On the way: Daily Post weekly photography challenge

Ratana Church, Raetihi, North Island, NZ. Seen from the road en-route to Whanganui and worth the detour. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

Ratana Church, Raetihi, NZ. Seen in the distance, and worth the detour. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

I love to travel.

I love travelling.

I love being away from home.

No matter how I phrase this, it doesn’t seem to come out right. I love being on holiday, away on business, or visiting friends and family. It not that I don’t like being at home; but there is something wonderful about spending time in new (or just different) places. Having said that, it has taken me a long time to actually enjoy travel itself.

As a kid, my brothers and I were piled into the back of the car and taken to our destination with as few stops as possible; the point was to “get there.” Later, when I began to travel as an adult it was often for work, and again the focus was on arriving. Even when I took leisure trips, I didn’t really understand that the journey itself can be savored. My first solo road trips were so ambitious, with such huge distances to cover each day, that I barely saw, let alone stopped to enjoy, the places I passed through.

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A two-hour journey (each way) from Munich to Schloss Neuschwanstein gave our family plenty of time to enjoy the wonderful winter scenery  and each others company  — although my son isn’t looking to pleased to be in this shot. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Enjoying the scenery, train ride from Munich to Schloss Neuschwanstein. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Enjoying the scenery, train ride from Munich to Schloss Neuschwanstein. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

If I’m honest, I’ve lived most of my life that way; always so focused on the destination that I ignored the journey — and I’m not thinking only of physical travel.

Recently, things have changed. I’m not sure when or how — it has been slow and subtle — but sometime in the last few years I have actually started to experience (not always enjoy — but at least be aware of) the hills and valleys of  my wanderings and not simply the end-point.

Of course it is easier when I travel solo; I don’t have to negotiate companions’ timetables or boredom thresholds. I can double-back to photograph the amazing church seen fleetingly on my first pass through a town, pull into a tiny road-side cafe or gallery, and stop for an extended chat with people I meet. With family and friends, the pleasures are often simply to be in their company, with nowhere else to go and no internet to distract.

Chatting with commuters on Edinburgh bus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

Chatting with commuters on an Edinburgh-bound bus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

On the way home from my brother's wedding. The Big T and our son waiting at the tube station. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006.

On the way home from my brother’s wedding. The Big T and our son waiting at the tube station. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006.

Snapped from the top of a London bus. The dome of St Paul's lit up, with the reflections of fellow passengers in the background. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Snapped from the top of a London bus. The dome of St Paul’s lit up, with the reflections of fellow passengers in the background. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Sometimes the destination is only part of another journey. Cape Reinga is at very top of New Zealand; with only the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea (which meet off the coast there) beyond. There is only one road, and no other access. Yet for Maori, it is the place where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld (1) by leaping from the headland into an ancient pohutukawa tree below, climbing the roots to enter Te Ara Wairua, the ‘Spirits’ pathway’, and return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki.

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga, Northland, New Zealand. This is the end of the road; beyond only ocean for thousands of miles. Yet it too is "on the way" for the spirits of the dead. Photo: Su Leslie, 2004

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga, Northland, New Zealand. This is the end of the road; beyond only ocean for thousands of miles. Yet it too is “on the way” for the spirits of the dead. Photo: Su Leslie, 2004

Travel is so frequently a metaphor for life that we barely think of it as one at all. I am aware that as my attitudes to physical travel have changed, so to has my appreciation of the rhythm of everyday life. Maybe it’s because I get so caught up in the mundane that I lose track of the bigger goals that seemed so all-consuming in my youth? Maybe I’m just slowing down. I will never be the first woman Governor General of NZ (an old ambition, dashed by the 1989 appointment of the wonderful Dame Cath Tizard), nor will I publish my first book by age 40 (where does the time go?). But maybe I will still achieve some of the big dreams.

In the meantime, I cherish each day with a loving partner and a wonderful child who is rapidly becoming a man.

Always on his way somewhere; the boy-child aged 8. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006.

Always on his way somewhere and usually at full speed; the boy-child aged 8. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006.

