Ramblings and Photography: Autumn in California




A two week holiday with my family in California was just what I needed after a long and tumultuous year of happenings and changes. Next time I won’t be away from the love of my life for this long (thankfully FaceTime exists), but all in all this holiday was seeped in love and happiness as the main reason for my trip over here was to see my brother marry the love of his life in a beautiful ceremony in the rose gardens in downtown Sacramento.



Two days after I arrived, the weather as warm as a summer day (minus the humidity) in NYC, I watched my little brother and his now wife vow to be together forever while putting the hand-picked rings they had chosen for each other on each other’s fingers. Even in late October the many rose bushes were still in bloom, and the lilac trees were full of pretty butterflies, the precious animal that is always so dear to my heart for so many reasons. Close family and friends of the couple were there with us, including some family from England that I hadn’t seen for years. There were lots of tears of happiness and sadness when thinking of those not able to join us in the celebrations (I am still going to blame the pregnancy hormones for the amount of times I have cried in the past few weeks though). Dylan is the first of us three siblings to get married and I am so happy to be there, and so happy that his unborn niece or nephew was able to somewhat participate in everything.



I have been very much more aware of the season change in California this time around, more than I have been in the past. Despite the warm weather the leaves on the trees are turning yellow and red and orange, and littering the lawns and the roads with their colours. The wind blows cooler and harder than it does normally, and the temperature has dropped from the summer temperatures that I felt on my first days here. It is still warm though, and not the freezing notes that NYC has dropped to during my time away. Ten days ago the sun was beating down on us as we walked around the pumpkin patch looking for witches and ghouls and random Chucky figures that were hiding out in the corn fields; yesterday while walking around a parking lot in downtown Sacramento that was decorated in Dia de los Muertos altars I had to wear a hoodie and grabbed a hot chocolate to warm up, waiting for darkness to roll in earlier due to the time change.
 


There are so many places in this area that I still haven’t seen, in all the years that my mother has lived here and all the times that I have visited. Mum and I went on a day trip to the Sacramento Delta, starting off at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksdale, driving along the Sacramento River, over some of the many bridges spanning one side to the other, right up to the semi ghost town of Isleton. We had a most delicious lunch in a small diner where a few locals lined the counter, watching television while eating their lunches, and then snapped images of the buildings that were once lived in and are now abandoned, waiting to be renovated or to fall down in disrepair. An old man in overalls stopped us on the street and told us to wait until nightfall so that we could see the bats swarm from one of the building…
 


That would have been pretty magical to see, but we had to move on, a few miles back down the road to another semi ghost town called Locke. A town that was built by Chinese immigrants and then abandoned when the work on the delta and bridges and railroads tapered off. More old houses, falling apart and left, waiting for someone to come back and lovingly restore them to their former glory. Houses filled with stories and memories and dreams and nightmares…
 


I always love to walk around Old Sacramento, no matter the weather or the season. The old wooden board sidewalks and the saloon buildings make me think of cowboys and whiskey and horses and gunfights and a world different from today’s. And then the juxtaposition of the old buildings and steam trains and steam boat on one side of the river and the glass and steel edifices on the other side. Old and new; now and then. One of the coolest costume shops I have ever been to, Evangeline’s, is in one of the old buildings and just strolling around made me think about all of the cool ways I will be able to dress my baby up for Halloween next year. This year’s Halloween was spent with good friends and their children, watching them trick or treat around the neighbourhood, laughing at their excitement every time they gathered some chocolate or candy to put in their bags. Next year I will be doing the same with my child, although I doubt he or she will remember her first Halloween for very long. It will all be for my own personal pleasure of dressing up my child like a little monster on a holiday that I really love.
 


And then yesterday, last but not least of the California adventures, I stopped downtown to see some of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations on J Street downtown. I love the tradition of setting up altars for departed loved ones, and there were many to look at. Lots of flowers, dressed up skeletons, pictures of people’s deceased family members and friends, sugar skulls, personal items and other memorabilia. I told my boyfriend that next year we will be making a similar altar, not just because I love the idea, but also because I think it’s important that he or she be imbued with her Mexican heritage, as well as his or her English and French heritage. It’s actually going to be loads of fun mixing everything up and celebrating all of the different holidays there are to celebrate. 



And now it will soon be time to head back to NYC, prepare for a cold winter and navigating said cold winter while heavily pregnant. I am determined to enjoy this winter and the upcoming holidays as much as I can in the city, as who knows where I will be next year? Maybe enjoying another autumn in California, close to my family… I do have to say, this time round, when I was flying in to San Francisco I felt my heart lift with the feeling that I was coming home. That is usually the feeling I get when I'm flying into New York...

