Coming Home

August – 2015 

I’m back on Australian soil. Bee has come to the airport to get me and he sees me before I do. His arms wrap tight around me and I’m so surprised that I accidentally hit an old lady in the side and I’m apologising to her while he’s trying not to laugh and I’m thinking that this is the moment I’ve imagined for so long and of course it happens like this. Of course.

Six weeks apart and here he is. Tall and grinning and real. All those letters and the longing and the endless thoughts and this is it. He picks up a big box and hands it to me. It is filled with gifts, each wrapped carefully, tied with string.

I unwrap them as he drives. Among them is a polaroid camera and a little purple key. “That’s your key to the house,” he tells me. Purple is my favourite colour.

We stop by his house to pick up some things. Before I left for America I’d put up a hundred post-it notes with the things I loved about him on his wall. He’s added a hundred more with things he loves about me. I sit on his bed and I read them. I’m floating but what I really want is to sink deep down into this moment. Maybe I’m jetlagged.

We drive to mine. This is where I’ll be living and I’ve never seen it before now. It’s so much nicer than I imagined. There’s a big bathtub in my bathroom that is perfect for Alba. He walks me through the house until we get to the door that leads to the garage. “There’s one more thing I want to show you.” He opens the door and there in front of me is a new shiny purple bicycle with a wicker basket.

In bed we find our places again in the shapes of one another. I wake at sunrise overflowing with unbridled happiness, the potential of life exploding just like it did when I was a child. I wake Bee and cry with joy into his shoulder as he kisses me over and over. I’m not floating any more, I’m here, feet in the earth.

We go to Fremantle to get Alba. Every single time there’s an element of shock in how beautiful she is. How sweet her voice sounds. How whole it feels to have her back. She’s a real living person and she’s running into my arms, to me, to her mama.

We all play at a park together. There’s a moment where Alba asks her papa to push Bee on the swing and the image looks so absurd to me it makes me laugh out loud. Sometimes I think of myself years ago and I wonder what I’d make of my life now.

We buy Alba a little wooden camera and she spends the entire afternoon running around town taking pictures of flowers, of strangers, of graffiti. Not only does she have two parents who are photographers, but now a step-dad too. No wonder that camera looks at home in her hands. Bee asks me seriously, “How soon can I give Alba her own film camera?” And I’m laughing.

For a few days being home and being part of my little family again is perfect. Sunlight filtering through the trees as Bee and Alba play on the grass, baths lit by candles, all of us cosy on the couch watching films – that kind of perfect.

But then the lows come. And though I expected them after the transition of touring to parenthood, they take my breath away. It’s impossible to fully comprehend how dark the shadows are when you’re standing in the light.

The hopelessness rushes in and over every thought. Little things grow big. I spill hot tea down my hand and all of a sudden my tears are spilling too and there is Bee, steady as ever. I hold onto him tightly, like he is a rock and I’m desperate to not be pulled away by my torrents of emotions. Sometimes I hurt the people I love when I’m like this but if I’m ever looking for some kind of negative reaction from him to fuel my mood, nothing but love ever comes.

His Mother tells me, “I see you as fire and Bee as water.” And I wonder if she knows just how right she is.

I grow tired of feeling so much. Maybe it seems poetic in retrospect but in the moment it’s just ugly and exhausting. So much frustration lies in the senselessness of my sadness.

But luckily, as effortlessly as rain clearing, the darkness lifts. Suddenly life is full of promise again and the shadows feel so far away. How easy it is to forget they were ever there.

What has happened to my easy, happy little baby? I was unprepared for the tumult of toddlerhood. I’m in the middle of a hard phase and it’s breaking me. Mostly it breaks my heart because I know she is feeling so much and there’s little I can do but be there for her.

I had so many ideas of who I’d be as a mama. I would always be strong, calm and gentle. Full of energy to play all day long. Who is this girl raising her voice, bursting into tears and putting on a disney film just for some peace? Imperfect through and through, but loving, always.

“All I want is for her to be happy,” I cry to Bee when Alba is finally asleep. There is comfort in having someone to share all of this with. Before it was just me and the rough patches were brutal. When Bee reassures me I’m a good Mama, Alba is okay and this will pass, I believe him.

And it does pass, just like my own did. She is back to her affectionate, bubbly and happy self. God it feels good.

She’ll be okay. And I’ll be okay too. This life thing is quite a whirlwind and I’m just glad we’re there to hold each other’s hands through it all.

I’m turning twenty-three tomorrow. I have a little party, just a few of my friends and my failed bubble tea cocktails that end up poured down the sink. By 9pm it’s just Bee & I. I’m not feeling so good about this whole birthday thing.

At times life and love is as cinematic and romantic as I want it to be, but mostly it’s just moment after moment. I so wanted this birthday to be more than a moment.

