Puzzles

September – 2015 

I’m talking to Alba’s Papa. The intense relationship we used to have now feels like a dream I’ve almost forgotten. I’m telling him about my longing for home. For family, for the Queensland sun, for tropical fruit, for rainforests. “Let’s do it,” he says excitedly.

I call across to Bee, who is playing with Alba. “Do you want to move to the Sunshine Coast next year?” I shout. He shrugs and grins, “Why not!”

I am so happy in the knowledge that we’re moving to the place I always longed to raise my children. Days pass by so sweetly. I feel like a good Mama, a good lover, a good artist. The future spills over with light. One of those rare times where everything feels almost just like I dreamt it would.

The more I experience in life, the more I begin to see signs. The moon is full when I’m filled to the brim, a friend calls just as I’m thinking about them, I get a gig just when I’m worrying how I’ll make ends meet.

I’ve found myself becoming superstitious after years of being a skeptic of anything I couldn’t prove. But what is the point, even if it isn’t scientifically true, of taking the magic out of life? I’m returning to the way I used to think as a child.

It seems to me that as tragic as my move to this city felt when it happened, it was meant to happen to meet Bee. To me, his very existence proves my kind of magic exists.

I’m going on my last photo tour for a long time. We fly to Melbourne and rent a little car. We drive under grey skies and heavy rain. Ready for the madness. We stay at the same house where my year began, a spectacular mansion in Fitzroy where we watch the water running down the window panes. Crossed fingers. Rain, rain go away.

I realise that this entire trip is a puzzle for Bee to put together piece by piece. As he puts it together my stories will have colour and detail they never had before. They will tangle with his own stories with the characters and places from mine.

Somewhere between our first shoots we’re driving to a location we’ve just discovered is closed for the day, the weather is terrible and Bee is panicking. I may be playing up my hopelessness for dramatic effect. “This is mad!” He says, “is this what touring is always like for you?!”

I shoot in the forest surrounding the closed gardens and the portraits are beautiful, light softened by menacing clouds and only a little rain. On the drive back Bee says, “you know what you’re doing, huh.” And I give him a look to say, I’ve been playing this game for ten years now.

I’ve organised vegetarian picnics in every city we’re passing. The first is on a friend’s balcony, sheltered from the rain. On the ride some of my friends are in the back of our car giggling and I’m fretting that no one will come. I am wrong.

The balcony is lit by countless candles and fairy lights, there are people stretched out on couches and cushions and there is a table covered in delicious homemade food. I fall into some kind of vegan brownie high. It’s 1am before we’re home, alarms set for a sunrise shoot, sharing gratefuls like every single night.

It’s a ten hour drive to Sydney. Perhaps it would seem intimidating to drive it in a day but after having a toddler it seems like a piece of cake on our own. While Bee drives I sit in the back and work on the talk and workshop I am giving next month in the US. I stop often because it makes me feel carsick but I can’t stop, I have so much to do and it feels like time is slipping through my fingers like water. I’m not ready.

I stop on a street corner in Manly, Sydney. “This is where I spoke to you on the phone and you asked me about a hundred questions about my childhood, remember?” I stop in the middle of a supermarket, “This is where you called me on your big road trip and I accidentally bought millet instead of rice because I was so distracted.” Piece by piece.

We have a shoot in the Blue Mountains. There’s a moment where I’m not shooting, where I’m watching Bee put my lens back into my camera bag and I am struck down with gratitude. He didn’t have to come on this tour with me; to drive ridiculous hours, spend his free time doing my selects and running around after me on every shoot. But he does without a single shade of complaint or expectation. It is who he is.

On the drive back I point out the train I used to catch when I was pregnant and the fruit market where I’d shop with Alba & her Papa. That’s another thing I’m grateful for. While I can’t bear to hear about his past romances, he loves my love stories.

I have my next picnic in a Newtown Park. A little city of rugs and yummy food and laughing people. Bee whispers to me, “You looks so lovely Nirrimi Joy, honestly. If I didn’t know you I’d be flirting with you like crazy right now.”

Laura joins us and I’m so glad to have her fiery self making us laugh from the backseat. We all drive to Wollongong to visit my family. From their house on the hill we watch the sky change from colours to stars. “This is where I spoke to you every night, just after we’d met.” It feels so long ago now.

There’s a big fire and we all tell stories into the night. Laura tells us the story of her cousin who was kidnapped and murdered, whose murderer joined the search party when she was declared missing. My skin crawls. Nicky tells us the story of her little brother’s tenth birthday party, where he drove his mother’s car with his friends and crashed it. Their mother was passed out drunk and Nicky had to explain to furious parents why their children were injured. Bee tells us stories of his travels. I drink up all the tales; collecting them like I used to collect shells.

