Death of Childhood

I am standing on the edge of a cliff and I know I have come too far to go back now. Even if I could, there is no way back and as much as I will long to turn around in times to come, I can only go forward now.

When I imagined this moment I always dreamed I’d jump forward into the open air and soar through the sky like a bird set free. But now I am here the emptiness looms below me unknown and I am shaking. I will myself to jump but my body stays where it is, here. On this familiar path lined with bright flowers that nourished me and kept me breathing and safe since the beginning of the history of my life. I stay still but one cannot stay still for long and soon the wind has caught me in powerful palms and pushes me.

The dirt scrambles beneath my feet and I am stumbling. I catch hold of the grass with my small hands but it is uprooted by my fall, I hold onto the edge of the cliff but the soil crumbles away to dust and then I am holding nothing and then I am falling. Just a child like any other, not special enough to stay. Tears sting my eyes, this isn’t how I wanted to go, I wasn’t ready but I am gone.

Not flying, falling. Angrily, wildly, painfully, wonderfully. Tumbling ungracefully through the air, with no place in this world. As I fall I grow breasts and hair in secret places. I taste the bitterness of alcohol, the powder of lipstick and the burn of cigarettes. My hair flows like a waterfall of changing colors and scars burn on my thighs, carved from sadness. And while I fall I fall in love. I see their handsome faces flash before my eyes and for a moment they are my world. I feel the warmth of their lips and the softness of their loving words and for a second my heart is so swollen it bursts and I think I will die but I keep on living and falling and loving again.

The wind is cold so I wrap my arms around myself tightly. I carry the burden of a thousand worries and it makes me fall faster. I hear the laughter of friends and the hollowness of death and the passion of my art in my mind and for a moment I forget I am even falling. I feel everything and sometimes when I feel nothing I feel the most of all. I put myself together as I fall from old pieces of myself and new pieces I collect along the way. I see many different places as I fall and I breathe them in to become a part of me too. I am imperfect. I make one hundred mistakes and then one hundred more, and through them I grow.

Out of nowhere a crow joins me. He is as black as the sea at night and has hard yellow eyes filled with bitterness. But I am lonely, so I talk to him.
“Am I beautiful?” I ask.
“Your teeth are crooked, your nose is too big, you have spots on your skin and you are not so skinny any more, how could you be beautiful?” He caws, and I can see he is right, I am not beautiful.
“Will I be okay?” I ask, with tears making trails down my cheeks.
“You are only a girl. You are clumsy and lost and you cry too easily and you are afraid. Maybe if you had a boy to look after you you would be okay, but not alone, alone you are nothing.” and I could feel he was right, that I had been naive.
“What is happening to me?” I ask, frightened.
“You’re becoming a woman. Soon you won’t be young and your art won’t be special any longer. Age will numb you, the world will lose its wonder and you will never feel this much again.”
And now I cry out into the emptiness for my mother but there is no mother to hold me, just biting wind and the feeling that I am slowly dying.
When he flies away his words make a nest in my mind and settle there.

Nothing else joins me, no more birds or airplanes or clouds, just flashes of feeling and lucidity. Sometimes music plays in the air around me and gets me high, letting me escape for a while. I wonder if I will fall forever. In some ways I begin to enjoy the fall, to channel the energy into passion. I recognise it for what it is, the beautiful chaos that is life.

Then before I know it I am not falling any longer. I am back on the earth and at my feet is a little yellow flower. I lay curled around the flower for many hours and feel the warm rush of familiarity, grateful for the stillness and the way outside of my own mind.

I know I cannot stay here but I cannot bear to leave the flower that ties me to my childhood. So I whisper an apology and very gently pick it. I press it tenderly to my chest and it is gone. I walk changed through the graveyard of ended childhoods and feel a stirring within and I know my child self has survived the fall. She is there, breathing into my thoughts. As I leave I wear both a softness that lets me love purely and a hardness born from difficult times.

I walk and I see many roads ahead of me, but I do not walk down them. Instead I make my way through a magnificent forest. Sometimes I get lost and frightened and stumble as I pave a path through the wilderness, but I see such extraordinary things that take my breath away. Things that make me believe in magic again. Sometimes people cross my path and I give them special thoughts to keep them dreaming. When it is quiet, I long to be falling. I am forever learning, endlessly transforming.

Here I meet a prince who holds my hand as we walk and from our love a little child with strawberry curls is born. I am a mama now and somehow I am both different and the same. Still a child, but with pockets filled with life lessons.

In my daughter I can see the wonder of the place left long behind me, I can see it but I cannot walk it. I can kiss the bruises on her knees from little falls, wipe the tears from her eyes and hold her close but a time will come where I will not be there to keep her from falling. So I will give her strength and when the crow comes I will tell her:

“You are infinitely beautiful. Your eyes are bright with all the magic you have seen, your skin is warm from years of embracing the sun, your mouth is soft with a thousand loving words and kisses to come. You glow with life, with the immense beauty of the thoughts in your head and the fire in your soul. This body is yours and it will take you to places you can only dream of now. Yes, my dear girl, you are beautiful, but you are so much more.”
“You are growing and as you grow the world will open itself to you. You will swim in the ocean of possibilities. Childhood is sweet, but womanhood holds power. Power to make dreams come true, to find your calling, to shine your light into the world, to create life and to find freedom.”
“You are enough, more than enough. You are already stronger and more capable than you could ever imagine. You are a little universe, brimming with potential. You are alive and you can change the world.”