The next morning I’m just wishing this day would just pass. Bee asks me to pack a bag for the night. I spend most of the three hour drive looking out the car window thinking about how old I’m getting and how I should have done more by now. What a joy I am to be around sometimes, I’m ridiculous.

We arrive in the middle of nowhere. Bee takes my hand and leads me through a valley. I’m still uselessly fighting to stay sad, but out here that fight doesn’t last long.

There are hundreds of big white lilies growing all around us. The petals are so smooth they look like they belong to another planet. We walk until the dirt turns red and the earth becomes rock and the tree cover becomes bright blue sky. Bee helps me down to a cliff edge where we have a picnic.

“Feeling better?” Bee asks. I’m smiling, I can’t help myself. Below I can see the shore and the sea. We trek down to the sand and we stand in icy tidal pools and kiss. In that kiss there is only our love. The sun disappears into the sea.

We eat dinner in Margaret River and as we’re both sitting there in the stillness that comes from being truly comfortable with someone, I have to admit it is all panning out quite wonderfully.

Bee tells me we’re sleeping in sleeping bags in the forest and I am up for anything, really. We drive in the darkness for an hour before stopping. I open my door and find myself beside a sweet little cottage in the woods. “So I lied… we’re not really staying on a forest floor tonight.”

Bee lights the fireplace, we share chocolate and peppermint tea and play games until late. We can watch the stars from our bed and we make love and laugh and talk for hours. With the heaviest eyelids of all I whisper, “This was the best birthday ever.” And Bee replies, “There’s still more to come Nirrimi Joy.” Of course there is.

The next morning we are descending from the glaring light of the sun into the pitch black of a deep cave. The railings are wet and cold beneath my fingers and the deeper I go the more I am overcome with an emotion I’ve never felt before. I have to stop and breathe. The stillness is piercing and the blackness is absolute.

I feel such a powerful connection to my indigenous ancestors and to this Earth. I feel in my body where I have come from and the generations before me. How different this country was not so long ago. How deep the history hurts when I let it.

We crouch beneath a low wall of stalagmites and go deeper into the black. We turn off our torches until there is only the sound of water dripping and our slow breathing. I am twenty-three and I am still afraid of the dark. I wonder if there are Bunyips (Aboriginal dreamtime monsters) in this cave until I can’t bear it anymore and turn on my light.

On our way out the light is falling in sheets, like entire galaxies are contained in those beams. I wave my hand through them and watch the particles dance around me. When I climb out of the dark cave after hours it is like seeing colour for the first time.

We drive to a place called Sugarloaf Rock. I lay back against a smooth flat rock and watch transfixed as rocks as tall as houses are engulfed by violent waves. Sugarloaf looks like a mountain rising from the sea. I could watch for hours, but the sun sets in all of it’s glorious colours and it is time to make the journey home.

I write until it is so late it’s almost early and then climb into my bed with Bee, whispering “I love you,” to which he replies softly in his sleep, “I love you, Nirrimi Joy.”

34 love notes

  1. “I grow tired of feeling so much. Maybe it seems poetic in retrospect but in the moment it’s just ugly and exhausting. So much frustration lies in the senselessness of my sadness.”

    This just resonated so soundly within me. Your writing, the insight to your life, often reminds me of beauty I so often forget to acknowledge. Sometimes the moments you share with us make me ache for a life as rewarding, passionate, and vibrant as yours. I wish you all the happiness on your journey.

  2. wow you are… I don’t even have words for it, to be honest. lovely lovely lovely. I’m so glad people like you exist

  3. wow once again. i almost cried at the rawness and honesty of you words. you can be proud of yourself that you also admit and share the negative sides of yourselfs. especially those parts help me and probably a lot of other people. it takes courage to admit that even in the happiest moments one can feel sad and be negative. it gives me hope that if you manage it I can too. one should never stop fighting . even if you have to start all over again every single day. thank you so much for your openess and inspiration. love

  4. “The hopelessness rushes in and over every thought. Little things grow big. I spill hot tea down my hand and all of a sudden my tears are spilling too and there is Bee, steady as ever. I hold onto him tightly, like he is a rock and I’m desperate to not be pulled away by my torrents of emotions. Sometimes I hurt the people I love when I’m like this but if I’m ever looking for some kind of negative reaction from him to fuel my mood, nothing but love ever comes.”

    I don’t comment often, but I read you religiously. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing so honestly. Your writing, especially on subjects like the one quoted above, really help me feel less like something is wrong with me. That there are others in the world who feel that way at times, and that it does pass, and doesn’t mean I’m worth any less than anyone else. thank you, thank you.

  5. Oh Mama, you’re middle paragraph about the difficulties of Motherhood in this moment resonated with me so deeply. My daughter is almost 6, and we are going through one of those times as well. It will pass, I know, but it is so healing to read this and know that other Mamas experience this too. I’m not alone.