11 hours to Byron Bay. It’s past midnight when we arrive. Another sunrise shoot. Breakfast at a cafe by the beach. A text from Nicky that says she loves Bee and the way his eyes light up when he talks about Alba. Such joy. Bookstores. Another whole day driving to Brisbane, binging on podcasts.

We have dinner with my grandparents and all the time I can see how nervous Bee is. All those silly questions like what do you do and what did you study, but his goodness shines through the stream of formalities.

In the Sunshine Coast we sleep in the truck I used to call home. On the bed is a basket full of more chocolate than I can possibly eat and a belated birthday card from Georgia and Laura. We spend the morning with our toes dipped in an icy creek. The kids hang off Bee and when it’s time to leave Theo cries for him all the way home.

Little things go wrong sometimes – for one thing we’re constantly getting lost – but mostly life is too full and busy and easy to be sad.

I am sitting in a motel pool at Golden Beach with my cousins swimming around me. I run my fingers through their hair as they cuddle up to me. Sommer looks just like I used to. Will I ever feel like the grown up I’m supposed to be? Or a mother? I miss my girl. Bee does too. When we speak to her on the phone we savour everything she says.

In Brisbane we have the best pizza of our lives. We wander down an alleyway and get so swept up in a bustling night market we nearly miss our flight. Next year this place will be a little roadtrip away, what a wonderful thought.

As the plane touches down in my hometown the pilot announces passionately over the loudspeaker, “The Cowboys won!” And a moment later the plane is in uproar, people yelping and applauding. It’s like the very plane is shaking. “Welcome to Townsville,” I tell Bee, as he stares at me in disbelief.

In the taxi we pass my public high school. I tell stories of the days I walked these streets late at night with a gang of other kids, looking for fights or playing spin the bottle in the dim light of somebody’s garage. We pass the shopping centre where I’d walk aimlessly with boyfriends or eat McDonalds with my best friend each Thursday night. Worlds away.

At my mum’s house my little brother leads me through the hallway and shows me a baby sleeping in my sister’s bed. “I’ve had a baby since I saw you last,” he tells me, stone-faced. “You have not,” I say, “where’s the mother?”

“I’m a single dad, she couldn’t handle it.” I’m asking my sister and my mum where the mother is and they just shake their heads, trying to keep straight faces. The baby stirs and as Zake soothes her just like a father would he tells me it’s his housemate’s baby, she’s a young single mum and he spends a lot of time looking after her baby.

The loving way he holds her makes me proud. Just years ago he was little more than a ghost, without the slightest hint of empathy for another human. I’d walk into his bedroom and try to speak to him and it was like I didn’t exist. For years we lived in the same house and I didn’t even know him. I don’t think he knew himself. But that’s a story for another time.

And so, that’s how we ended up with an unrelated baby on our family holiday to Magnetic Island. Sun shining, ocean calling. Surrounded by my nearest family and my love. My sister played her guitar and sung on the beach and I pretended not to pay attention to how beautiful she sounded. We challenged my mum to bananagrams and lost devastatingly every time. I forget all deadlines and expectations and I’m simply there.

On the flight home I look over at Bee fast asleep, he is so familiar to me now. I realise how profoundly my idea of love has changed since he came into my life. I long to go back in time and tell my young self that love doesn’t need to suffocate. I long to go back to tell my mother and my aunts they deserve more. I long to tell every woman in every painful relationship that it doesn’t need to hurt. That love can be good and they deserve good love that nourishes them, not poisons them. We all do.


32 love notes

  1. I just came across your blog,well this post I haven’t ventured the rest but am keen to now hehe.

    its written so beautiful.yet with so much sadness behind it that makes me want to help you be happy somehow!!even though your write like you are I still feel emotional at this post.(I’m a soppy git)
    but yet such a lovely post and I’m so glad you’ve found your lobster and love that you so obviously deserve.and heres to happinss.take care hun.xx

  2. I’m not too sure how I stumbled upon this older blog post of yours, but it filled me with both sadness and happiness. You write so beautifully, and even in the face of adversity, there is a certain light that you possess that fills the heart of everyone around you.

    I must ask, however – this pizza in Brisbane that was so wonderful – where is it? I’ve lived in Brisbane almost my whole life but have to move in July, and though it terrifies me, I’m trying to soak up as much of Brisbane’s goodness before I leave. 

