Feeling Everything Everywhere

In hindsight I see that 2014 was the year I recognised the importance of human connection.

In August I went to live with my friends and their children in the Sunshine Coast. Just Alba and I and a few suitcases that made up our worldly possessions. They had plans to travel the country and live out of their converted truck, but until then, they let us call it home. Living in that truck reminded me of the Summer long ago when my father came to visit us in his campervan.

I’d lay shirtless on the bed some hot afternoons while Alba drew on my back with coloured pens. She’d go to sleep early and I’d spend most of the night writing from the truck. In the morning I’d make us picnics and we’d sit on a rug by the flowering jacaranda tree looking at books. “You’re my best friend,” I’d tell Alba and she’d reply, “You’re MY best friend.”

While there were idyllic moments with the light of my life, there were really tough ones too. Not putting roots down meant I never really felt there. When Alba ran off to play with the other children and I was alone, my thoughts were dark. I was grateful to be temporarily found, but I still felt overwhelmingly lost. Caught in a limbo. I didn’t know where we would go after this. There was so much on my plate to deal with, on top of parenting and working. Other heavy stuff I was dealing with back then.

I’d cry in the middle of sentences and find difficulty in doing really simple things, like getting out of bed or taking photos. I’d cook healthy food for Alba but eat terribly myself. I felt like a stranger in my body. I’d beat myself up about all of it.

But I was so thankful for my friends. One night Errol came into the truck with my favourite chocolate saying, “I know today has been really rough for you but I thought this chocolate might help,” and I knew I was loved, and that love meant I would always be okay.

I needed to shoot again so I planned a photography tour down the east coast. I got more bookings than I had free days and that was perfect, I wanted to spend all of my time away from Alba being too busy to miss her. Alba was supposed to spend the time I was working with her Papa but everything fell through. Through tears I told Georgia that I would have to cancel all the shoots I’d already booked in, that I had no idea what I’d do now without the work.

She hugged me and told me she thought Alba should just keep staying there while I worked, that they’d love to have her and thought Alba would love it too. We’d spent so much of Alba’s life living together before this and she was in a good routine there. Family in all but blood.

It was really hard for me to feel like it would be okay. Late one night I told another Mama friend very seriously that I felt like the worst Mother ever and she just laughed at me and said something along the lines of, “There are Mothers out there who sell their kids and babies who are addicted to heroin. You’re up crying because you’re working for a few weeks while Alba stays with the most loving family ever. You’re not the worst, you’re doing the best you can. She’ll be fine.”

When it was time to say goodbye Alba kissed me and waved me off happily. I was shooting only a few hours away for the first few days, prepared to come home and cancel everything if Alba needed me to. But thankfully my resilient little wanderer took it all in her stride and I could hardly believe it. When we skyped she was so excited to recount all of her adventures with me. Georgia told me they wished they could have her forever. No tantrums or tears, she was helpful and independent. If she hadn’t been so happy and content, I wouldn’t have been able to keep going.

Brooke assisted me in Brisbane and together we shared ecstatic amounts of raw salted caramel chocolate and boy stories. James Vincent McMorrow was the soundtrack to our roadtrips. After a day of shooting we drove to the Eat Street markets. Of the entire tour somehow this night felt the most cinematic of all. Every smell and sound and colour was vivid and we wandered through the galaxy of lights and faces. I sat amidst all of it and listened to a song that reminded me of someone (that someone, always that someone) and I was swept up in life. Lost felt more like free.

I stayed by the beach in Sydney. I’d catch the ferry to the city and sit out on the deck listening to music. Now and then I’d stand on the edge and watch the calming patterns of the water, imagining the world hidden beneath. My life started on a houseboat and maybe that’s why I find so much peace being rocked by the water.

I felt so blessed to be photographing in nature every day. Shooting barefoot on the sand or from cliffs where there was only blue sky, green valleys and golden light. So blessed to be capturing little moments that would be cherished long after the moment was gone. A Father throwing his laughing son in the air, the blood-like bond between musicians, a Mama soothing her crying daughter, the moment two lovers forget I am there and all that exists in their worlds is each another, the beauty in the girl who doesn’t even realise it’s there.

One night I found myself in a courtyard in Newtown lit by fairylights listening to my friend Sam read aloud the children’s book he’d written. Another lucid moment. The burning ends of cigarettes, the deep red of wine in our glasses, The Middle East playing from a little speaker on the table. That afternoon I’d photographed him and his boyfriend for a photo series. I took a sip from my wine glass and thought, this is it, I’m a grown up. Aren’t grown ups supposed to know what they’re doing?

