On our 3rd morning we woke to heavy cloud cover – but you know I was still happy! This region was very quiet when we visited in off-season autumn, so we felt like the only people in this spectacular landscape, and often we actually were. We started at sunrise on the beach delicately avoiding the ice sculptures as though works of art, and then wandered under the bridge to the lagoon, both of us snapping away on our cameras. (Love this photo of us huddled over one together wearing several layers and gore-tex). Glacial ice on a beach. Black volcanic sand. Vivid blues. Seals floating without a care. Ice snapping and splashing into the water. Somebody pinch us!
After our relaxing night at The Blue Lagoon Hotel we hit the road, heading south-east. Despite the landscape being barren, it still varies around the bays, as does the weather. We had the most perfect balance of half bright sunny days and half foggy days – making my husband and I very happy photographers. It makes me so giddy with joy that we continue to share photography but develop and experiment with our own styles. I think it’s wonderful that we don’t want to shoot the same, it makes for surprises and admiration all round. My eyes adore grey skies for being pain-free and my husband enjoys capturing the brightness of the sun and blue skies. It is fascinating to go through our photos taken at the same time in the same location, as our different perspectives shine through so vividly in our composition, light preferences, interpretation of landscapes and selection of subjects. This has made a wonderful gift for me – I can relive the experience with his imagery and see it in a new way and discover more of what I missed. And together we can show our loved ones our Iceland. Given I have severe tunnel vision, landscape photography is the least natural style for me, as it is not how I see at all. Before our trip, I wondered how I would capture it, but I was determined to rise to this challenge. On this adventure I realised that I sought leading lines and simplicity to help me comprehend the lay of the land, to help my eyes compose, to give them rest from overwhelm too. As you can see above, I also took photos of the bright sunny days, but almost always with the sun behind me. I relished the freedom that came with such expansive, seemingly untouched plains – the freedom to explore the surroundings – the wind, the grass, the rocks, the mountains, the ground underfoot, the cold, the smells, the absence of people and cars – the landscape as I saw and felt it.
P.S. This was the first Icelandic horse of many = happy me! More coming Jane!
It’s an expensive tourist attraction for sure. But it’s one that I would still recommend. Definitely do it if you feel like a splurge and relax on arrival or just before leaving Iceland, as it’s conveniently located close to the airport.
I remember coming into land in Iceland quite vividly. We drifted below the clouds and in the brightness of the autumn afternoon glow, got our first glimpse of this beautifully barren land. We smiled at each other and held hands, we were so damn excited to be there. I remember the blast of cold air that hit us as we emerged from the airport. It’s the kind of sensory slam that makes you feel so lucky to be alive. A short taxi ride later we arrived at The Blue Lagoon Hotel – while it is designed to cater for people seeking skin treatments, it is also perfectly situated as a boutique hotel to just simply enjoy its very own private geothermal spa and proximity to The Blue Lagoon attraction itself. We stepped into the foyer and the low sun meeting the spa fog, cast the most striking foggy golden haze over everything. We threw our bags in the perfectly Scandinavian-minimalist room which I adored, grabbed our swimmers and camera and emerged outside as quickly as we could. The light was ours to enjoy alone in the surrounding lava fields as we strode out along the curving pathway that felt like it could lead you to a secret world. And being so otherworldly you do feel like you’ve already entered that secret. Amongst the green moss-covered rocks were cloudy turquoise bodies of water edged by white mineral mud contrasting so starkly with the black soil – such a beautiful colour scheme. We had not pulled out all of our warming layers from the suitcases, so the cold was a harsh shock. But we were laughing, holding hands, half-jogging, sometimes pausing to take photos and pulling our scarves around our faces.
In the main pool we found ourselves among other tourists, but it was quietening as the tour buses appeared long gone. I struggled in the labyrinth-like, dark women’s change-rooms, but made a friend in a lovely employee named Bernadette. She helped me with the locker system, find the showers and then walked arm in arm to meet my husband waiting at the other side with a smile and outstretched hand to greet me.