In order to see the full set of photos from all of the adventures above click on the link HERE, or the link under the screenshots below.

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California Autumn 2013, a set on Flickr.

Ramblings: There is no I in Me anymore...

By the time you are reading this you probably already know (if you are very, very close to me), have an inkling something has changed, or really just don’t know and are going to be super surprised. In any case, it’s all been a little surreal for myself over the past nine weeks… Yup. There is no I in Me anymore, there is an Us. Me and It, It being a little munchkin that is eventually going to grow into a He or a She and eventually be born in late March/early April of next year.

Everything seems surreal and exciting and scary at the same time. There was that moment I had that dream where I took a home pregnancy test and the test appeared to be positive with a due date marked in the screen… Which lead me to run out to Walgreens as soon as I woke up in the morning to buy a real one, and then sat around staring at the packet for hours until I finally dared to do it. The two lines appeared almost automatically, and at that moment I decided there was no way I was going to be able to keep a child and I needed whatever it was inside of me removed as soon as possible. Needless to say, by the next morning , on my way to Planned Parenthood for a “proper” test, I had already changed my mind dramatically and was hoping that the home test wasn’t a fake positive… I mean I knew it wasn’t. I already knew I was pregnant, there are certain signs that you can’t ignore. And yes, it was positive.

That Friday I went around in a haze, lying on the grass in the middle of Washington Square Park, trying to fathom the idea of having a child, and then raising said child. I stopped smoking and drinking that very day, and surprisingly enough it was easy. I mean REALLY easy. No nicotine withdrawal, no crankiness, no nothing. Just the knowledge that there was a little me growing right inside of me. For the next 10 days it still didn’t feel real. I told a few people close to me, but that was it, my little munchkin was going to remain a secret until I was ready for the world to know about it. 

I don’t have health insurance. That was my main concern about actually having a child. Planned Parenthood lost all funding to provide prenatal care, so they just gave me a number for a low-cost women’s health clinic in Brooklyn, and I was able to get an appointment for 10 days after I found out I was pregnant. In the meantime I found out I was eligible for Medicaid, so I started working on all the paperwork I needed for that. In the end, the clinic filed for me (they are amazing – and there I was worried that I would have to pay for everything by myself!). I had blood work done, and exams, and went over all different kinds of things with the technician and the nurse and the midwife, and then finally got a referral appointment for an ultrasound at the Brooklyn Hospital for the following week. I am really happy with the people who are following my pregnancy – they made me feel comfortable and a lot less nervous than I was before I got there. 

Unless you have already been through this yourself, you can only imagine what it feels like to see your baby inside of you and then to hear the heartbeat… It’s mind-blowing. That little blob on the screen, the actual size of a bean which is beginning to form into a person is actually part of you and created by you. And that heart beating… Honestly it was only then that it fully became real to me – I now have two hearts beating in my body, and one of them needs to be protected and nurtured and loved at all costs. Every day I wake up and (after the immediate feelings of absolute hunger and thirst, followed by a wave of nausea) I feel blessed that this is happening to me. I remember my 17 year old self writing in my diary and telling my best friends that I wanted a child by the age of 19, and that I would call her Luna. Instead I got a cat and called her Luna, and as the years went by started to wonder if I would ever have a child. Growing up with an amazing mother but with a father figure who disappeared too early and another who wasn’t around for too much longer I always promised myself I wouldn’t have a child unless I was completely sure the child would have parents who would stay together forever. Well, unless you remain a complete and hopeless romantic with no shred of cynicism in your bones all of your adult life you will certainly realize that this was quite a tall order. And a straight shot to never having children. And I have to say that at the beginning of this year I was really starting to think that maybe I wouldn’t have kids, and that, in a way, that was allright (as long as my siblings were going to have them). I could just live in New York City for the rest of my life and live like I have enjoyed living for the past 8 years…

And when have I ever done anything conventionally anyway?! Every time I try to I fail, so I gave up on trying a few years ago and started living life in the way I wanted to. I have never been happier, or more comfortable in my own skin, and everything is just another adventure to embark on… This one probably being the most amazing adventure I will ever jump into head first. And don’t get me wrong, little munchkin’s father is more than present, and won’t be going anywhere (unless I decide to move, because then he will be moving with me, and munchkin). Which brings up the idea of moving… For some silly reason being pregnant kind of changes your perspective on everything. I mean everything. Obviously the idea of moving away from NYC has come to me over the past eight and a half years, but I’ve never actually really acted upon it. But now I just want to move to California, be nearer my family over there and actually be able to live in a house with a back yard where I can grow my own food, not feel like I am constantly hustling to make ends meet like I do here. I will always love New York, but I don’t know if I really want to bring up a child here. I’m most certainly going to have the baby here, but after that, who knows? Within the next 18 months I am pretty sure that I will be making a move over to California. It’s always been my dream to live in Santa Cruz, but I think I will probably have to start in Sacramento and then see where life leads me. 