I wish I could say I always embraced being single, but some nights were very lonely. Deep down I have always been a lover. From the very first boy I loved in grade three to the endless string of boyfriends that followed, until my very intense five year relationship with Alba’s Papa. I’ve always had more love than (perhaps) is good for me. My biggest strength and my biggest weakness. I knew this space was important for me but the bed always felt too empty. Some days I was doing three or four shoots in a day and if I was lucky I would be so exhausted I’d fall asleep right away.

I put on Plant Love Picnics in each town I visited and for this one I made white chocolate truffles with lavendar my friend/assistant Bec picked for me on an earlier shoot. It was a perfect day. It is where I first met Laura, her bright red hair braided into a crown. I thought she told some of the best stories I’d ever heard but I had no idea our paths would soon merge. From where we picniced we could see both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and it reminded me of where I was.

I sat across from a boy on the train. He had long lashes and dark eyes and olive skin and he was reading Haruki Murakami. I asked it a few times in my head before I said it aloud. “What are you reading?”

He showed me his book grinning and I grinned too because I did it, I broke through that barrier that always stops me from connecting to strangers. I almost asked him what he was passionate about but I bit my tongue this time. That was a beginning, I told myself.

Everywhere my father goes he embraces and connects to strangers in an extraordinary way. Everyone is his brother or sister, every stranger just a friend he hasn’t met yet. I think of him each time I want to tell a stranger they have kind eyes or a beautiful laugh, or I see somebody I think might need a hug. And I am slowly but surely becoming braver and more open, like him.

For weeks I’d been helping Beau with the writing for his newest book and he’d been giving me advice. He made his way into my words and he wove me into his own. There was this feeling there’d be a romantic connection there, but when we met for the first time at Melbourne airport it was immediately obvious we were destined to just be friends. We were two romantics, but we were from completely different worlds. And it was so much better this way.

One night Beau drove us into a forest until we reached the base of a mountain. We walked until we reached a plateau where we could see the shining lights of the city sprawled out before us like a mirror to the starry sky. I sat between his legs and we watched the world in awe. I knew he could also feel the immense beauty before us in the intense way I could and there was something very special about that.

He was only four years older than I was, making his living through the books he wrote from his bedroom and he told me I had nothing to wait for, that I had no excuses. And he was completely right.

I stayed at a friend’s place in St Kilda. It was a magnificent old mansion once owned by a famous artist. We had candlelit picnics on the living room floor and spoke into the night about making the world a better place. My friend said he was going to Svalbard soon to build an art piece that would bring focus to the state of the Earth. He told me he’d like to fly me over to photograph it all. I dreamt of pure white snow as far as I could see and huge polar bears.

One night I had to share a bed with a stranger, a green-eyed long-haired artist who hailed from my hometown. He seemed young and I felt so exhausted that I just wanted to sleep. But he was warm and bright and we ended up talking and laughing until the sun was up. In the morning when he kissed me goodbye he asked me to stay longer but it was time to go. The familiar thought crossed my mind that even though we connected on a deep level, I might never see him again.

I traded photos to get my hair dyed lilac and I felt like the mermaid I always pretended to be as a child. Every time I caught my reflection in a window I couldn’t help but grin.

I stayed with Belle next. Her book ‘The Whole Pantry’ was sitting on her table when I arrived and she told me no one had seen it properly yet, not even her. She asked if I’d like to be the first. I was amazed and honoured and proud, so proud but when I tried to say so my words felt as small as dust. By the time I reached the last page I was crying and I wrapped her up in the most loving hug I could.

The next morning we ate raw caramel slice by the sea while her little boy danced around us and I quietly longed for my own little girl. Me and Belle lay under the sun holding hands and the world stood still just for us. My sister, maybe not by blood but definitely by spirit.

The next night I saw Boyhood at the old cinema in Carlton. Afterwards I sat in Beau’s car with the windows down, looking up at the tall trees above, bare branches like dark spindly masses of veins. He was smoking a cigarette and lost to his own moment.

I could feel everything. All the lives I’d lived were more than just stories. I’d been the toddler cradled by her abandoned mother, the little girl writing by torchlight under covers, the child abused by her stepfather, the broken-hearted teenager cutting her thighs with knives, the girl rollerskating hand in hand with the boy of her dreams in the city she’d left school to run away to, the sixteen year old photographer shooting campaigns in America, the young pregnant girl in the cabin in the mountains and now I was the nomadic single Mama trying to find her place in the world again.

