I commented to Mark as we flew our second leg to get back to Melbourne that I felt strange. It wasn’t just the killer case of flu that he had passed to me, nor exhaustion from the the long layover. It wasn’t even New York’s farewell, it had more to do with feeling like I had no home.
When I left Australia, it was for a residency, 2 months, but I knew I would return. It was like packing for a really long holiday or a lengthy stint working interstate. I packed a lot, but still got everything into 1 suitcase and 4 carry on bags. Four may sound excessive, but thats the laptop case, the handbag, a very full camera bag and the small carry on case with a change of clothes. Totally acceptable. Regardless, home was still home - apart from clothes, camera gear, laptop and toiletries, everything else, all of my personal items were left behind. So it wasn’t like I had left home, I wasn’t packing up my life and moving away. But something strange happened whilst I was in New York, the apartment in Brooklyn, the local shops in Park Slope, the idyllic retreat that is Prospect Park and even the sensory overload that is Manhattan began to feel like home.
I’m not sure how, or when, but a country and an experience that challenged me mightily, became my centre. It may have started the second time I wandered through Prospect Park, an absolute oasis of nature in a city that just doesn’t stop and yes my preferred public park (apologies to Central Park), Feeling like you’re walking through nature rather than a manicured garden (although it has manicured areas) was priceless and restored the balance that was desperately needed when the Metropolis that is Gotham surrounds you. Maybe it was when we found a supermarket that felt right, or brands that (kind of) felt like those back home. Maybe it was when I realised that I had literally been doing weird zigzag, round and round laps of the same small areas for HOURS on end, each day, and upon realising this used this knowledge to get around more efficiently. As a side note - it is perfectly acceptable to walk in zig zags or circles or do laps when you’re a street photographer, this does not mean I am navigationally challenged, I am in fact excellent with maps and orienteering.
Or possibly it was when I stopped putting things in the spot where they “went” (what’s that about anyway?) and started putting them into convenient locations where I could remember where I’d left them. Yes, that’s right, the book belongs on the floor beside the bed, next to the Mac and the phone charger, just accept it and move on. Of course it happened over time, as days became filled with routines, and the unusual became familiar. Routines that were particular to the environment I was in, like the trip to my building’s laundry and recycling areas in the basement, leaving the house at the same time to go out and shoot, returning at about the same time in the evening and preparing dinner. Transferring photo files and editing - crashing in bed. Sleep, eat, repeat.
So packing to return to Aus felt like I was packing up home. I hadn’t been on any major shopping sprees, nor accumulated a significant number of new items, that wasn’t what I was there for, but packing was emotional and difficult. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to leave my New York Life behind. Too many things left undone, too many experiences still to be had and captured. Too many friends to see again. But pack I did, despite having another 4 months on my visa, despite not wanting to go. Sometimes being mature and responsible sucks.
Coming home on the plane I didn’t feel like I had a home anymore, I had packed up my life in New York and I hadn’t been in Melbourne for 2 months. Along with the raging flu that still plagues me to this day (Much love and thanks to my dearest husband for sharing - #$%&). I honestly felt stateless. Needless to say, no one else felt that way. Let me tell you my friends, I was mocked, I was mocked by those nearest and dearest to me, all of them, all at once. I was mocked mercilessly with glee and abandon for suggesting such a ridiculous thing. Didn’t make it any less true.
After the madness that was our departure and landing, the weather roller coaster we are currently riding with variances of 25-42C (75-107F) hit hard. It has taken many days at home recovering from this viral affliction with the occasional very short trip out on cooler days to try and reacclimatise. The benefit of this is that I am recovering well.
Melbourne looks fresh and new, it is familiar but reborn in my mind, like I am seeing it through new eyes which excites me no end. I can’t wait until I am well enough to wander the streets of my hometown and shoot it like I’ve never been here before. I had a small taste of it when we we had to stop due to flu symptoms whilst walking through the Atrium at Federation Square, we sat and watched David Bowie videos whilst absorbing Melbourne in all it’s glory.
Home is starting to feel like home again. It may be because of all the laundry I’ve been doing after the washing machine was broken on day two of our return, may be the Aussie bacon and general all round brilliance of our food and service and our restaurants. It may be my bed and my kitchen and my lounge. It may be the second short walk in the city since we’ve returned, and the excitement of re-igniting my love affair with the beautiful city that is my hometown - what if New York was couples therapy for me and Melbourne??? MIND BLOWN!!!