And these thoughts will be her wings.

Camp Bliss

Last November I rented a villa in the rice fields of Ubud, Bali and invited over twenty creatives from all over the world to join. I named our coming together ‘Camp Bliss.’

There are parts of me that would love to unravel the entire story of that intense, life-altering month, but for now you’ll have to forgive my silence and let the photographs do the story-telling. I left my camera untouched, but thankfully I was surrounded by talented photographer friends.

I will leave you with just one of my favourite memories.

It was in the beginning of Camp Bliss. I was always giggling, europhic and in disbelief at the way everything had come together. Here I was surrounded by new friends in paradise and our days together felt like a dream.

This starry night we decided to go skinny dipping in the pool. Music played and crickets chirped as we snacked on fresh papaya and watched the night sky. Warm water slipped and swam around our bare skin.

A sense of awe was shared by us all. Us wide-eyed children. Together we spoke of the immense beauty that surrounded us, of being good humans and artists, of being alive. Our words felt powerful, as though they were more than words. We put our arms around the shoulders of those beside us and we spun laughing in circles. When we stopped the stars were still spinning.

We were all more grateful than we could put to words that night.

By Bella Kotak

 By Jess Hay

By Savannah Daras

 By Chrissie White

 By Dominque Felicity

 By Melanie Ziggel

 By Clare Alice Young

California Sun

I write this in many places. In my head as I’m walking the palm-lined streets of LA. In our garden in a notebook filled with Alba’s scribbles. Late at night in M’s parents’ home in Perth while everyone sleeps. By the pool in a Balinese villa, thunder and rain hanging in the air. It feels like a collage of mismatched paragraphs. Something has been holding me back. I have a feeling this will be my last entry like this.

In a hazy way I understand the influence my blog has and how many read it, but it all feels too unreal. Now and then someone recognises me on the street and the reality shakes me. My most personal thoughts have been tattooed on stranger’s bodies and it’s not unusual to introduce myself to someone new and realise they already know my life story. But despite it all I feel completely ordinary, because in everyday life I really am.

Once upon a time being well-known was what I wanted. But now, apart from the ability to make positive change and connections, I wish I wasn’t. My family are too exposed and it’s unsettling, the poison of negativity leaks into reality and I know I need to step back for them.

But that power I have to bring good into the world is too important to give up. How lucky and grateful I feel, I want to help others and I have this way to reach so many! I can’t even comprehend how blessed I am to have you all. So although I’ve decided not to document our lives so intimately after this, I will keep giving what I can.

LA welcomes us back with open arms, but it doesn’t feel quite the same as our last trip. When our family is together life seems easy. It’s us three in symbiosis. Life flows. But here it is just Alba and I and life feels tipped off balance.

It isn’t a bad thing, even the loneliness and frustration are blessings in disguise. When I’m content lessons don’t hit me this hard or sink this deep, the highs don’t knock me off my feet. I needed this.

Zelda has her birthday party at a mansion in Beverley Hills. I wear an incredible swimsuit she bought me a few days earlier and a long dark dress that kisses my feet. I think I might look as though I belong among all the movie starlets. Like I am another version of me for a few hours.

There are colourful Macaws on stands all around the yard and Alba is mesmerised. The pool and the lawn are full of people. Jojo comes up behind me and hugs me and I remember when I was young and listened to her CD over and over on the long walks to school. I talk to boys whose characters I had crushes on in TV shows and I see Zelda walking around glowing like the sun.

It’s another world. A world I never thought I’d be immersed in. And now that I am here I see that we are all just human beings. We all feel joy and pain and imperfection. There is no need for envy, we all have our own bliss and own battles. None of us really have it all together.

When we walk inside a lady sweeps me and Alba away to visit a cat named Snowy. She leads us through a series of rooms until we come to an extravagant bathroom. Purring gently is a fat cat, soft as a cloud but kept immaculately groomed. A cat right out of a dream. Alba feeds Snowy while the lady coos and pats Alba’s hair and life feels totally bizarre.

One night we all play laser tag. Alba and I run around hand-in-hand in the darkness, shooting and hiding and shouting with glee. Another night we play mini golf and everyone is in fits of laughter because Alba is taking the balls and putting them in the holes herself. It feels so good as a Mama to see the joy Alba brings to others, especially here where people need the optimism and purity of a child.

We’re all family in this Hollywood palace. In the mornings Zelda is writing scripts, I’m answering emails and Alba is playing with Alfy the dog at our feet. At lunchtime Josh comes home to spend time with us, Alba squealing as he lifts her into the air and tells her how much he missed her. When Brooke gets home from work in the afternoon she brings green juices for Alba and I from the juice bar where she works. Some evenings Mark is cooking dinner for Steph and I hang out in the kitchen talking with them. The routine is nice.