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The mode of transport may have changed, but he is still focused on the road ahead. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

This post was written for the Daily Post Weekly Photography Challenge. You can find out more here.

(1) Cape Reinga, Wikipedia.

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“… all the noise and the hurry seems to help I know”

Ska band, Brick Lane Market, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Snapseed.

Ska band, Brick Lane Market, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

I’ve been quite insular lately; not going out much nor engaging with the world beyond my front door. I was going to blame the weather; it has been raining constantly for days, and a southerly wind has blasted up from Antarctica, making even the shortest trip seem quite unappealing.

But of course that’s an excuse. Really I just haven’t felt like putting on my “hello world” face and stepping outside.

Thoughtful; woman at Covent Garden Market, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Pensive; woman at Covent Garden Market, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Dancers in the Carnaval des duex rives, Bordeaux. Despite at times torrential rain, thousands turned out to take part. Photo: Su Leslie

Dancers in the Carnaval des duex rives, Bordeaux. Despite at times torrential rain, thousands turned out to take part. Photo: Su Leslie

Earlier this year I went to Europe with the Big T and our boy-child (with a stop-over in San Francisco). It was the end of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, and although San Francisco was positively balmy and London turned on a few days of gloriously early spring, both Munich and Bordeaux delivered very season-appropriate weather. Yet each day we donned hats, coats and gloves and we went out. From morning until late we explored, not knowing what we’d see around each corner and reveling in the sheer “otherness” of ancient European cities.

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Even on a wet Sunday the Neues Rathaus on Marienplatz, Munich had plenty of visitors. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Visitors leaving Horseguards Parade, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Late afternoon sun streams on visitors leaving Horse Guards Parade, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Street musicians on Jubilee Walkway, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Street musicians on Jubilee Walkway, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Holidays are finite. We were only in each place for a short time and there was so much to see and do; the idea that we would stay in our apartment to avoid bad weather was unthinkable.

I love the way children can make fun, even on a wet day. Bordeux, 2015. Photo: Su Leslie.

I love the way children can make fun, even on a wet day. Doesn’t look like Dad is quite so happy though. Bordeux, 2015. Photo: Su Leslie.

But of course life is finite too — just (hopefully) on a different scale to holidays. Lately, I seem to have forgotten that and have dreaded, rather than looked forward to, the new day. Looking at some of the street photos from our trip has helped remind me of how much I miss by shutting myself away.

Petticoat Lane Market, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Petticoat Lane Market, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Just hanging with the guys, The Haight, San Francisco. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Just hanging with the guys, The Haight, San Francisco. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Climate change protest, Parliament Square, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Climate change protest, Parliament Square, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Sometimes even solitude is better in a crowd …

Alone in a crowd

Brick Lane, London. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

… which thought reminded me of the classic Petula Clark song, Downtown (although I prefer Emma Bunton’s 2006 cover)

The title of this post comes from that song, and cheesy as it is, there is a certain truth in the lyrics. A few nights ago the Big T and I had our first date night in a while. We went to see Fallout — a beautiful and powerful play by Bronwyn Elsmore about the sinking of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour 30 years ago this July. Both of us lived in Auckland at the time of the Rainbow Warrior bombing, and judging by the way this play moved everyone in the audience — we weren’t the only ones who felt transported back to that time. Being part of that collective remembering was a powerful feeling.

Today I persevered through rain, public transport failure, overfull carparks to see Partner with the Enemy, an inspiring documentary about two women trying to build a business together against ridiculous odds.

Now it seems that the rain is likely to clear (at least for a few days) and I might even get a walk on the beach.

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge. You can see Sally’s gorgeous photos and find out more here.

 

 

 

Moving on from colour: form and texture in sculpture

Detail of Wolf Habichhorst's nikau garden light sculptures, NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie. Edited with Snapseed.

Detail of Wolf Habichhorst’s nikau garden light sculptures, NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie.

I think sculpture is a great medium to photograph in black and white. Without the distraction of colour, we can focus on forms and textures; like the folded wire mesh of Wolf Habichhorst’s garden lights, or the wood grain in Karen Walters’ carved seed pods.