    So much love to you, Nirrimi Joy.

  6. You make me want to believe in love again, and that love like the one you share with Bee and with Alba can exist. Thank you. x

  7. I’m really tired of seeing “perfect” social media and bloggers around us. That’s why you’re so really beautiful and so honest.
    Thanks for sharing your feelings dear Nirrimi <3

  8. Happy birthday 🙂 The photo of Bee blowing smoke in the cave is possibly my favourite, wow. And by the way – if you fleet the age of 23 that you haven’t done enough with your life then, well.. I’m beyond hope!

  9. “I grow tired of feeling so much. Maybe it seems poetic in retrospect but in the moment it’s just ugly and exhausting. So much frustration lies in the senselessness of my sadness.”

    That really describes me. Thanks for writing again. 

  10. It’s crazy how well you can put your feelings in words so the world can feel it too, just by reading the words. That is something quite hard.
    The sudden sadness can be overwhelming at times, like there is a little black monster who pops up on your shoulder when he feels like it and makes your soul feel heavy. And even though you know that you are thankful for life and all the wonders it brings, the feeling is just there and there is nothing else to do than to deal with it.
    At least, that is what I experience. I recognized those moments in your words. Feeling so strong about everything makes the downs really down, but then again, the highs can’t get higher. So fly with the highs, they make your life so unbelievably magical. 

    And you did do a lot in your life. You felt real love, reached (and helped) thousands with your stories and photographs, made this wonderfully cute human being, went on countless adventures, traveled, went on tour with artists that became friends, mastered the art of writing, and so much more. And you are only 23. Oh, think about what life will bring for you. <3 

  11. Happy 23rd birthday dear Nirrimi! May life give you lots of more adventures. Every day is an adventure, isn’t it?😊 I love love love the idea of you being the fire and Bee being the water!!! Please post a pic with the hundreds of white lilies. Thanks ♥. Big hug!

  12. Dear Nirrimi,
    When I was in my early twenties I was also worried about getting older and not achieving enough. I thought achievement and youth were a powerful duo(and being a girl an extra bonus). Like you, I am a photographer and I often “feel too much”. But another photographer once told me, that if you haven’t felt the darkest of life – as well as the brightest, you can never be an amazing artist. If your feelings are in a constant neutral gray – then you don’t have the power to create great beauty and stories like you do!
    Strong feelings can be exhausting and feel shameful, but they are what make you remarkable Nirrimi. Let them come, accept them.
    I’m turning 28 in April and I am no longer in a hurry to achieve great things. Because I know now that there is nothing I can create that will make me fulfilled forever. I will always want to create more, better. What you create when you’re young isn’t more important than what you create when you’re older. I can imagine that a lot of people comment on the fact that you’re so young and so talented. They will still be as amazed by your work when you’re old. Age changes, but your heart and your creativity will always be with you.

    I few weeks ago I wrote to you on Instagram and asked if becoming a freelancer was worth the risk. You told me yes. And I believed you. I stopped working as a graphic designer (which I hated) and took the decision to start freelancing. Photography has always been my strength but I’ve never dared to take the full leap. I have now and I finally feel free. It doesn’t matter what assignments I get or how much money I make, I’m the boss of me and I decide over my own time. Thank you for the strength.
    Love from Ulrika, Sweden

  13. Dear one, thank you for sharing the gorgeous and the sore. Getting older is a beautiful journey – getting late into my 30s I am thankfully passing the place of wishing I had done more by now and my time fills and expands upon itself. My children grow fast and the river changes course daily, but I fall upward into grace. You know how to do this too – you savor every moment, even the ugly ones. Everything belongs. I am blessed to share your journey – peace to you as you spend time home. 

  14. I love your writings <3 It has magic that heals wound and let people happy. Just a little moment, your love with Bee makes me believe in love again 🙂 x
    Thank you, Nirrimi! Hope you enjoy your day!

  15. “I wake at sunrise overflowing with unbridled happiness, the potential of life exploding just like it did when I was a child.”

    That’s what I desperately miss in my life – I haven’t felt it for years. And I have no idea how to get it back. :/

  16. I hope this does not come off in the wrong way..but reading abut your admittance of the depths of your sadness, makes me happy, so happy I cried while reading this post. It reminds me that life has sharp corners and edges and gentle curves that we all go through, even the people we admire and look up to the most. Thank you for always being honestly you.

  17. Beautiful! I often have the same thoughts, of thinking I should’ve done more by now (at 31) but I have two beautiful kids and that is a lot. 4 is hard. You are the perfect imperfect mama for her, and that is what matters (now I need to remind myself of that one with  my 4 year old)
    Thank you for sharing as always <3

  18. As always, I’m stunned by your beautiful honesty. I’m far too familiar with that useless fight to stay sad, but reading this was enough to let it go for today. Thank you, Nirrimi.

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