The sensation of cold wind on our upper body as our legs entered the hot waters was incredible. We put mineral mud on our faces, floated around, watched the sun’s rays dance in the steam and chatted as though we were the only two in the world. The hill behind us a golden orange until it was blue hour and then night-time and the landscape was hidden. Voices drifted across the darkness from the far reaches of the lagoon. The big open sky above us and the cold air actually welcome as we stood to have moments of relief from the heat of the liquid. I felt beautiful in there, in a body that is imperfect but wonderfully attuned to the simple joys of this life, and encasing a heart that loves my nearest so deeply. I really have to stop being hard on it for changing as it gets older, for it still serves me much. As we emerged all pruned, warmed and mineralised an hour or more later, Bernadette appeared to take me back into the women’s change-rooms – what a beautiful person whom we both thanked.
After snacks at the lagoon we disappeared back onto our secret hotel-guests pathway through the lava fields. It was so very very dark for me, a city dweller with night blindness! But the cold again made us feel alive as we held hands and he led me through the little dots of lights to guide the way. We slept with the curtains open to the lava fields so my husband could start the fun of northern lights seeking. We enjoyed breakfast in the hotel overlooking the private spa waters and its ever-present steam, and then had another it’s-so-good-to-be-alive-and-running-free photo romp at sunrise in the lava fields. Our 8 day adventure in Iceland had begun in the most rejuvenating way.
After perfect resort weather in The Keys, clouds and strong winds rolled in as we made our way back to Miami. I didn’t mind one bit, it left us with two days to view South Beach in a different way. Sadly it did mean I was unable to ogle all the outrageous barely-there-lycra-clad, enhanced and tanned bodies that I had come to expect (and you should know it’s hard for a legally blind person to do such ogling on the sly)!! Our room on Ocean Drive had a great view over the passing parade of expensive cars, backpackers doubling on scooters and the ferociously rustling palms over the park. Noteworthy mentions are coffee at Panther (thanks Alice), more new food experiences at Michael’s Genuine and homemade ice cream at The Frieze.
We shared a special and tasty meal at the famous Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant with this sweet bloggy friend and her husband. After dinner we went back to their hotel for my first blog dog meeting with Karma. Isn’t she cute? Apparently her warmth towards me was uncharacteristic for a first meeting so I was chuffed. But you know what blew me away? D, E & Karma had travelled specifically to South Beach for a mini-vacation just to spend those hours with us. It still warms me each time I think of that gesture of friendship and effort for our very first in-person gathering. D, your words have stayed with me this night is very special. It was D, it was. Thank you.
Thank you so much for your support lately. It will take time to recover fully and I’m immersed in the day-to-day of that journey. Yet ever-present is gratitude for the good stuff too…
Family. My husband – I’ll never have enough words for this guy. My dog leaning against my leg & looking up at me with a happy face. A double date movie outing with my mum & stepdad. My father-in-law’s 60th and his big new toy to tinker with. Hanging in the backyard with my in-laws & their dog. My grandparents now living nearby which means weekly catch ups now! Scrumptious salads from a beloved cafe to surprise my mum & stepdad as we went about working on my grandparents unit before they moved in. Moving my grandparents stuff – my grandpa the minimalist, my gran the collector!
Friends. Text messages full of heart. A homemade card painted & signed by her son. Emails from bloggy friends who envelope me in beautiful, thoughtful words. Two beautiful women calling me brave in one week – & my self-talk didn’t argue with them. A moment when you feel like they just get it & you don’t have to explain.
Exercise. New fitness classes that work so well with my needs. Endorphin rushes. Muscles flexing. Music that makes me want to dance. Friendly ladies in class. Laughing out loud at myself when I lose balance or what exercise we’re supposed to be doing – loving that relaxation & not expecting myself to be perfect. Walks with my husband & dog that always, always complete me.