But all of that is not for a while yet… In the meantime I am going to enjoy the amazingness that being pregnant is (especially now that the uncomfortable first trimester is over), and be happy.

The Adventures of Luna


I always thought that she would outlive us all. Stupidly maybe, seeing as she really was only a cat, and the average lifespan of a domestic indoor cat ranges from 12 to 15 years. But Luna was more than your average cat, and always seemed timeless, living through more than some human beings live through in their lives. She was born in some place that only she knew about, abandoned by her mother and left, obviously the runt of the litter, to die alone. She was found by a friend of mine’s mother, and placed in an incubator. Thirteen years ago I received a phone call from my friend saying he had found a tiny black cat with green eyes, and would I like to meet her… Three hours later I brought my little Luna home to the apartment I shared with my best friend Maud in Grenoble. I had to feed her kitty milk from a little bottle and teach her how to eat. I had to teach her how to find and use her litter tray and during the first few days I had to try to coax her out of the most impossible hiding places (under the stove being one example). On the third night I had nearly given up hope that she would ever come out, and I switched my bedroom light off and went to bed. Four minutes later she crept into my room, snuggled on my arm and from that moment in time it really was unconditional love.

She never really learnt how to meow, but purred louder than most cats, and would even purr in her sleep, as long as she was next to me. As she grew she would become more and more adventurous (walking along the railing of my fifth floor balcony or finding a way on to the roof to chase birds for example).  When I took her to the vet to get all of her vaccinations she decided he was in good need of a scratch and that the hiding spot behind his computer was a better place than his examination table (and she was right, he was an asshole anyway). Whenever I was sad or depressed she would curl up on my lap and stare at me until I smiled. We would dance around my apartment to the Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus, and she would sit with me and my friends while we got drunk listening to Cure records in my living room. 

Then I decided that I was quite over living in France for a while. My MA had been completed, all of my family was either in California or England, and I needed time away from everything. So I shipped all of my belongings over to my mum’s place in California, got Luna a good travel case and set off for the US. I bawled my eyes out at Charles de Gaulle airport when I had to hand her over at check-in, and didn’t sleep a wink during the 11 hour flight, thinking that she had died in the bottom of the plane. I made a vow that if she ever flew again she would be with me in the cabin. Of course she made it over alive, a little shaken up and a little annoyed at me for abandoning her, but she settled in very well in the house in California. She finally had the chance to explore the great outside, fighting with cats twice her size, at one time challenging a huge black and white snake that appeared in our back yard (at that moment I forgot my own fear of snakes and rushed out to grab her away from what could have been her death). She met up with her old friend and foe, Fury, my sister’s dog, and let herself be chased around the house until they both got bored of it and decided to live together peacefully by mainly ignoring each other. Although there were many times that I found her hiding on the stairs, waiting to catch Fury out with a hiss and a playful paw punch on her way down them.

In June of 2003 I had to leave the US for at least a year or risk being deported and not allowed back into the country. Not knowing where to go I decided to take up my aunt in Israel’s offer, and visit her for at least 3 months, and help her with her kids. I ended up staying there for over a year, and left Luna with my mum, knowing full well that she would be well looked after (although it broke my heart to leave her). She ended up becoming more aloof, going out into the wild for a few days on end, only coming back when she was hungry and in need of a good rest before her next adventure. Once I was back in California she hardly left the house again. By this time she had acquired a new enemy in the house, in the form of another cat called Muffin, an abandoned cat my mum and brother had adopted. While Luna had always held her own against other cats, Muffin proved to be another story. They hated each other from day one, and even when we tried all the tricks to get them to accept each other they didn’t. While Luna had been fine with Ludwig, her old friend in France (apart from the time that she hit him on the head with her paw, after that they were always together, cuddled up on my bed or chasing birds and flies), she never became friends with Muffin. In any case, Fury realised that she now had a more evil enemy in Muffin, and bonded with Luna. 

