This painting is designed to make us stop and remember the simplicity of what children find beautiful and interesting. As kids we’d collect sticks in different shapes and sizes, see colorful fences to climb on and blow dandelion seeds into the wind. As adults we see dead branches and weeds against a dirty old fence. An acknowledgement for the way that time and age changes us… We know more, and appreciate different things, but maybe sometimes we need children to remind us to appreciate the simpler things in life. To find a million exciting uses for those cardboard boxes, and instead of filling them with the meaningless material junk in our lives, we should go back to feeling like the kings and queens of our fortresses.
Every summer as I was growing up, my family would go on vacation to the central coast, about two hours north of Sydney. Much to our dismay, my dad would wake us up very early to go to the beach. His summer ritual was to spend ten minutes observing the waves, mapping out the ocean rip tides, and finally locating the perfect area of the beach to fish. Mum would sunbake and my brother would play in the sand. I would be mesmerized by the crashing waves, quite thunderous at this particular unpatrolled surf beach, in awe that water alone held so much power. My dad would always and too often remind me “don’t go in too far, because if a rip tide drags you out to sea, I am not a good enough swimmer to rescue you”. Those words, repeated to me too often, haunted me. My childhood was filled with the recurring nightmare about a Tsunami crashing over the land and sweeping everybody out to sea. After getting lost in the vast and never ending ocean, the dream would often reset, and the wave would come again, and again, and each time we desperately scrambled to outrun the water, but always unsuccessfully. Eventually, the panic would become too much, and I would wake up and exhale in relief that I was not drowning, and inhale realizing that I could breathe.
I have never lived on the West coast of anywhere… and yet I dream of sunsets. From my vacations, I have countless photographs of sunsets on beaches – I take millions of them. However, when I get home and look back at them, I am always disappointed. To me, a photograph has never captured the vastness of the setting sky. The subtle changes in color as the sun slowly lowers itself to sleep. The true depth of oranges, pinks and yellows as the sky fights off the imminent dusk. The giant mirror of endless ocean which captures the color of the sky, adding its own unique brushstrokes to the magnificent artwork that is the sunset.
I finally feel far enough past this that I can talk about it, so here is my story. Two and a half years ago I developed a food intolerance incredibly fast, which would go undiagnosed for six months. In those six months, I had quite a few horrible experiences where I was mid-meal at a restaurant and suddenly stuck in the bathroom being sick. It was embarrassing and scary. At the same time I developed an anxiety towards food. Like a weedy vine, this anxiety spread to many areas of my life, to the point where I could no longer sit in restaurants, be at people’s houses, or be around food without incredible stress and panic attacks. I also had one incident where I was sick on a one hour flight, and that was the end of carefree flying for me!
My next vacation involved a much longer flight which was preceded by a week of panic attacks and crying myself to sleep every night in dreaded anticipation. My lovely husband finally coaxed me onto the flight after many tears at the airport. I loved travelling, and was so sad that my life had come to this. On the way home I remember standing on the tarmac hysterically sobbing, looking up at the plane, knowing this was the only way to get home. I spiraled into depression, devastated that I had so quickly lost the life I had been living and all the things in it that I loved so much. I said goodbye to most foods, friends, socializing, and travel for six months. I couldn’t continue to live like this, not for myself and not for my husband. So in true stubbornness I knew I needed to get my life back.
I looked for jobs overseas and was given the opportunity to work in New York. Unknowingly my future boss asked me to fly over for the interview and I had to lie, saying that I was too busy to take the time off and that we would have to do it all by Skype instead. Lucky for me, I was still given the job. Now, confronted with having to fly to the other side of the world from Sydney to New York in six weeks, I knew I needed help. I booked 8 sessions with a psychologist…the best decision I ever made. We talked a lot about positive thinking and reinforcement, coupled with breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. One particular incident during this time stands out. I was instructed to pack a pretend suitcase and take a trip to the airport. I thought this would be a stupid exercise, as surely knowing that I’m not really flying would evoke nothing. I happily went to the airport and thought I was perfectly fine, until jokingly, my husband and I decided to pick the pretend flight we would take. Looking up at the board of flights and seeing the red flashing ‘boarding’ signal was enough to make my stomach sick. I burst into tears – this was beyond logic. I no longer had control of my body, let alone my mind. I knew I would need to work even harder than ever to overcome this, and I had a deadline to meet.
The therapy helped, the relaxation exercises and positive thought patterns got me to the point where I was still very anxious but not hysterically panicked. My repetitive mantra was that ‘if I stayed calm, my stomach would stay calm’ and to this date I must have repeated it a million times over! I made the flight to New York, I reset my life and now I willingly fly all the time, and every time gets a little easier. I will never truly be rid of the weed that is anxiety, it will be with me the rest of my life – I know that. It is, however, now a dormant seed planted in the back of my brain. I work hard to keep it from sprouting into the giant weedy vine that once tried to smother the strong and carefree tree I was trying to become.
I have a friend who talks of taking sailing lessons. To be out on the water, free to explore. With good friends, good food and a full glass of wine, watching the sun setting over the horizon. This was painted for him, as a reminder to one day pursue his dream of sailing.
This painting gives me a sense of loneliness. Maybe its the empty park bench, the sun going down and the day coming to an end.
This painting was a snapshot of a bunch of gerberas sitting in a vase in my apartment. I absolutely love the deep redness of these flowers, which translated into a painting with great intensity. The colors and positioning of the flower emulates an explosive volcano which lends itself to the name of this paining.