Christmas. All sleeping in the same house. Snuggled up on the couch watching The Man From Snowy River. Never being too old to jump into bed with my mum for a morning chat. Homemade traditional pudding from a family award-winning recipe. Listening to my husband laugh & chat with my mum & stepdad. Cool drinks, nibbles & sitting around talking with the summer day easing past. Just a few thoughtful gifts. Loved my present-wrapping colour scheme above. The week before christmas in Melbourne.
Spontaneous sunset picnic dinner with my husband & dog. Weekend mini-road trips. Lying under trees. Watching my husband take photos & feeling goose-bumpy at our shared interests & life journey. The Roomba sweeping the floor – roomby is his name. My husband & I experimenting in the kitchen together. Moments of anxiety & flashbacks becoming less intense & feeling proud of myself for stepping forward from last month’s horrible event. Unsubscribing from more cluttering snail mail. When a quick toilet walk with our dog turns into a spontaneous long wander, a meal or bumping into friends. Fresh juice from the friendly man down the street. A little vitamin D absorption lying in my mum & stepdad’s backyard. My self-imposed 3 month shopping ban just because it’s not hard to fulfil anymore but I still like to challenge myself. Running my hands over a rosemary bush to release the scent. Salads. Chocolate. Filtered water. Music. Sunsets. Tennis. Winter Olympics. Zucchini flowers. The windows down in the car. Helping my mum. Making my husband laugh. Valentine’s Day love letters, a food truck meal at sunset and a long walk to eat dessert in a park. Time, words and hugs with loved ones = happiness.
*Photo of me holding green tomatoes by my husband.
My friends, I have been in retreat mode. I couldn’t blog the past two weeks and pretend that everything was normal. I had to be in the phases of shock, grief, fear, anger and self-preservation. A scary incident left me really wobbly. There have been tears, mind jumbles of replayed and rehashed moments, such deep pain that comes with deep love and care, trembling hands, eyes straining as I search for the feared, and a racing heartbeat. In my hardest times I pull back and rely on just a few of my nearest and dearest. My husband has literally held me up in these most emotional days, talking to me, standing by my side, keeping me fed. At the time, I was held by a friend as I collapsed on the ground in breathless shock and totally non-self-conscious sobs in public. It is hard to trust many with my deepest vulnerabilities, especially when that has led to hurt and betrayal before. But I’m proud of myself for reaching out just a little beyond that comfort sphere – it felt good to have a little team fighting so willingly and strongly for me and checking in on me. It had a twisty, complicated playing out but it is now resolved and I can work on confidently striding out again. It is nothing to do with my eyes but certainly such a shock pulls all the vulnerabilities of disability into a temporary, anxiety-filled spotlight. I intentionally write temporary there, because I choose not to be permanently victimised. In the words of a beautiful, supportive faraway friend “Courage can be shaken but not removed”. Sure, a period of insecurity is allowed and even healthy – I allow and forgive myself the bumps. But always I believe in myself that with the gift of time; words of clarity flowing in my mind, heart and ears; the letting go manifesting with each deep breath of a soothing walk, restoring nap or a comforting hug, recovery and indeed thriving will follow.
Here’s some words and images I’ve devoured lately…
Brittania by Latitudes Longitudes Mag
This I Know – Notes On Unravelling The Heart by Susannah Conway
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner
A magical 2014 personal workbook
5 things to do in emotionally tough times
Freezing Fog by Rowdy Kittens
How To Write according to different authors
Stubborn Gladness with Elizabeth Gilbert
How to Help Others via Cup of Jo
Less Is More in writing
First Snow by Hei Astrid
A few of you commented on my stripe top in this post so I thought I would share my stripe collection – one short sleeve, one 3/4 sleeve and two long sleeved. I also have a navy and white stripe blazer not pictured. I adopted the stripe-top trend long after everyone else, as I usually do. I studied how it was worn by others and assessed whether or not it suited my wardrobe. Over the past 12 months, I’ve spent considerable (self-absorbed but very useful!!!) hours looking at photos of me, including some without makeup and those taken after I stopped colouring my hair in 2010. Since my teenage years I have disliked an underlying hue of my hair and often covered it in dye. It was last at its most natural colour at our wedding in 2007 and before that, 2004. Since embracing it (a good tick for self-acceptance), I have come to adore my natural tone and am learning what my best colours are with it. A set colour scheme is also valuable for keeping my wardrobe smaller and making shopping easier and faster. When studying the photos I finally understood fully that plain white is not an uplifting colour around my face.* So, come 2012, I determined that indeed the stripy top is a good basic in my wardrobe.