And then I had to leave once again. With no visa and no ability to work in the US I had to go back to Europe, this time to England, the one country where at the time all pets needed to be quarantined for 6 months on entry. There was no way I was subjecting her to that, so I left her in California once again. In the ten months I was in England I came back to visit once, for two weeks. The day before I arrived she came home for some food, but then disappeared. After two days I put posters up around the neighbourhood and on day three got a call saying that Luna was running around a backyard. I ran out, still in my pyjamas and flip flops and saw the little monster running through the green belt. She stopped when I called her name, and then ran off. I went home, saddened, until my sister called out to me to say that Luna was waiting patiently by the back door. For the rest of my stay she did not leave my side, only to go back to her adventures of neighbourhood cat queen when I left.

A few months later, Luna went away on another adventure, and stayed away so long that she had my mum worried. She finally crawled back home, dragging one of her back legs behind her. The vet ran tests and x-rays and the poor thing had severely torn ligaments in her back leg, with three options: amputation, surgery or a cast for a few months to see if she would heal naturally. While the vet kept pushing for amputation, after consulting with me my mum decided to go with the cast option. A few months later her leg was healed and she was able to jump up and down on things. At that point I finally had a visa to work in the States (albeit New York and not California) and I flew her back with me after spending Christmas with my family. She came to live with me in my tiny one bedroom apartment in Spanish Harlem, killed the mouse that had been living in the couch (the one I couldn’t kill because I hate mouse traps and refused to use poison because I knew Luna was going to be living there). From that moment onwards she never left me again. We moved to an even smaller apartment in the West Village, where she was more than happy to give up her outdoor adventures and stay inside, sleeping on my bed and waiting for me to get home from work or from my own adventures on the Lower East Side. 


A few years later we moved to a much bigger apartment in Bushwick, where she would wait for me to get home from work from her perfect spot on the couch from where she could watch the front door at all times. Her cat friend Ophelia would sometimes come to visit, and many friends would come over to cuddle her and listen to her purr. She loved people more than other animals, although I was always her first choice when it came to cuddling. My roommate once commented that it was as if she wanted to become part of me, never leaving my side and following me wherever I went, even waiting outside of the bathroom door while I showered. She never failed to jump on my bed and sleep next to me every night, even when she was annoyed at me for not coming home or for staying out too late. Her fur went from black to brown with age, but her eyes remained pure green, unless she was in a playful mood and they would turn yellow. She was always tiny, and put a little bit of weight on with age, but never had a weight problem that older, less active cats often experience. She never overate, always eating whenever she was hungry, and spent many a day sitting on the windowsill, watching the world go buy. We would always still dance to music together, and she would sit on my desk while I was writing, watching me put all of the thoughts and images that travelled through my head into words on paper. When my roommate adopted a dog (the lovely pitbull Doyle) they became fast (but secret) friends. I’m sure Luna was the only one to know Doyle’s past, his life before he came to live with us, and she knew that all he wanted was peace, as did she. I sometimes found them nearly curled up together on the couch, and they would touch noses in front of us on occasion. I’m glad she had a friend like Doyle in the last year of her life.

She never seemed to be unhappy, and I don’t think she suffered any illness or pain. One day I woke up and found that she had become an old lady practically overnight, the next day came home from work and she was gone, peacefully in her sleep. However heartbroken I still am, and still will be for a while, for the past 13 years I have had the sweetest, cutest, funniest and smartest little creature in my life, and I also know that I gave her a life that she probably wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t have adopted her. And nothing can take all of those memories away. I know that for a while I will still automatically check to see if her food and water bowls are full before I leave the house (and therefore leave the house with tears in my eyes), and also expect her to be at home waiting for me when I get in. Every morning I reach out for her when I wake up and then realize that she won’t be there or coming back. One day I will search for another cat to live with me, but for the time being I am going to learn to live without the little being who came everywhere with me.
However heartbreaking it is to lose a pet, the amount of love and joy they bring into a household makes it worth it all. 

The adventures of Luna… Two countries, two states, three apartments in NYC, two hurricanes, one near death experience (that I know of), many people friends, cat friends and dog friends. The little French cat who was raised in French, and to whom I spoke French to until she passed away. The little monster who peed on my roommates bed when she was pissed off (yes she wasn’t perfect) or who would leave me lovely fur balls as presents. The baby cat who continued to think I was her mother until her last day. I imagine that she is running around somewhere with Bella and all of the other pets that I have lost in my life, waiting for me to join her at some point in time.


