I recently went to a reunion of my university friends and lecturers. A friend and favourite teacher of mine said to me “Em, your life in the bush looks so idyllic. Is it?”
“It is!” I said “Well, the setting certainly is, to me anyway. But with three young children and all the other stuff of a woman of almost 40, I imagine it’s also the same as anywhere else in the world too. Less than charming on many occasions.”
I was thinking about his question on Tuesday when I took my son (and soundly sleeping baby) fog chasing through a thick and eerie cloud. We found beautiful spider webs and he marvelled over a sheep skeleton and a tumble-down shearing shed.
When we got home, Clara fussed for the rest of the day and I was so tired that he pretty much watched Transformers on Netflix for three hours straight. Breaking only for snacks and the toilet. I did not put that on Instagram.
I did capture my kids playing one afternoon in the backyard. The truth is I don’t take a lot of photos at home. Because it’s not that Idyllic. I live in town not on a farm. Our house is perfectly average and I hate that the suburban looking colour bond fences always make their way into the frame. I wish so hard they were timber. Isn’t that silly? It’s just a fence.
Instagram is saturated with adorable looking children in stunning clothes. I have no problem with this. It’s beautiful. However, my kids are pretty solidly in hand-me-downs and stained (snot covered in Torsten’s case) t shirts. Recently I photographed them in their beautiful winter coats (gifts from their grandparents in the UK) I “get” the longing for country charm. But here’s the thing. They are just as beautiful as every other child in every other corner of the world. No more. No less. Whether their jeans are frayed, their tops matching their bottoms, their clothes handmade, second hand or department store staples.
Perhaps, filming and photographing them at home - being so ordinary, I was trying to prove to myself that my idyllic life is illusive but not limited to charming country perfection. You can try perhaps to chase it down anywhere. I could once find it staring out the train window as it rolled through the inner west of Sydney. I could find it in my flat above a curry shop in London where the kitchen window had a tiny but all-mine view of the Thames. And if you get a few moments of it in the fog and then it's swallowed by hours of Netflix, you still had it. Anyone who tells you it's their constant way of life is definitely selling you something.
I continue to try and teach my kids’ stuff but all I’m really doing is learning it from them. They already have it. They show me how to do it! Constant interest and curiosity – what a fabulous state of mind! - To be always interested in things.
I pulled the caption for the Instagram post of the video out of a book called “Wherever You Are” By Nancy Tillman.
"And if someday you’re lonely,
or someday you’re sad,
or you strike out at baseball,
or think you’ve been bad...
just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.
That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.
In the green of the grass... in the smell of
the sea... in the clouds floating by...
at the top of a tree... in the sound
crickets make at the end of the day...
“You are loved. You are loved. You are
loved,” they all say.