It’s not easy being both a Mama to a toddler and an artist. Sometimes I can feel my potential bursting within my chest with nowhere to go. I quieten my passion while I focus on my girl, but I never let it die. Now I realise the preciousness of time and how fleeting life really is and soon nothing will stop me. I quietly make plans.

My friend Landon throws a dinner party at his home in Beverly Hills. The food was delicious, Alba is fast asleep and there is a bonfire dancing on the lawn. But I am not really here, I am in the past and the future. I am overthinking and my mind is loud with thought and worry. I look outside the windows to the fire and the pool beckoning and I tell myself: Stop living in your head and start living in the world.

It is 1am but I slip quietly outside and out of my dress. When I dive into the pool I expect the sharp stinging cold of the lake, but the water is heated. It hugs me as I swim at the bottom. I remember being 8 and believing I was a mermaid and the bliss of naivety floods back to me. I feel the insignificance of all my worries. I embrace all I really have, the present.

After a long time I break the surface. There is too much pollution to really see the stars but I am happy to watch the moon, to know it is the same moon I have always known. Inside the house someone sees me and smiles. I know I am loved here. The heat of the fire spreads all over my body when I dry, prickling my skin.

All of the joy is interspersed with moments of hardness. Though I sleep beside Alba I still feel alone when night comes. Not having M around and having no breaks (but for her short naps) takes its toll on me. I took for granted just how much he takes care of us.

I may not have the patience of two, or the strength to throw her in the air over and over like her Papa does but I give her all the love I have and then more, so I can make up for his absence. The hards nights melt into peaceful mornings of kisses and cuddles in bed, Alba and I talking softly about the things we’ll do that day. Sometimes I look at her and love floods me, like it is all I am.

Back in Australia my half-brother takes his last breath. Once Alba is asleep I curl up under the bed and try not to feel. I have never felt so distant from my family. Guilt creeps up and I know I will never see him again. I am lost here. My Father’s heart breaks on the other side of the world, he has outlived two of his children now. I won’t let myself imagine losing Alba.

After a long day Zelda throws a games night. Her friends come over and we play running charades and cards against humanity. Alba is busy playing with friends so I slip into a bedroom with my headphones and iPod. I listen to “Bravado” by Lorde with the volume up and I dance with the lights off and no space for thoughts in my head. The feeling is sensational. I feel like I am flying through space. It doesn’t matter that I’m a terrible dancer or that I mess up the lyrics as I sing, I am free.

I decide I want to be able to dance that freely in public. I want to stop analysing myself through other’s eyes and start being free to be myself. I want to say yes to more experiences and not be afraid. I want to choose good thoughts to play in my mind. I want to stop the negative thoughts about my body and accept I am healthy and beautiful and happy to be alive. I want to see the world like I did when I was a child, full of wonder and magic. It’s still the same world after all, it’s just my perception that has changed.

So this trip I write these things down and more to read every day. It’s difficult and I know it will take a long time to shed my fear, but it begins to work. I tell myself I’ll never get to be twenty years old again. I skip down streets and share cheerful hellos to strangers, I listen with an open heart and I sing aloud to the songs playing in my head. Alba and I sit near a patch of flowers by the sidewalk for a while just watching the insects that live there, no need to be anywhere but there. I just be the person I want to be, and it was that simple all along. Simple, but not effortless.

Usually goodbyes are easy because I’ve grown used to them but this time I am struggling not to cry. My vulnerability on this trip left me open and I connected more fully to everyone I met here. Nick drives me to the airport, I watch Zelda and Brooke wave as we pull away and I say silent goodbyes to familiar places as we pass. Nick kisses Alba for a long time when it is time to go and I know she has touched his heart.

Alba sleeps against me on the flight and I am happy to hold her in my arms. She is beautiful beyond anything I could have ever imagined and I watch her face closely, knowing it will change. It already has.

When I was younger I thought having a child would be constant magic. I wondered how I’d ever be able to take my eyes off someone I’d created, how I’d treasure every sound they made and spend all day long playing with them. At times it does feel just as I’d imagined, but mostly parenthood doesn’t feel magical. I am guilty of being impatient and distracted. We all adjust to things, good and bad.

So I take time, whenever I remember, to be conscious of how wonderfully mind-blowing it all really is. Not just Mamahood but life too. Life may have taken over 4 billions years of evolution to design us and here we are on a planet floating in the Milky Way, surrounded by billions of stars and other galaxies. And this is it, the very moment I type these words, the very moment you read them, this is us being alive. The thing more precious and mysterious than anything else, so fleeting it is only a flash in the lifetime of the universe.

I had a funny feeling flying over Brisbane before we landed, looking down on the rivers like trickles of water and cars like beetles, humans only grains of sand and their little box homes. I had a sense of just how small we really are. Then we were home again and everything breathed peace.