Sunday, March 27, 2016
A Saturday in Sydney's summer.
In February I flew back down to Sydney to catch up with my sister and my uncle's family. One of my cousins was visiting from where she lives in Shanghai, and I don't see them often. I had some spare time, so I caught up with Jason. Sydney treated us nicely that day—it was warm, the sun was out; a perfect day to be by the water. Instead of heading to Bondi, Jason took me to Shelley Beach. I'd never been before. The beach was packed with swimmers, stand-up paddleboarders and snorkellers in the water, dozens upon dozens of South Americans partying on the beach, and even a wedding reception happening in the restaurant by the shore.
Jason wanted to help me take some yoga photos for my 365 project, up on top of the cliffs where the view was beautiful (typical Sydney). The light was perfect, and being photographers, we lingered. I mostly spent time on the other side of the lens that day. I observed my thoughts and noted with relief, gratitude and surprise that I was not anxious, whereas I previously would have been—despite the fact that I was in a swimsuit, quite close to a small group of South American men who were having their own good fun but were no doubt curious as to what we were doing. I let all of that melt away so I could be and let small parts of my true nature surface for the lens. It is not easy to do. It will not be easy to do again. It takes time to be vulnerable in front of the lens, in front of someone else—even friends, even family. This impromptu portrait session on the rocks led to what has to be my most favourite photos taken of me ever, and I'm really glad it turned out the way it did. It has helped me feel a little more comfortable in my own skin, which will be a lifelong project, and things like this are like victories, triumphant milestones to mark times where I felt change in me. Deep-seated scars moved and freed so I could continue to un-become everything I wasn't.
When we finally peeled ourselves away from the golden light on those rocks, we noticed a young boy, his guitar, and a girl had made their way to the cliffs below us. We watched on, waiting to see if he would play. He began and before long, the South Americans next to us started calling out, waving their hands in the air and crooning. We all laughed, as did he, extremely embarrassed that he had an audience. Jason and I made our way to them, and after we took my yoga photos, Jason asked if he could take theirs. They happily obliged, the girl surprised and nervous and awkward, unsure of what to do with her arms or where to look, but both of them adorable nonetheless. They were both in the same music class, and Jason got them to sing a song together. We later found out it was their first date. It's nice that we played a part in that.
As the light left us, we put our camera gear away in the car and headed to the water for a little swim. It was already past 7:30pm, and the beach was much quieter now. The breeze bit into my skin as I lowered my body slowly into the water, my nerves instantly reacting to the cold with hundreds of little goosebumps, my hairs standing on end, my every physical instinct wanting me to contract and hold tension as if that would keep me warm somehow. I mindfully relaxed with a few deep breaths, letting it go, knowing it would pass. As we floated in the gently lapping water, we talked, letting genuine words flow between us, savouring the great day we'd had. I loved that I could see my feet in the clear, blue-green water below me, even though I wasn't wearing my glasses, even though the sun was disappearing behind the buildings before us and there was little light left to touch the water.
No cameras or phones or words could ever hope to encapsulate the significance of little moments like these. I had no real desire, no sense of urgency to run to our cameras so I could have something “tangible” to remember it by. I wanted this to be kept for me. I wanted to remember the me in this time and place. I did not want to take myself out of it just to try and recreate it with the lens as my witness. Some things are better left experienced in the present moment, with the present you, your eyes and your mind wide open to bask in the bliss of it all so you can hold this intangible, fleeting, precious memory in your heart forever.