*Except for Diner en Blanc where all-white is mandatory. Other than a change of shoes, I’ve worn the same outfit to 3 of these events so that I don’t have to keep acquiring more white clothes. The fashion faux-pas of a minimalism enthusiast.
After London and Iceland (photos to come), we spent a relaxing week in Florida with close friends and family from around the world. A million miles travelled by all of us to be at my sister-in-law’s wedding to a kind American man. A whole resort to ourselves so only loved ones and friendly staff to bump into. Morning breakfast gatherings under a thatched hut by the water, joining friends from both families and relishing the time of friendships long ago cemented. Hugs and chats with family as we sat around with not a glance at the time. Tears welling up when a beloved and rarely seen family member arrived from a long solo trip to be there. Laughter flowing around the darkness on the fishing pier. My mistaken anxiety of an alligator!! floating past my feet (i.e. a log)! All excitedly learning over the pier to see the manatee who comes for fresh water each day. Quiet moments curled up on a comfortable chair on the ginormous verandah overlooking the sea. Dinner by the pool with lights hanging in the trees. Celebrating 9 years since our first date and remembering our own wedding. My in-laws pulling off another great event. Dancing for the first time in a very long time because of the cocoon of loved ones who know me. My husband’s smile and declarations of love and pride in my ear. The feeling of being surrounded by so many people looking out for my safety and comfort, hands taking mine or arms around my shoulders before I even know who it is, followed by the sound of their caring voices. Feeling pretty in my wedding day dress and the beautiful photos of faces that will soon adorn our bookshelf. The kind words of others that get written down in the holiday journal. Sunrise with my husband and his smile. Those moments throughout the day where people wander in to our bridal family villa, the biggest of them all, to pull up a chair to chat and open the fridge for snacks. My stunningly beautiful sister-in-law smiling up at her new husband. The shade of the trees. The blue hour as we all took our seats at the reception. The spontaneous pool party after the reception where young and old floated around together. The mother of the groom who jumped in wearing her dress, the laughter, the feeling that it was all ours and no-one to disturb. The intimate, precious family experience for that week in our own little world of the resort. The gaining of new family into our life.
*photo of my legs by my husband!
I didn’t write a lot about my minimalist journey in 2013. It does not mean it’s any less a part of my life, in fact quite the opposite. It is a strong, important part of my psyche that means a lot to me and indeed is now also a valuable coping mechanism for my worsening vision. Sometimes I didn’t want to write about it, just live it. Sometimes it’s hard when others don’t understand it and tease you for something that is very important and helpful to you. Sometimes the most profound thoughts remain unsaid and that is lovely. There were no massive undertakings last year, just a continual chipping away at purging stuff, trying to slow its entry into our home, and mulling over thoughts and priorities and dreams.
