One day my sweet friend Claire drove me & Ashlin out of town. The winter wind drew goosebumps on Ash’s skin while we photographed so we wrapped her in a blanket between shots. We watched the sky change colours and saw the light change along with it. I realised how glad I am to be a photographer, to get the chance to embrace so many sunsets and idyllic places. To soak in the world’s beauty.
A hundred feelings, a hundred faces, a hundred places. I am living lifetimes inside single years. I am strong, powerful and brave. I am confused, alone and afraid. I am lost but I am finding myself. I have come so far but I still have so far to go.
I nurse my broken heart and broken dreams lightly, often forgetting they are there at all. I escape my past by embracing my present. When the dark quiet of night washes over the world nothing can distract me from my pain. But then the day comes and sets everything alight, reminding me of all there is to be grateful for. Everything is going to be okay, better than okay.
Sometimes in the middle of the night I will reach out for him and my hands will find no one. Sometimes I feel alone when I am surrounded by people because none of them truly understand me. Sometimes I am worried and I long for someone to hold me again and tell me they will take care of everything, that I don’t need to worry about a thing. But it is just me now and I have to be strong. There are times when my shoulders buckle under the weight but they don’t break. I’ve got this.
I look at him, remember studying his features with endless fascination, and I realise I see him through different eyes now. In some ways I can’t recognise him any longer. His arms no longer hold the safety they once did, his eyes no longer hold the affection. We are both different people now.
It’s strange how someone can be your world one day and almost a stranger another day. Some nights I would do anything to be back in our mountain home where I knew everything was going to work out, that our love was invincible and everlasting. In those moments it was, and the ending didn’t diminish its magic. But that chapter is long finished now, leaving space for new chapters to be written.
From my hometown we drive to Crystal Creek. On the way we pass a little produce stand and pick up some ripe fruit. We swim in the pool beside the waterfall, hot sun on our skin and cool water swallowing our bodies. We open pomelos with a pocket knife and the insides shine like little pink jewels.
We set up the tent in the trees by the water. From inside we watch and hear the waterfall and it makes its way into my dreams. When the sun rises I swim naked in the creek, pushing against the current. A thousand cold hands run across my body. I dry myself on a rock in the sun, and climb back into the tent to read a book and breastfeed Alba.
I should spend more time outside. When I am out there things are simple and clear. It is easy to be present. I will forget those nights I stayed up late watching Game of Thrones, but I will never forget the morning I was naked beneath a waterfall.
We drive to the beach one night. I bring a curry I cooked, a flask of hot chocolate and a picnic rug. Life has a cinematic quality. The kind that new experiences bring. I remember being here as a child, and now here I am with my own child. Somehow I am a Mama now, not a child any longer. Life passes.
Alba swims with my sister, who is no longer the quiet little girl I once photographed in the backyard, she is a teenager now covering up her freckles with make-up. My brother is here too. He is sad tonight, going for walks by himself and writing pages and pages in his journal and I think maybe I understand him better than anyone.
I swing on a swingset and when I get to the very highest point I close my eyes and imagine I keep going, flying out into the stars. I hear Alba laughing with my siblings by the water. In this moment I feel a slow sweet joy fill my soul.
I don’t remember if we flew or drove home. I look at these photographs and the notes in my journal to remember, but outside of these souvenirs this time is a haze now. I barely photograph these days, not like I used to.
Alba turns two. I wake up before her and marvel at her tiny face. The dark, sweeping eyelashes and the small pink lips. Her long fingers are like miniatures of my own. But despite the similarities, she is more her own person than I ever could have predicted. How could it be only two years since she took her first breath? She has already taught me so much about life.
I am thankful for birthdays as a reminder that time does keep on flowing, that my little girl is less little than she was yesterday, and that I need to stop often to appreciate her. Her Papa and I take her out for breakfast and I look at him watching her and know exactly how he is feeling. Look what we created. This bright, giggly, empathetic, creative toddler is ours.
There are moments when I look at Alba and my heart breaks because I am afraid I am failing her. Will she grow up daydreaming about her parents falling back in love like I did? If I am not enough for her, I hope for all of the incredible people in her life to overfill the gaps. I hope for her to grow from her struggles with the strength I already see burning in her eyes. Even so, I will never feel enough, and that is what it is to be a Mother sometimes.