Detail from Karen Walters, 'Tree of Golden Pods', NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie, edited with Snapseed.

Detail from Karen Walters, Tree of Golden Pods, NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie.

Cast and rendered works , like Frank Watson’s The Thoughtful Fish and Sam Harrison’s Gretchen, reveal textures that are a legacy of their production processes.

Frank Watson, 'The Thoughtful Fish', NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie. Edited with Snapseed.

Frank Watson, The Thoughtful Fish, NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie.

Sam Harrison, 'Gretchen.' NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie

Sam Harrison, Gretchen. NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie

All of these images are taken from the outdoor sculpture exhibition, NZ Sculpture OnShore. As well as being New Zealand’s largest such exhibition, is also a fund-raiser for Women’s Refuge — donating over $1.5m to the cause since its inception. The exhibition is held on a beautiful cliff-top location, overlooking the harbour. On a sunny day, the backdrop of sparkling water and blue sky can enhance visitors’ enjoyment of the huge range of work exhibited. But sometimes, we can better see the artist’s vision and intent by taking away the colours of sea and sky. I think it’s easier to focus on the play of light and shade in Rebecca Rose’s ‘In Flight Entertainment’ without gazing at the background blues and greens of trees and ocean.

Rebecca Rose, 'In Flight Entertainment.' NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie

Rebecca Rose, In Flight Entertainment. NZ Sculpture OnShore, 2014. Photo: Su Leslie

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge. You can see Sally’s photos, and find out more here.

Exploring the colours of my mind

Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Agapanthus bloom. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Colour is a very powerful metaphor of emotion in everyday language. It’s not just that we use individual colours (“in the pink”, “got the blues”) to describe our feelings, but even the notion of colour itself (“that’ll put some colour in your cheeks”, “she’s a colourful character”) is often central to how we talk about ourselves, our lives, and our emotional states.

Post-natal (or post-partum) depression has often called “the baby blues”; a phrase that can simultaneously make it more understandable to others,  and at the same time diminish the seriousness of a condition that affects around 16 percent of new mothers (and some fathers too) (1). More generally, the term “black mood” is used to describe depression or feelings of great unhappiness.

Photo: Su Leslie, colour-edited with Aviary Photo Editor.

Agapanthus bloom. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015. Image colour-edited with Aviary Photo Editor.

Psychologists tell us that colours can our moods as well as acting as a short-hand for ideas and emotions.  Reds are associated with heat, passion (and ‘Stop’); white is traditionally used to denote purity, and purple can suggest wealth, royalty and wisdom (2).

It is not only the hue of a colour that affects us, but its intensity. I quite like the softness the photo below, but also find it sad.

Agapanthus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Agapanthus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Of the three images below of canna lilies; I’m drawn to the second. Although the colours are brighter, it doesn’t make me feel happier; it just makes me feel — well, more.

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Canna lily. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Canna lily. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Canna lilies. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

Canna lily. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014. Edited with Snapseed.

I’m interested in how others’ respond to these image. Please let me know what — if anything — they make you feel.

This post was written for Sally’s phoneography and non-SLR digital devices photo challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally. You can see Sally’s beautiful tulip shots here; and explore the contributions of other bloggers in the challenge.

But now I’m going to leave you with an aural colour experience. At the end of last year, I went to the funeral of a friend who had lost his battle with cancer. As his coffin was carried into the crowded chapel, followed by his three daughters and other family members, this was the song that played. It was unexpected — maybe whacky — but set the tone for a funeral that truly did celebrate a good life, well lived. Here’s Donovan’s Mellow Yellow.

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(1) American Psychological Association – Postpartum depression

(2) About.com Colour Psychology

Happy Mother’s Day

I can take the boy-child anywhere, though admittedly, the second time to apologise.

I can take the boy-child anywhere twice; albeit the second time to apologise. Phot0: The Big T, 2013.

It’s Mothers’ Day; but today I’m off-duty. My son is on his first solo out-of-town trip, visiting a friend in Wellington.

Last night his friend’s mother sent me an email thanking me for having a fantastic son who is a pleasure to have around and has become a good friend to her son.