The minimalist in me is most happy when travelling with just a suitcase of belongings (but with access to good quality healthy food in the absence of a kitchen sink!). As has always occurred post-travels since I was a teenager, upon returning home I seek to declutter more. When travelling I am reminded of how much more free & peaceful I feel with less stuff, less time online, less nonsense filling the mind and indeed how much less we need to live comfortably and healthily. Speaking of mind clutter, I resolve to work more consciously on the one 2013 resolution that I neglected – caring too much about what others think. Minimalism forces us to face many issues as we limit our interactions and attention to the meaningful and it’s a hard slog but one I want to conquer. I am good at doing what is true to me, but still too concerned with what others think of me and this needs to change – want to cheer each other on? My cookbook project forced me to explore different types of cooking and therefore discover what appeals to me most. I’m taking this new comfort and acceptance of my own food style forward as I seek to declutter the kitchen of more gadgets and pieces this year and not bring anything into it that isn’t already a determined need. I’m also seeking to reduce my cookbook collection from 30 books to 15 and have already made a start. I’m keeping those that inspire me with my kind of recipes and imagery, but conversely are also easy on my vision with minimal paper reflectiveness, indexes/contents pages, clear print and layouts. My wardrobe is always moving towards my goal of less clothes with only those that look and feel good. I recently found a photo of my wardrobe from years ago and was shocked at how much I owned at its peak! Some items won’t be replaced until they are worn out. I’ve accepted that I am best wearing sporty clothes more often in summer for the amount of walking I do. I’ve made good progress this year in learning more about what colours work best, particularly now that I have not coloured my hair since late 2010 and have loved seeing my natural hues come through. I’m experimenting with working with my natural hair texture more often rather than always blow-drying it or having it cut for a hair type other than my own. My bathroom cabinet remains pretty basic bar a few products for experimentation and what I suspect will be a very brief flirtation with nail polish for the first time since summer 2009 – fixing up the chips after a couple of days, and the additional products in the bathroom just annoy me! At some point I’d like to go through my Sentimental Suitcase and re-evaluate its contents. My books are most enjoyed on my Kindle where I can use enlarged text, backlighting and a lightweight object to carry many engrossing reads. I would like to have zero physical books enter the shelves this year. I have decided to resist temptation (even in the face of enthusiasm) and reduce my involvement with events so that I can focus that energy on my own projects, some of which I will share in due course.
I continue to be grateful for all of you who interact with me via this space – your friendships and support are precious and I’m happy that in using only blogging, one social media channel for my nearest, and email, I have found a way to navigate this noisy world and reach through to the heart-warming real. Thank you for being a part of that.
Want to share your goals for 2014?
Our day in Oxford was quite wonderful. Even the rain paused just often enough to allow our meandering and photography. One of our friends is a graduate of the university so we thoroughly enjoyed her insider stories, exploring her famous college, walking secret paths and retreating to warm and dry cafes for lunch and snacks. The colours of the buildings were a pleasant surprise, as was turning a corner to find a paddock of cows along the river. As we left, I said to my husband, maybe you should change careers and become a professor here and I’ll be your trophy wife!
We spent the week before christmas in Melbourne. Sunset beach walks along the bay. A kaleidoscope of kite surfers across the sky. Dining alfresco as the late summer sun set. Waitresses with beautiful long hair. Giving friends our love for their struggle to become parents. Breakfast with a warm, bubbly bloggy friend. Afternoon naps on the couch. A fabulous unit in a great location courtesy of a travelling loved one. Quality time with one of my half brothers. Lying in the park relaxing. A fancy dress party. Feeling sexy in my costume. The distinct sound of the trams as they creak across the tracks. Laneway exploring. City breakfast date before my husband went to work. A delicious drink from Pressed Juices. A wash and blow dry at the hairdresser where I nearly fell asleep. Cool mornings. Leaving on the stinking hot day, phew! Dog cuddles. Planning our dreams. Airports – love them.
Restaurant Story makes you feel like you’ve entered a modern library room showcasing an articulate and impressive feast that nods respectfully to the past while using current science. Our 18 course (!) degustation was the absolute food highlight of this visit to London. My beautiful friend whom I’ve known since I was 4 years old now lives there and as we’ve got older we find ourselves sharing this love of good food, independently discovered while living on other sides of the world. It makes me feel closer to her to find that while our lives have led in different directions from those days of playing in the dirt, we can join together and share this. Catching up with her and her lovely boyfriend over a 5 hour degustation was perfect. My husband and I found the focus on British produce particularly interesting given we had watched the TV series The Great British Food Revival before our trip. We tried some new foods and were blown away by the taste. temperature clashes and texture sensations, presentation and service. The little surprises and random facts make for an experience that truly feels like a tale as you progress through the dishes. (Ask them the history of the restaurant site too!) I would dine here again in a second, and wholeheartedly recommend it.