Photography and Nostalgia: Scanned Pictures - 1993 to 2004

Me, Grenoble 1998Auntie Dot in Melton 1994Zoe in Manton 1994Dylan in Loughborough 1994Koss and me, Oakham 1994Koss and Zoe, Oakham 1994
Zoe, Simon and Koss, Manton 1994My room, Sassenage 1994School courtyard, Grenoble 1994Rebecca, Champollion 1994Alice and me, Sassenage 1994Me and Karli, Sassenage 1994
Me, Grenoble 1995Worshipping the Docs, Grenoble 1995Rebecca, Grenoble 1995Cannibal, Pascal, me Grenoble 1995Andrew, Grenoble 1995Goth Jade, Grenoble 1995
Pascal, Grenoble 1995Shannon, Grenoble 1995Cannibal Corpse back patch, Grenoble 1995Spontaneous mosh pit, Grenoble 1995Karli in my Sepultura t-shirt, Grenoble 1995South of France, 1994
Scanned Pictures - 1993 to 2005, a set on Flickr.

A few months ago I purchased an amazing little tool called the Wolverine Photo Scanner (see link below for more details if you are interested). The tool scans negatives and slides into .jpg format photos that you can then load onto your computer and post online. So for the past few months I have been scanning all of the negatives I have managed to save over the years and over the multiple moves from country to country and apartment to apartment. I finally finished uploading and labeling them all this week as I had a bit more downtime than usual, with it being Christmas and all.

The photos are a mix of moments in time, taken between 1993 and 2004, mainly of people and places in my life at the time. The amount of nostalgia felt while labeling all of the photos was intense, as there are moments that I had forgotten about, and moments that I will never forget as long as I live. Some people come and go over time, others remain around, however far away you may live from each other and however many months pass between conversations. The photos are all mixed up, as I didn’t have the heart to sort them by year, so you may find an image from 1994 in our old house in Sassenage, France right next to one of me and my volunteer friends in Kibbutz Evron in Israel in 2003. I feel as if this entire set is a snapshot of a decade and of the changes and non-changes that may have happened over those years. I thought about making a playlist to accompany the set, but it would have taken many hours and would have been too long to accomplish before the end of the year. Maybe a project for 2013?

Before I post an obligatory piece about 2012, I felt a real, old-school nostalgia piece was needed, not only because I feel that it helps me to collect all these images in one place, but also because a lot of my friends are probably going to appreciate seeing these, especially as at the time none of us had cell phones and cell phone cameras, and I was usually the only one who would take photos during our random nights and days out…

Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them. Bob Dylan

From our house in Sassenage, through the apartment in Ile Verte, Grenoble right through to my first apartment alone with my best friend and roommate Maud, my home was always the main meet-up place and place to hang out for me and my friends over the years. Cooking up pots of pasta and sauce and smoking hash in the Ile Verte, listening to metal into the early hours before going out to explore the huge graveyard down the street; making mulled wine and listening to The Cure on vinyl at our place on the 5th floor at 5 Rue Crépu in Grenoble; standing on the balcony and belting out parts of Mozart’s Don Giovanni to our neighbours at 4am; playing tarot around the table talking about the world and how we could change it…

Walking through the streets of Grenoble with bottles of wine in our hands; sitting on the steps of the FNAC and the church waiting for something to happen. Trips up to the Bastille and nights spent drinking in bars until we were drunk enough to go dance in a club up in the mountains; Paris with Maud and dancing to Bauhaus in a basement bar; electro-goth nights in Grenoble and Lyon; Nick Cave in Lyon in 2001 and standing speechless in front of him, because what on earth can you say to someone you adore without sounding like an idiot? Months and months spent on a kibbutz in Israel, making new lifelong friends and drinking cheap Russian vodka, dancing on tables until 5am and getting up at 6am to go to work in the kitchen. Walks and naps on the beach in Nahariya; talks around bonfires and an 8 day trip around Egypt with $150 in my pocket. Visits to my family in Sacramento, California, meeting up with old high school friends and realizing that some things never change. Little Luna cat as a tiny kitten, still the same little Luna as she is today, 12 years older. Working in the pub in Empingham, England; hanging out in the graveyard and talking for hours; walking around Rutland Water and waiting for the next big thing to happen…

There are so many moments I could write about, so many moments I have already written about and made into chapters of a book that I may or may not finish one day, and I love having a visual reference to these moments in time and to the people I shared these moments with. There are about 400 photos in the set, and there are some people and photos missing because I somehow lost the negatives along the way, but the ones I chose and/or found really portray a great view of our lives at the time.

“Memories are what warm you up from the inside. But they're also what tear you apart.” - Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

 

Love Story: Bella the Great Dane

Three and a half years ago, after my sister moved back to California with her dog Fury, my mum was looking to adopt another dog, as her big house on the bay in Long Island felt lonely without one. She had always dreamed of owning a Great Dane, and after some searches found a couple looking to have their dog adopted because they were moving to a smaller place down south and didn’t think they would have enough room for her.


