Now I’m a Leica Ambassador (!) I thought I should take the beautiful camera out for a test. This week I’ve been housesitting at my Uncle’s house, which is back in my old neighbourhood, right around the corner from my mum’s old house. Very strange at first being back in that area. On the first day I was there I deliberating rode past mums old house, the house where I shoot most of my Tulip project. The front door was open, as it looks like the new owners have started doing building work, I glimpse in and saw the very distinctive floral glass in the bathroom door at the back of the hall. I didn’t feel sad or protective of the place as I used to. This is the first time I’ve properly been passed the house for a look, I hadn’t wanted to before. If I had seen it a year earlier I think it would have upset me. It’s hard to describe why or how a building can hold such sentimental value, when all the things that made it my mums place have gone, I have most of them in my new house. I’m surrounded by her furniture, clothes, kitchen stuff, I use this stuff everyday and it reminds me of her, so why would I still have such emotional attachment to a crumbly old house. I suppose it was where I grew up, years of memories are in there, and sadly it’s where I spent that last year with my mum, her last year. I think my Tulip project gathers more and more meaning for me as time goes on. It’s clear to me now it was not just simply a way to deal with the terrible situation, now it’s a record of a whole time, an era of my life. I can look at it and feel like I’m back in it, whether that’s good or bad I’m not sure.
Passing my mums old house didn’t bring up sad emotions, I was surprised but thankful. I find places can trigger things in me. This whole new project I’m working on about grief and retracing mum’s life is all about emotions, going to places, writing, and just feeling things, really feeling them. That’s what all my trips were about last year, and now I’m struggling to finish the project. Perhaps it’s just not wanting to let it go. It’s the last project about my mum, once that’s done then I suppose I’m admitting she’s really gone. Perhaps that’s why I keep wanting to do more, add to it, travel to other places we did, cook more of her food, find more of her recipes, keep all her stuff in those boxes, control it, keep it private and safe, not wanting to loose anything of it. In one way I really do want to complete this project though, it’s about saying goodbye to grief, and I finally feel like I can, but something is pulling me back in.
Anyway, with my lovely new loaned camera I went for a long walk around Hampstead Heath, a place I spent so much for my childhood, another place that holds so many memories. My brother and I buried mum’s ashes under a beautiful tree up there on her birthday in 2011. When I was really struggling after her death I’d go there, lay under the tree and try to feel close to her. It became a kind of unintended pilgrimage spot, especially around birthdays and anniversaries. I stopped going so much, it was too sad. But I decided to go this day. This time felt really different, similar feelings to glancing into my mums old house, like somethings shifted, somethings changed, nothing is as raw. I’ve felt for some time that I have come out of grief, around the end of last year a shift, but never thought I would ever fully be out of it, to not feel that deep deep sadness is quite something. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about mum, but now I feel in a way I can think about the great things she did, the great things she did for me, the amazing richness she imbedded in me, she taught me what being independent really means, she gave me her fighting spirit, and fundamentally to care. When someone so close to you dies the anger is overwhelming, you really can’t see through it, not for years. Now that’s gone, the feelings of helplessness and apathy have gone with it. Standing at her tree I realised this, these feelings have gone, and now I can see, like really see. I realised how beautiful the tree her ashes are under is, this huge beautiful Silver Birch has gone completely unnoticed by me for years. All the times I had come here I was so inwardly thinking about my misery, I wasn’t looking at the beauty in front of me. From it’s marvellous silver branches covered in glittering bark, to it’s engulfing green canopy above my head, the brightest of green leaves all around, the wondrous lichen growing along all the branches. It feels like mum is part of this tree now, a part of her is in all of it. So I photographed this, with this new camera, I thought it was a worthy and fitting tribute to start here, where it kind of all ended for mum. The beauty of this place is what I will remember from now, not the pain and sadness from before. I came back to the very end to start a new beginning.