    Sending you love xx

  3. As always I loved reading your post! I especially liked the part about finding a healthy love, I’m so happy for you that you’ve managed to find that. In our culture, unhealthy types of love are often romanticized, and yes whilst its true that relationships require compromise, you should never feel like you are giving pieces of yourself away. I wish I could tell my younger self this. Beautiful photos too as always <3

    http://www.miriamwoodburnblog.co.uk 

  4. One time each month, sometimes less, sometimes more, I view your blog to find a new story within thousands of others. And everytime I get very excited. Sometimes I wait to read them until I’m by myself or until I’ve waited enough to bare it. It’s like saving a treasure nobody else knows you have. Perhaps it’s only words to others, yet always a treasure to me. A silly smile nobody I’d tell would understand. I’ve been following your stories for five years. I began reading by going back as far as I could, at the very beginning of your online storytelling. It’s been a wonderful journey. Imagine reading a very interesting book – for several years – which hasn’t got an ending! I’ve never left traces here before, but thought today would be the day to break my silence. You don’t know my name still I view you as my friend and hope you do the same. Therefor I am glad to both thank you and tell you how happy it makes me to read about where you have gotten ‘til this day. Since it somehow feels as though I know you as my friend I get kind of proud. I am proud of the life you have chosen to live and the people you chose to love and cherish. I am proud of your daughter and the person you tell the world she has become and still becoming. You are a great mama and you inspire me to cherish that part of my life when I get to it. I am proud of how you brought her to life at the age of nineteen, as I would be of a dear friend. I am proud you chose to go your own way after the separation with her father, even though it was tough you made it though. And it paid off didn’t it? I am proud of the boy you call Bee. The joy he seems to bring into your life brings me nothing but joy. I am proud of the stories you chose to tell the world, not only the oh-so-beautiful but also the heartbreaking. You are an equal to me meaning you both inspire and educate me about the world and myself, as all my friends tempt to do. And I could never be more grateful. Thank you for sharing your beautiful self and for showing this world some depth and meaning. I wish you all the best of all the worlds, and of all the billion stories to come ahead.

    Amanda, 18, Sweden

  5. Oh, also, 🙂 where can I see your next workshops?? I live in the states but its on my list of things I must do

  6. Very random but Ive been wanting to try to eat raw recently and I know youre an ~ExPerT~, could you post a recipe or two?? keep in mind im a beginner with an overassertive sweet tooth 🙂

  7. Hi, Nirrimi…

    Ever now and them I come here to take a look in how things are going to you…It seems you’re finding yourself more and more everyday, and your pictures stay strong, even that they get softer and softer; and maybe this is a reflex of you discovering a different kind of beautyin life.

    I’m luck enought to work with someone that sorts of reminds me of you – in the wilder days – and in both lives I see this beautiful association of power and softness; a work that represents an instant, as if we could live a glimpse of your life for that brief moment where we look the picture for the first time…Here’s her work if you’re interested: 

    http://smoothmyeye.tumblr.com/
    (it’s not commercial, she photographs as a hobby but I think maybe this is why it feels so personal)

    Best for you & Alba.
    Still hope to veggie picnic with you in Paris someday. =)

  8. Love your stories!
    and….Townsville!!!!! Magnetic Island!

    I have been there! one of my sisters live there with her husband and boy. I spent a month around there on Christmas time. Love it!

    Hope to come back again sometime.

  9. One time each month, sometimes less, sometimes more, I view your blog to find a new story within thousands of others. And everytime I get very excited. Sometimes I wait to read them until I’m by myself or until I’ve waited enough to bare it. It’s like saving a treasure nobody else knows you have. Perhaps it’s only words to others, yet always a treasure to me. A silly smile nobody I’d tell would understand. I’ve been following your stories for five years. I began reading by going back as far as I could, at the very beginning of your online storytelling. It’s been a wonderful journey. Imagine reading a very interesting book – for several years – which hasn’t got an ending! I’ve never left traces here before, but thought today would be the day to break my silence. You don’t know my name still I view you as my friend and hope you do the same. Therefor I am glad to both thank you and tell you how happy it makes me to read about where you have gotten ‘til this day. Since it somehow feels as though I know you as my friend I get kind of proud. I am proud of the life you have chosen to live and the people you chose to love and cherish. I am proud of your daughter and the person you tell the world she has become and still becoming. You are a great mama and you inspire me to cherish that part of my life when I get to it. I am proud of how you brought her to life at the age of nineteen, as I would be of a dear friend. I am proud you chose to go your own way after the separation with her father, even though it was tough you made it though. And it paid off didn’t it? I am proud of the boy you call Bee. The joy he seems to bring into your life brings me nothing but joy. I am proud of the stories you chose to tell the world, not only the oh-so-beautiful but also the heartbreaking. You are an equal to me meaning you both inspire and educate me about the world and myself, as all my friends tempt to do. And I could never be more grateful. Thank you for sharing your beautiful self and for showing this world some depth and meaning. I wish you all the best of all the worlds, and of all the billion stories to come ahead.