Bella arrived one Sunday afternoon in March 2009. A pure breed blue Great Dane, tall even for this species of dog, super skinny and extremely skittish. When her original owners left her at the house all she could do was run in circles around the couch and pee with fright whenever we tried to approach her. My mum spent months and months coaxing her out of her frightened shell, making her feel at home and safe, training her to walk on a leash (in the three years of her life she had never walked outside of a backyard on a leash), and trying to understand why she was so scared of everything. Ever tried to hold a scared Great Dane on a leash when the wind ruffles something in a bush, or a car honks suddenly? It’s like trying to hold down a bolting, non-broken colt. They jump in the air. High. Taking all of their 100+ pound weight with them. We realised that Bella had not been treated well, probably abused, and never loved and cared for in the way that she should have been. There were days when I know my mum was near to giving up, but she never did.

Three years down the line, Bella is a happy, 150+ pound dog who now lives in California with my mum, sister and brother, Fury and the fat cat Muffin. She is much loved and cared for, and spends her time following my mum around the garden, sleeping on her bed right by my mum’s desk while she is working and demanding cuddles and hugs whenever she can. There is not a sweeter, more docile and gentle dog in the world. I spent a lot of time with her on Long Island before my mum moved back to California too. I taught her to run in the snow after the blizzards at the end of 2010, let her use my bed as her own when I wasn’t in it, taught her how to jump on the couch and watch Lost with me, even though she wasn’t really allowed to, and helped my mum teach her that it was OK to be happy and be loved, and that she didn’t need to be scared of anything anymore. I obviously don’t get to see her much anymore, a couple of times a year when I am able to go and visit my family in California, but she always remembers my voice, always follows me around like a devoted friend, and always looks up at me with those big eyes full of love. It’s amazing what a lot of love and caring can do for an animal. It makes me happy to think that although her first three years were probably full of pain, fear and abuse, at least the three years after that were full of love and happiness.

A few weeks ago the vet diagnosed Bella with bone cancer. It started in her back leg, and although it hasn’t travelled to her lungs or other organs yet, it will. There is nothing anyone can do but make her feel comfortable until she is not comfortable anymore. Painkillers and muscle relaxers, and a lot of help walking around, as the lump in her leg is growing and jumping up on couches and running around aren’t really options anymore. From talks with my mum and the rest of the family I gather that her condition is worsening quite fast, and it breaks my heart to think that I may never get to run around the garden, cuddle her or just talk to her again. It breaks my heart even more to think of what my mum is going through right now, because even though she is putting on a tough face, I can hear her heart breaking across the thousands of miles that separate us. 

My mum, who also happens to be a wonderful photographer, has been documenting Bella’s life in our family from day 1, and it’s amazing to see how she has grown and changed over the years, from the skinny, scared shell of a dog, to the big, happy, mischievous dog that she is now. The collection of photos that she has put together can be found HERE. The first page also contains Bella’s story in my mum’s words.




"Little" Bellington - giant dog with a heart of gold <3>

Photography: Foothills & Lake (California)

Up a hillThe EndSunsetShoreSacramento LandscapeRocks
RiverbedPlayingPlaying 2Long ShadowsLonely ParasolLog
HeartFolsom LakeEerieDrinksDesolateBlue Green Yellow
BeerTrucksTracksSouthern PacificSignGold West Service
Foothills & Lake, a set on Flickr.

I've been back nearly two weeks now, but here are the last of my California photos... I took a trip up through the hills with my mum, past farms and houses and unicorns (I still think they were real life unicorns). Then we went down to Folsom Lake to see the sun set, watching the dragonflies swarm over the trees and put my feet in the cold water.

However much NYC is my home, I will always miss California (and unicorns).

Photography: Lake Tahoe

Snow-tippedMountains and LakeGreen and BrownLake TahoeGooseBlues
SunshinesPines on the beachLooking UpMountain ViewMore BluesRelaxing
PinesTiffanyPaddling ByKarli & Tiffany B&WKarli & Tiffany colourMarshes
No ParkingBeach-boundMountain flowersBee-chasingPure SilenceStriking Colours
Lake Tahoe, a set on Flickr.

Summertime road trip with my sister and our good friend Tiffany. 100 miles east of Sacramento, on the California/Nevada border, through the mountains. Heart-shaped sunglasses, coffee pit stop in Placerville by the highway, jokes about bath salts and zombie apocalypses, up, up to the 7,000 plus feet summit where the views are blue on other blue on green on rock. Down towards the lake, a stroll through two casinos where we were asked for our ID by a woman who laughed when she realised we were really 34, 33, 32. Put $3 in a 1 cent machine and won $9.22 back, grabbed huge sandwiches at a deli and had a battle of the wits with the geese at Pope Beach. Cold, cold water and hot sun beating down on us, cigarettes under the pines and along to Baldwin beach where the air was quieter but the sun just as hot.

Backtrack with the car the other way, through windy roads and into bear land, pine woods and bird song, out to the hidden gem of Fallen Leaf Lake. Cooler breeze, the smell of fresh air, cold cold waves lapping our feet, snow-tipped mountains and cabins stuck deep in the forest. Getaway land, a place to retreat and find pure rest again. Striking colours and clear air - I miss being in the mountains again already. Sunshine in our eyes all the way down with Varsovie and The Kills in our ears, temperature rising with each drop, back in the valley again.



Photograhy: California Garden

Yellow to RedYellow LilyWebVegetablesTomatoesSunlight on the Rose
SunflowersSquashSquash FlowerSoft LilySmiling FlowerRose and Bee
RedRed VelvetRed and YellowPurplePlumsPink Roses
Pink LilyOrangesOrange LilyOleanderHydrangeaHerbs
California Garden, a set on Flickr.

Back to colour today! My mother has an amazing ability to take any garden and turn it into a beautiful area full of colour and comfort. I first saw this new house in California when she moved back here about a year and a half ago, and it was pretty bare apart from the pool, some grassy areas, trees and oleander bushes. When I came back last July she had already done some work on it, but now, a year later, the place is looking stunning, all types of flowers everywhere and a huge vegetable garden in one section, with everything you really need to survive (beets, lettuce, carrots, zucchini/courgettes, radishes, artichokes, beans, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes etc etc). If you also include meat as a staple, there are a bunch of wild turkeys strolling around the place, and unless they get eaten by the coyotes they are fair game if you can catch them.
The garden is part English, part French, part American, part Secret Garden. Oh and did I mention that there is a little creek running alongside it and the property is surrounded by trees? Pretty paradisaical for a city property! I love coming here to relax and rest.

You can see more about the actual gardening process on my mum's blog HERE.

Photography: Sacramento Cemetery

Sac Cemetery 25Sac Cemetery 1Sac Cemetery 2Sac Cemetery 3Sac Cemetery 4Sac Cemetery 5
Sac Cemetery 6Sac Cemetery 7Sac Cemetery 8Sac Cemetery 9Sac Cemetery 10Sac Cemetery 11
Sac Cemetery 12Sac Cemetery 13Sac Cemetery 14Sac Cemetery 15Sac Cemetery 16Sac Cemetery 17
Sac Cemetery 18Sac Cemetery 19Sac Cemetery 20Sac Cemetery 21Sac Cemetery 22Sac Cemetery 23
Sacramento Cemetery, a set on Flickr.

I have always loved cemeteries. When I was a child in England we used to pretty much live in a cemetery, and that's where I would play with my sister every day. As a teen the village cemeteries used to be our meeting points, the places where we would hang out and smoke,watching the time go by until we could go and have a drink at the pub. In France we lived down the street from the large city cemetery and would go there at night to see if we were scared, and usually end up getting chased away by a guard (or what we imagined to be the guard). Apart from the beauty of many of the tombstones, there is also something so peaceful and restful about a cemetery, somewhere where you can hide from the bustle of the city and where time seems to stop for a while.
I love old cemeteries, where the dates go back to centuries gone by, where moss has grown over the gravestones, and where you can imagine stories of families long gone.

Yesterday I went down to the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento, where the founders of the city as well as the first settlers are laid to rest, and also the governors of the state of California. There is something special about seeing beautiful, well-preserved old tombs amidst large California pine trees and palm trees. What caught my eye the most where the array of statues on the tombs, dotted all around the cemetery, warriors and weeping women, swords and cloaks, standing proud under the California sun. I've been working on getting that same over-exposed, black and white print look on my digital camera that is always much easier to get on my old manual SLR film camera, and it works especially well when the sun is so bright. Perfect for an old cemetery in my opinion, but I think for the rest of my stay here in California I will be going back to colour for a while - I want to make sure I get many shots of the contrasting dried-brown hills and the lush flowers of the oleanders that grow everywhere.