To conclude this story I probably should say that we rolled out of there and went home to rub our bellies and fall into a contented slumber. I’d be lying. Content we were, but deliciously high on life too. We walked in the brisk air to Madison Bar and had a drink overlooking the city and St Paul’s Cathedral in the magical blue hour – what a sight. Then we headed for a full meal at Burger & Lobster! Ahhh yes it was truly a special day of cuisine and precious company. It’s a story of our holiday that will stay in my heart and tastebuds.
Given this was not our first time in London, I felt no anxiety to squeeze in as much as possible. We wandered freely just as we love to do at home and abroad. I took fewer photos, partly because of some rainy days (which my eyes loved) and partly because I just lived in the moment and felt the joy of walking with my beloved in an inspiring city on the other side of the world.
On the day we arrived we took a long stroll from our friends’ house through laneways, drenched gardens, along the river encroaching upon old homes, past horses, long grass, avoided puddles and absorbed the country-like suburbs before heading into the life of the city for people watching and dinner with family. If it weren’t for the cow patties and slippery mud, I might have skipped through Petersham Meadows! We took reprieve from the drizzle and consumed warming snacks at Petersham Nurseries. A ta-dah! moment as the sun broke through the clouds to show off its view as we stood at the top of Richmond Hill overlooking the River Thames.
Strolling the streets of the Monopoly board game, grabbing a drink in Mayfair, a glance at real estate windows (oh yes Mayfair is waaay out of our budget!). Ducking up laneways where bikes and people rule over cars. Finding hidden gems. Following our noses to the guarantee of good things.
Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Regent’s Canal had me marvelling aloud at the plethora of urban greenery and walking spaces. Such stunning spaces that make me feel rejuvenated and free but still within reach of all the goodness of a city. The symmetry of planted trees and hedges that always tickle my fancy. The dogs who panted around our feet as they too enjoyed roaming. The cafes that promise warmth with hot chocolate and a place to sit and people/dog watch or write in a travel journal.
Ahhh, these days of walking reach deep and fill me with the glow of happiness, freedom and health. Walking in a city makes me feel intimate with it, and a piece always comes with me and becomes a part of my walks around my home city. That emotional and sensory connection is my travel souvenir, held in my heart. London, you’re in the greenest greens, the calming clouds, the warm drinks, the cosy cafes, the classic trench coats, gumboots, the bricks that tell stories & nurturing rains.
This London trip had an emphasis on food experiences and relaxed walks. When booking for lunch at Dinner by Heston, I explained my vision impairment and the appreciation of a window table for more light. After settling into my seat, I looked out to Hyde Park and was ecstatic. As we dined I could look out at my favourite diffused light of a cloudy day, autumn-tinged trees and the bouncing figures of lunch hour runners and horse riders. The stand out dishes were the Broth of Lamb and Pork Belly. If we were to eat here again we would like to simply order all the unique starters to feast upon for they were an impressive read that rendered us indecisive!
Oh my goodness. I fell in love repeatedly in Oxford. The grey skies allowed my eyes to dance freely among its beauty without any glare to block it. The texture and colours of the walls, the greenery crawling up them. The little pathways and lanes to explore. And the locals. Oh my. Those beautifully dressed girls, smartly attired men, and dapper grey-haired gentlemen, many gliding past on bicycles. It reminded me of my love of watching bike riders in Copenhagen. It also flows into my deep appreciation of a city design and culture that fosters walking or cycling. As our friends led us into The Missing Bean cafe, I couldn’t focus on the drinks in front of us. I just had to capture some of this gorgeousness that was making a grin creep across my face. I excused myself, sized up the safe route to go outside and stood smiling at everything. Sometimes I lifted my camera, sometimes I just took it in. The girl in the window with long dark hair and a cream jumper smiled at me. What a beautiful stranger. While her smile was not captured with my camera, it has stayed in my mind.