    / Amanda, 18, Sweden

  10. Your words about safe, nourishing, healthy love… it makes me so happy.

    I hope you do have an opportunity to share this with your mother and your aunts, if they haven’t learned it already.  Just because someone is over 40 doesn’t mean that they no longer need or have a place for love.  

    I think how Alba will grow up knowing this, seeing it in your life, and I’m so thankful.  She will have her own heartbreaks, likely, but she won’t have to suffer through painful, poisonous relationships because she thinks that’s what love looks like.

    Thank you for sharing your journeys with us.  Thank you for being your real, honest, beautiful self.

    p.s.  Loved the remark about driving 10 hrs. without a toddler.  I have a couple friends who have been remodeling a house with a toddler.  One weekend the grandmother took the boy while they worked.  They exclaimed, “It was amazing!  We felt invincible! It felt like there were five of us–we got so much done!”

  11.  Your words really get to me. 

    This is like a story. It’s not true, it’s just a story. That’s what I am thinking while reading, because it’s so beautiful. The story. Then fom no where I see all those photographs and I realize this really is your life. It’s not a story. It’s your life. 

    I don’t really know what I want to say, just that this really get to me and it’s very inspirational.

  12. Nirrimi, I love how you’ve embraced all the things that have happened to you, you are such an inspiring girl. Your writting is so captivating, I always want to read more from you. Alba is a free spirit, and with the actual things in the world is so hard to find kids like that nowadays. It seems you’ve made a great work like a Mama. You deserve the best, please keep sharing your stories with us <3 Greetings from Venezuela.

  13. You truely are a beautiful person, Nirrimi. I’m always longing for your new posts. I feel like I’ve known you for years without ever meeting you, even without ever writing a comment. Thank you so much for being you and sharing your deepest emotions, joy, sadness, … with the world. Your writings are inspiring and make people grow – you, in the first place, but us, your readers, as well. After reading your words my heart is always a bit fuller and my head a bit wiser. You’re often so right, even when you’re wrong.

    (Oh, and you should try liking Bee’s love stories as much as his adventure tales though. They also made him who is he is now. It is wonderful to have loved and be loved in the past.)

    Love

  14. This might sound weird but I still love to go back through your DA account sometimes and look at all the old stuff you posted with your friends and all those “troubled teenager in the summer” type pictures. Summer is my favorite season and all your old photos remind me of summertime when I was a kid. The way kids go around bored getting into trouble, how warm it is, staying out late. Idk why, I just love how they make me feel nostalgic its hard to explain. All of your pictures are so magical no matter what the subject or theme <3 I'm strangely excited that you're living back home where its warm! I live in cold NJ but I'm currently in the process of getting ready to move to southern California for school because I long for that eternal summer so badly. I cant wait to see what stories you have to tell next!

  15. it’s spellbinding reading your stories and getting to follow you on your journeys afar and back home. where are you living now if you want to move back to queensland? xx

  16. Thank you Nirrimi. I know that what you write it’s for you, but when you share, your stories resonate with our souls, sometimes with the dark side, sometimes with the lighter one. And as I’m reading I feel a relief, like yeah, sometimes life is so good and sweet and sometimes it’s bad and bitter but who cares? The important thing it’s don’t be afraid of living it. You always leave me in the positive side, even when you write raw and sad things. I have a daughter, Abril, she is 4 years old now. So sometimes I think I understand the things you write as a young mama. We have a world map, and when Abril asks about Australia I talk to her about Alba, and that maybe one day she’ll meet her…. All of this just to say you thank you, beautiful woman & soul.

    A warm hugh from Spain, Judith xx

  17. I’m not sure if I ever actually left a comment, but I have been reading your blog for years now, as most of your followers – living through your pregnancy and birth of lovely little Alba, watching and rejoicing in how she grows, aching with you through the heartbreak. It makes me very happy that you finally have Bee in your life, to make you happy and present you with this wonderful calm of the true love. Those last couple of sentences are beautiful as everything you write and do. And I am hoping with you that every woman, every person can have this kind of love in their life.
    Thank you Nirrimi Joy for giving us the gift of your wonderful work and for allowing us to peek into your beautiful soul. 

  18. Your words are always so achingly beautiful. They truly lift my heart up and catch my breath in my throat. It’s also so wonderful to read about your happiness and your love. Thank you for sharing yourself and your thoughts with the rest of us. You’re really an amazing spirit.

  19. I love to read your stories and how you weave the words together so that they transport so much and create a whole world on one blank internet page. I’m always happy when I see a new post by you coming up. And all the more when I read that you are happy and so wonderfully in love. Yes, we all deserve a relation ship that strengthens us and makes our heart and us complete. ♥

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *