I long for the quiet of the country sometimes. I remember when I moved out there feeling this true excitement at the fresh start. The country was beautiful and I had moved at the best possible time of year, September – the beginning of Spring. When the worst of the cold is over and the wildflowers line the sides of the roads. The flocks of galahs greeted me. The drive out was always soothing, acres of fields in a patchwork of green and gold and brown, dotted with gumtrees. The sign into town signified home. The old buildings unassuming and friendly.
I didn’t realise until I fled to the city two years ago how much of my photography lay in that town. I knew every inch of it. The light was different out there, more golden when it isn’t filtered through street after street of suburban houses. The city was the same thing after the same thing. Anonymous. Without character. All the lawns the same, the housing estates were the same handful of houses duplicated one after another like they had been xeroxed. Where was the beauty? I would kill for a dirt road, for a lopsided fence, for a crumbling brick wall, a rusted piece of corrugated iron. Give me a weed, an unintentional dandelion – some wildness – and keep your polite gardens of plants that never changed.
In the country when I felt overwhelmed I would take my camera into my backyard, only a 1/2 an acre on the edge of town and spend some time shooting. The chickens would cluck around me curiously as I shot them scratching beneath the peach trees. The goats would nuzzle at my hair and I would breath in the smell of hay and feed and earth and sunshine and shoot the camomile that grew through the cracks in the bricks, wildly escaping the confines of the garden bed. I would shoot the animals and the plants and the children as they played. I would lose time and come in hours later with grass stains on my jeans and leaves in my hair, my cheeks pink and I would feel alive and refreshed. The photos weren’t brilliant, just parts of my garden, but it was mediation for me.
Now my camera gathers dust because the animals are gone and my backyard is short lawn and there is no afternoon light begging me to play in it. I don’t know how to shoot in this place where everything is planned and the camomile would have been ripped out and tamed and people put on special clothing to take a walk.
I didn’t expect this to happen. I grew up here, I was raised in the city. I dreamed of housing estates and perfect lawns. The country…it was serendipity. I never planned that. So how did it creep into my blood?
I cast my lot here two years ago, amongst these carbon copy houses and traffic that never stops even in the darkest hours. Where you can never really see the stars properly because there are too many lights and I can hear my neighbours conversation like they were sitting in my own living room. Here I am. But it is not where I am meant to be. I am wild, open spaces and lazy fields of yellow flowers. I am closed stores on Sunday and rambling camomile. I am wooden floors and tongue in groove walls. I am the sound of rain on a tin roof. I am quiet gumtrees standing silently in a field. I am the smell of lavender in Spring. The country sings to me. I belong to it.
Some plants cannot survive on their own, they must be grafted on to a different plant to be strong enough to make it. Roses are one. A knobbly graft marking the place where the stock plant was merged with the rose. The stock plant would be chosen for it’s hardy roots, the other may be chosen for its beautiful blooms. Perhaps I was never meant to be here. Perhaps I was always supposed to be attached to another place where I could grow strong and bloom.