I realised (a realisation that comes often in lucid moments) that this, here, now, this is life, the marvellous, crazy, chaotic thing that all those books and films and songs are about, THIS is life, the fragile, precious miracle that can begin and end in a very instant, without warning, this is it, this moment, every moment. It seemed so crazy to me that I could ever get used to it, that any of us can.

On my very last day of the tour I wasn’t shooting. So I wandered alone, savouring the space. I got frozen yoghurt and then I lay under the sun in a park. There was a time when I didn’t even notice the way the sun felt on my skin, or the way the wind was like a caress or how much I could love the blue of the sky. I watched people pass and I imagined, as I sometimes do, how those people would look if I was in love with them.

Then I was back in the Sunshine Coast with my Alba in my arms and I was crying and she looked so heart-breakingly beautiful and her voice was so sweet and her smile shone and I fell to pieces in the best way. She picked me up and put me together again and kissed my forehead and said “You’re so beautiful Mama, I love you Mama.” And I was mesmerised, completely utterly captivated by my little human. And I was home.

(I am doing another photo tour in March 2015. I am always looking for assistants/new friends & places to stay. Dates & cities here.)

55 love notes

  1. I follow your blog for a long time and for some reason I haven’t come here for ages…. hope you feeling better now and everything is good, if you ever come to Portugal, you have a place in Lisbon.

    Love,

    Anna

  2. You are magical Nirrimi, and bring so much lightness into this world. Your beautiful images and thoughts that you share flow into our hearts and souls and melt them with sunshine rays and ocean waves. “‘Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” You have that light in you, and it shines bright. Your daughter is the luckiest girl to have you as a mother. Your love is so big and strong that it will erase all the dark moments in your life. You are never single when you have touched souls of so many people. You are like the sun, your words are like rays, and the light just keeps on spreading. I wish you love and happiness everywhere you go.

  3. Oh wow, I recently looked up your blog again. It’s been some years since last time I was here. I thought you had stopped blogging, but I’m so happy to see you writing again.
    And I’m so touched by your photography and writings. And, I’m sad that you’re a single mother now, but also I am happy to find someone in the same situation as me. I am not yet a single mother, since I’m 6.5 months pregnant, but in about 3,5 months I will be. I hope all will go well for me, and that I will feel some of the things you do, as well as continuing my photography and art. Lots of love, from Norway <3

  4. I’m so happy to have discovered your blog tonight. I was in a bit of a mood and you’ve completely turned my night around. Your writing is so beautiful and inspiring. I welled up reading your words.

    Thank you.
    -Steph from Vancouver, Canada

  5. Just wow.
    Stumbled upon your blog today..
    Your honesty is so deeply touching….
    My life maybe hasn’t felt so big or extraordinary yet, but I’m starting to realize how big it could be if I’d just set myself free, as you already did. How to do that, is still a mystery to me, but a massive thank you for your encouraging blog posts…

    x From Holland

  6. I just stumbled across your blog today and I’m so glad that I did! Your words are so lovely and wonderfully written, I wish you were coming to Wellington. Thank you for being brave enough to share so much of your beautiful self x

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Nimirri, its just a so generous of you to open up to the world. Your words are deep as cliffs, blue as the ocean painted in green hope. As a mother myself I find my feelings become words as I read you. Take care, you beautiful soul…

  8. Have you ever thought it like this; you too connect with people in a very, very special way. You share your soul with all of us, the readers. just like we were all family, worth telling all this. love, nirrimi!

  9. It is such a peaceful movement to read your words and linger over the images from your hand. I am most grateful for the invitation to partake in your journey by reading and drinking in what you post here, and I come here often just to slow down and peruse the beauty and mystery unfolding in your journey – you are generous to share with us Nirrimi, thank you. (And that picture of the little child in the tree – oh my oh my. A wee slice of heaven!)

  10. thank you for telling us your story Nirrimi, i always feel so inspired and positive when i read something from you. You are such a beautiful spirit and don´t ever think you aren´t a good mama. Alba is learning already so much about nature and life! If you are feeling down know you are loved and everything is going to be alright <3
    I hope i'll be able to meet you one day, and if you come to Holland you are always welcome 😀

  11. You are such an incredible person and your words are so beautiful! If you ever wrote a book (I hope to god you do!) I would be the first in line to buy a zillion copies! You really do have an amazing influence on me. If you ever decide to wander over to England, you are always welcome with open arms! Xx