Short Story/Essay: Paradise Within


I actually wrote this for something else, in the hopes that it may be published there, but once I had sent it realised that I just wanted to post it on here too. So I waited a while and am just going to post here anyway, while I am sitting in my Mum's house in California on vacation, another spot in this world that I consider as slightly paradisaical in itself... Sunshine, palm trees, pure calm and relaxation, food directly picked from the garden and thrown into a salad or onto the barbeque... The theme I was writing for was Paradise, and this is what I was immediately inspired to write.



Paradise Within
I used to live in Paradise. But before I arrived in Paradise I lived in a place I can only consider as Hell, created by the people living on this planet around me and by the pitfalls of my own mind. I don’t live in Paradise anymore, but I live in a world that I have created for myself, part beauty and part darkness, part love and part evil. I call this my real world, and hope that I was able to bring some of my learnings from Paradise back to this world of mine.

Hell was the place I lived in just after 9/11. Watching the planes crash, the buildings plummet to the ground and imagining the horrific death of all of those people shifted my once idealistic approach of the world to one of terror and doom. How could I make any type of difference against a big machine of war that our planet was gearing up towards? Growing up at the tail end of the Cold War had been bad enough, but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of nuclear threats gave us all hope that this world could become a better place if we tried. That is, until other forms of terror appeared, from both sides of the spectrum. 9/11, cumulated with the fact that I was writing my MA thesis on Sylvia Plath, led me to believe that Plath had had it all sorted and life under a Bell Jar was the only option for survival.

Hell was being scared to leave the house, panic attacks and acute weight loss, days of not being able to get out of bed, and nights of leaving my phone off the hook to avoid the constant phone calls and messages from my friends, worried why they hadn’t seen me and why I wasn’t out with them. Hell was a constant underlying anxiety of the unknown, and fear of never being able to rid myself of these feelings and feel happy again. Then Hell just became numbness. I came upon a crossroads: either I continued along this road or I chose to make a change, rip myself away from familiarity and throw myself into the unknown, where I would be able to lose myself, and where nobody knew me.

The flight to Paradise was long, and the first few days I was there were ones of complete panic, hidden by my creative ability to appear as calm as possible while my insides were churning. How would I ever be able to communicate with the people when I couldn’t even read their alphabet? Where would I know to stop on the bus in the middle of the desert where everything looks the same and different at the same time? How could I make sure that the food I was eating was really vegetarian? Who could I trust and who should I watch out for? And then I just let go. We humans have many a survival instinct, and I just let mine take over, in essence freeing myself from everything that was holding me back, and opening myself up to a brand new experience that would ultimately change my world.

Paradise was a country built on war, pain, love and passion. A place where the south was mainly desert and the north mainly green, where the sun would beat down on you during the day and the stars would shine brighter than I had ever seen them during the night. Paradise was where I lived among free spirits by the sea, working hard during the day, planting food that would be sold abroad once it was ready, making irrigation pipes for export in the factory, cooking food for over 500 people, serving it up and cleaning up after everyone. Paradise was where we would sit down after work and talk about our lives, a group of people from many different countries and cultures, brought together for different reasons, living together and coping together. No one goes to Paradise without their own personal reasons and expectations, and everyone leaves with some questions answered and new feelings that they never thought existed.

Paradise was the home that I made for myself among these people. Paradise was the ability to be myself and learn that I was a natural leader among others. Paradise helped me discover so many things about myself, helped me discard some of them and cherish others. Paradise taught me that it was OK to love, and that it was OK to get upset. If you don’t talk about what you feel and keep it all bottled up inside, it will only lead to explosion and damage. Paradise was the place where I learned that I could be passionate and that I could believe in a better world. Paradise helped me become the person I am today. I will always remember standing on the beach, with the little waves touching my toes, holding hands with the person I loved and imagining a future that would be full of warmth and sunshine. I let go and at the same time finally let people in.

I always knew Paradise couldn’t last forever, and when I had to leave I had already made up my mind to bring it back with me and plant those roots wherever I ended up. Seven years ago I packed my bags again and went off into the unknown and never left. I knew I had nothing to fear anymore. I planted my little roots here in the city, and let them grow deep. Every time I meet with fear, loneliness, pain and heartbreak I walk to the ocean and wash away the intense need to rip up my roots and run away. I let the ocean remind me of the days I spent in Paradise and the times that I learnt to trust myself and others, and go back to my real world revived and ready to fight any more battles that come my way. Life is a constant challenge and battle between highs and lows, pain and happiness and choices. The important part is to remember to be strong and to find the happy medium between the extremes.

Paradise does exist, and I will always carry a piece of my Paradise around with me, wherever I go. Whatever your paradise is, I promise that you will find it one day, maybe even create it for yourself. I’m happy in my real world nowadays, and always know that I can return to Paradise if I ever need to.