While I sing Alba to sleep on the highway, with her small hand in mine, a thought strikes me and makes my voice tremble mid-lullaby. My voice holds more power than it ever has. The sound is calming her and may always be a source of comfort.
I often forget just how important I am to her, how the details of my face are more familiar to Alba than they are to me. How my mood colors her day. The patterns of my clothing are a part of the landscape of her world. I am home to her more than anywhere on Earth and I will always be her Mother.
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In our new home the past has followed us. It is there in the dreamcatchers I made from twigs from the Blue Mountains hanging above our bed, the polaroids on the bookshelf of when we first fell in love, the worn teddy that was mine when I was as small as Alba is now. I love to remember it all, to stay up late with Matt retelling our shared and seperate pasts.
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I’ve never been content with being content. The excitement that stirs in my chest is my drug. Yet when I feel the lows of living without stability, it’s all I want.
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I lay on the grass at the community gardens and Alba runs down the path dragging my bag, she pulls out my camera and lifts the heavy thing to her face to take a photograph. I wonder if she will be a documenter too.
My little girl is growing up. Not fast, like everyone said she would, but slowly and perfectly in her own time. She spends days with my auntie and cousins now. When I call her my baby I pause and wonder if she really still is.
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In the backseat of the car on the way to the hospital I hold a gauze pad over Alba’s burst blister. It is so swollen and big I can’t look. Pus and blood trickle stickily down my arm. I cry quietly, so Matt can’t hear me. My girl has been in pain for days now. I can bear my own pain, but hers cripples me.
Soon I can no longer keep quiet, I cry with all of her heartbreak and pain to come. Motherhood weighs me with sadness, with the same intensity that it fills me with light.
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I trace the places where my body stretched. Softly beneath my breasts as they became heavy with milk, less softly across my sides as I grew a human being in my womb. Not so long ago I traced these places with disappointment and longing. All too influenced by the image obsession of our society and my industry. But now as a Mama I finally accept my body. And I am happy to have a body, to have life, to feel love.

 

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  1. Claudia - DesignClaud

    Hello, A while ago I met you in Bali. You were staying in a villa in Ubud and the day we left, lots of photograph friends were coming for a month to you guys. Anyways, love your website and photography! Beautiful! Good luck and I hope you had a great time in Bali!

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