  12. Dear Nirrimi,
    at first, pardon my poor English. English is neither my first or second language, and therefore this comment might seem confusing and odd. I would like to thank you for pouring out the deepest thoughts and feelings of your heart on this beautiful website. I have followed you ever since Alba arrived onto this odd planet, and to be honest, i have been a little too scared to comment. You seem like the most intelligent and reflected human being i have ever stumbled across. Your thoughts, emotions and attitude towards life is admirable. Now, reading about your fear of coming across as any less than what you are, when trying to get to know strangers, i feel obligated to tell you that you truly inspire your followers and spread happiness, by just writing what you have got locked up inside your heart. I come from the very nothern parts of this little planet, and even up here, during the coldest winter days, you spread happiness and warmt. Please, Nirrimi. Please never stop doing so.

    Love, Ine

  13. I love your dad Nirrimi. He is one of the best people in the whole world. I would never get tired of watching him or listening to what he has to say. The same feeling I get when I read your blogs.

  14. Beautiful, post. Your writing is always, so captivating and relatable. Every time I see, there is a new story of yours to read my heart lifts! Thank you for sharing your mind with us. x

  15. I love your posts, they make me both happy and sad. Happy because they show me how beautiful life is and how important all the small things, situations and friends and family are, and sad because I always start thinking that I don’t live life to the fullest and that there are so many things to see which I probably will never be able to see…

    xx, Eleonora

  16. I miss him,Nirrimi.
    Terribly.
    That man who made my heart flutter. We didn’t talk about similar things. We were two strangers from two different parts of the country.Our cultures, languages do not even run parallel. Yet I don’t think anybody else would make me feel the same as he did. But though he says he loves me,he doesn’t really shows it as passionately as I do. I am hopelessly thinking of him still. Will I ever move on and love somebody as much as I love him? I felt like talking to you and asking for your opinion. Thanks! This was liberating.

  17. I always struggle to understand the “bigness” of this life. The “bigness” of the smallest things.
    I just adore your photos. I don’t have much experience or talent, but I’d love to assist you if I could when you come to Melbourne. Even if that just means a cup of coffee. I’m terrified to make that important human connection too – we can help each other 🙂

  18. love your words and photography!
    being a mom of two small ones….trust in this!
    there is no way to be a perfect mother….but a million ways to be a good one.

  19. I have been following your story for a few years now. My favourite thing to witness is the personal growth you’ve secured from all your experiences with M, your moonflower and your travels. I just wrote an article and felt compelled to send it your way. Thank you for sharing your life so openly. It is changing many of us for the better.

    http://leluangwenyi.com/?p=254

    With Love,
    L.A.

  20. thanks for the links of your friends and father. i enjoyed find their work.
    as always, your story stunned me, in the best way it can be.
    deep hug from argentina 🙂

  21. your words and photos inspire me more than you’ll ever know. thank you for sharing your world with us. i wish i were as brave as you to travel the world and photograph strangers. you have done so much more in your lifetime than most your age, don’t forget that. 🙂 and you are probably the best mama ever, don’t be so hard on yourself. Alba is incredibly lucky to have you as a mama, it is so obvious she is loved beyond words. take care sweet girl.

  22. I love your writing so much Nirrimi, whenever I read one of your texts I dissapear in your words and everything else just fades away. Keep writing, keep photographing and keep loving, you’re doing great. Much love, Tess.

  23. What a lovely post! Thank you so much for introducing me to the music of James Vincent McMorrow. I didn´t know him and now I can´t stop listening. Have a beautiful day. Hugs and kisses, A.

  24. Dear Nirrimi – we have connected time and again through the magic of your words and your photographic art. Your stories enchant me, stories of a woman unafraid to feel and share. I do want you to remember always that being a grownup has nothing to do with knowing what you’re “Supposed To Do.” You’re supposed to do what’s best for others, for yourself and for your feelings. Do it for love, do it for the hell of it, but as long as you’re not hurting anyone, do what you feel like doing and don’t worry about the doubts!

  25. Dear nirrimi, every time i read your blogposts i feel like i need to Hug you, to tell you that the world is beautiful, to stay with you! I always think, hey leave your life Behind and break-out, to live a life like nirrimis…i Totaly feel you and wish i could tell you this in the words i really mean, but my english is just too bad. Don’t stop do what you do, you beautiful Soul! Much love from Germany xx

  26. even just in realising the importance of human connection, a lot of things are open to change for the better. its so important but getting lost so easily nowadays.
    looove!