That’s my Mothers’ Day present, and it’s probably the best I’ve ever had (sorry kiddo). It doesn’t take anything away from my son’s ability to manage his own actions and choices, but acknowledges that I have played a role in raising a child who can go out into the world and be a credit to himself and his family.

Photo: The Big T, 2011

Photo: The Big T, 2011

This is important to me for a whole bunch of reasons; not least because I’ve been a “stay at home” mother to my only child. I don’t regret that at all; in fact I believe that both the boy-child and I are better people because of our time together. But the choices that were made when he was little have come at a cost to our family. I suffer from depression and it impacts on us all.

I was diagnosed with post-natal depression 17 years ago, and although circumstances have changed, I don’t think I’ve never really recovered. I have weeks and months when things seem fine; I function as a fairly competent human being. Then the gloom descends and my world falls apart.

So much of his first year passed in a blur. Photo: The Big T, 1998.

So much of his first year passed in a blur. I look at photos and wonder if that was really me. Photo: The Big T, 1998.

I’ve talked to various GPs about this in the past, but only in a general “let’s wait and see” sort of way, mainly because of my reluctance to buy into any sort of pharmaceutical solution (I’m like this generally — about most ailments). But last weekend I hit a new low and sought help.

I’m not really sure what I expected, but my doctor has prescribed anti-depressants (and some other stuff that I’m still thinking about). I came home and did some research on the particular medication (I have a library degree, so I mean actual research – not Google); and I’ve decided not to fill the prescription. The thought of what the chemicals can do to my body actually makes me more depressed. But I think more importantly, it makes me feel that I’m relinquishing control over my situation and I’m not ready to do that. I know that antidepressants do a whole lot of good for many people and I’m not ruling them out forever. I just want to look for alternatives first.

Medication also treats the symptoms, and I really, really need to address the causes. I feel like my life is shit because – well, objectively, a lot of my life is shit. Taking drugs won’t fix that I’m overweight, unemployed, have a relationship in crisis and feel like my brain is turning to mush from under-use.

So I’ve decided to deal with this the way I tackle most things; by doing research, analysing the information I find, doing some more research, and making a plan that involves taking charge of things myself.

Feeling a bit more in kick-ass mode. Photo: The Big T, 2012.

Yes, I am a control freak; but actually that’s a part of me I can live with.

I’m also a writer; and have realised over the years that writing is how I make sense of the world. I’ve never been one of those people who plans something out and then writes it down. I start writing, then read what I’ve written and change it a bit, then I write some more, and repeat this process over and over again until I’ve created meaning out of all the thoughts and connections that whiz around my head like ingredients in the pantry, waiting to be turned into a cake or a casserole or whatever.

Even as I’m writing this, I’m not sure that my blog is the right place for this process. But the fact is, part of dealing with depression is acknowledging that it exists. My blogging community is no less real than any other I belong to and it would feel disingenuous to continue posting with a phoney “happy face.”

I have no intention of turning ZimmerBitch into a chronicle of depression. One of the things I derive real pleasure from is photography, and the blog will still be principally a place for my images and the thoughts that go with them. But I guess I’d also like to use the structure and discipline of writing a blog to explore some of the stuff I need to think about.

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Taking photos is one of the things that gives me pleasure; knowing that might be part of the recovery. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

I will provide warnings on all DEPRESSION content, and if you start abandoning me in droves, I’ll see the error of my ways and find alternative forums for my angst!

In the meantime, I’m taking baby steps. So I’m off to get ready for a date with the Big T; dinner and An Evening with Noel Fielding.

Six word Saturday: in praise of small-town junk shops

Perfect for indulgent afternoon teas. Found in a second-hand shop in Tuakau, New Zealand. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Perfect for indulgent afternoon teas. Found today in a second-hand shop in Tuakau, New Zealand. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

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The Big T and I have been searching for a plain, old-fashioned gravy boat for several years now. This one is perfect; large, not too fussy and with a detachable saucer. Found in a second hand-shop in Tuakau, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Six word Saturday is a blogging prompt from Cate at Show my Face. You can see more here.

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