  27. Beautiful words. I absolutely love your work, both your writing and your photographs. You are such an inspiration. Love from Norway

  28. Something strikes me Nirrimi. When you were almost compelled to cancel your photo tour, which you needed for work, Alba was supposed to be with her father. You don’t say how, just that it all fell through and you felt you were a bad mother for picking up Georgia’s offer to keep Alba with them. I can relate to that feeling but I’ve learned to recognise that we, women, have to free ourselves from such thoughts. You were no less a good mother than her papa was a bad father for not supporting you when you needed to work. But society and education teaches us that mothers have to do it all and if they don’t they’re not good mothers. It’s in our minds and hearts that we have to fight these thoughts so that we don’t pass them down to our children inconsciously. I’m sure that Alba had the time of her life with Georgia and Errol, franckly…I’d love them to keep me for a few weeks too. Just saying it there. Take care, Nirrimi.

  29. I do not have a talent in writing so it’s really hard for me to explain how much emotion I feel when reading your blogs. I have to stop myself from crying multiple times. You are so brave and strong Nirrimi. I’m proud of you!

  30. Ever so beautiful!
    I think what I love most about you is your passion in everything and what life becomes of it.
    You’re so, so good, Nirrimi.

  31. I’ve read your blog for a long time but this is the first post where I’ve felt compelled to comment…your words create such a palpable atmosphere. <3

  32. These are magical, beautiful words. They match your photography. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  33. Nirrimi,

    I tried to kill myself 12 days ago (sorry if that is morbid, I am blunt) and I was just released from the hospital a few days ago and this blog post just felt like a love letter to me about living and how complicated it is and how beautiful and fragile and just thank you. You have warmed my heart and inspired me tonight. Sorry for the run-on sentence. I have all of the feels.

    – Kait

  34. There was a line I read in this “I took a sip from my wine glass and thought, this is it, I’m a grown up. Aren’t grown ups supposed to know what they’re doing?” And I’d like to say I wish I had the words to express the emotion that overcame me in just that. This whole post Nirrimi is something that had me on the verge of happy wholesome tears for you. You are such a strong young woman and mother. I know you and Alba will be ok no matter where life takes you 🙂 x

  35. “Life is a beautiful struggle.” that’s what I always believe in. 🙂 Sometimes I feel guilty for working and being away from my sons, just like how you felt too, but I think of how I’m working for my kids, and I feel better. We may be physically apart from our kids, but our hearts are never apart from theirs. 🙂

    http://smittenbyangels.blogspot.com

  36. Nirrimi
    I won’t be in my little place until March 8 so I can’t offer a room while you’re in Brisbane however if you need a place to stay while going back through you are more then welcome. I will be living in New Farm so please let me know.
    Also your blog inspired. 2014 was my most eye opening year to myself and my surrounding world.
    I have learnt so much from myself, your beautiful words and pictures, Amanda Palmer’s words and Brené Brown’s spine chilling words on vulnerability and shame.
    Thank you for being raw and thank you for asking us.

  37. This was so heart warming! I love it when you lose yourself in words and come up with beautiful stories in a way that I feel I was right there with you wandering through your memories and visiting new places. You’re such a bright star, Nirrimi. I Hope out paths will cross someday, I’d love to be your assistant/friend for a day or two, but right now I’m more than an ocean away. Lots of love and light!

  38. I’ve followed your wild and storybook-kind of life for what seems like forever. We are of similar age and hearts, we both hail from Australia, and like you, I am used to change and leaving people. We’ve exchanged words a few times through email, though our paths have never quite had the chance to cross. They’ve come close though, sometimes we were only a mere mile apart, but I’ve always felt like our souls have connected up there in the clouds where I feel as though souls roam around. You write as though you have lived since the beginning of time. You are honest, you are gentle, you are raw beauty in this modern-day world. Your talent is unreal, and you are the only writer who’s words are able to bring me to tears. Right in the middle of a sentence.
    I felt this latest post running through my veins as I read, and it seemed to catch in my throat. You are mesmerizing, people are so lucky to have you touch their lives.

  39. Oh sweets, I loved this post. It’s made me all nostalgic for listening to your tales of lovers and adventures while we drive around in my car. When I read (or listen to) your stories I feel like I’m transported and I’m getting to live them to. You have an incredible way of connecting with people, from what I’ve heard of your Father you definitely have his gift. Think about all these wonderful friends you make on your journey, and how much we all love you! Such a deep connection even with lots of distance between (and look at all the people over the world on the internet who love you!). You are an incredibly special human being, there isn’t any one quiet like you.

    ps. I love the picture you took of me! Miss you xx

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