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15 @ 40 // day five

15 @ 40 // day five

If you want to raise readers, you let them see you reading. If you want to raise creative kids, you let them see you being creative.

It’s advice I’ve both heard and given over the last almost-17 years of parenting. It’s excellent advice, and it’s something that works. Until, that is, it works too well and your children adopt your love of Procreate and every time you want to use your iPad and pencil, it’s either being used by the tiny artists, or flat because the tiny artists are allergic to putting things on the charger once they run them flat.

Thankfully, projects are much more patient than children. They are happy to wait for the season when you can return to them. In October last year, I started a project based on a prompt that tickled my mojo in just the right way. Between dreaming it up, and actually starting, it grew legs and became much more complicated than a 15 minute sit-down-and-make-something session.

It became a project that wasn’t just about making something pretty, or making something for a fixed outcome. It was a project to tell a story.

The last three and half years (four and a half, if I’m been honest) have been, as we say in the camp chat, Really Something. From the depths of Black Summer, coming off a record breaking drought, with skies filled with dust and smoke for weeks on end, to the excitement of moving, and the joyous celebration of the arrival of the rains, only to be plunged into the vortex of worry and doomscrolling that marked March 2020 and the beginning of COVID, through mouse plagues, floods, house selling, wave after wave of virus, the loss of loved ones, and cycling all the way to the beginning of another El Niño pattern, it’s been a heck of a ride.

And yet, here we are. Exhausted, bruised in mind and spirit, with everything around us changed, including some things that we thought would be unchangeable, but we’re here. Standing strong. Holding tight to the joy of life. Celebrating the little things, and the big things. Growing from the lessons the Roaring Twenties seemed to think we needed. Under everything, there is hope.

When I think of the last three years, back to the Australia Day long weekend of 2020, it feels like the immediate past, the almost now. It’s dragged along, certainly, but it also feels like a blink of an eye. On the other hand, my blogging journey of a decade and half, it feels a long haul. It feels like 15 years should feel. Before I started reflecting on my blogging, and through this project, the passing of the last three years, I would have considered pandemic life just a blink of a moment compared to the timespan in which I’ve been showing up in this space and sharing little pieces of life. But when I did the maths, I was shocked. 3 years, out of 15. That’s 20%. Not an insignificant proportion of my blog time is accounted for since my very first pandemic post. It seemed natural, then, when not only so much of my current life is pandemic-influenced, but also a decent chunk of my blog history, that this retrospective project include a way of marking the impact of these years.

And so, I present: Portrait Of A Pandemic.

See more of the process in this post and this one from October 2022
Video also on YouTube

The beginning imagery was shot in December 2019, a couple of weeks after bushfires had raged across the back ridge and down into the valleys. You can see the mound to the right where the RFS dozed in a firebreak to protect our buildings during that fire. After three years of drought, the grass is almost non-existent, and the trees are dropping leaves to conserve energy.

Slowly, that landscape gives way, to something far more preferable. Shot in October 2022, the fire break is all but gone, and the grass is a green I would not have believed possible in December 2019. The undergrowth is coming back, and we had to burn off over winter, and slash as well, to reduce the fuel load.

From left to right: December 2019, July 2021, October 2022

The early lockdown period, as stressful and uncertain as it was, was a time of blooming creativity for me. I have mentioned on the podcast, and I think here on the blog, how that period saw intense growth and completely revolutionised my creative process. To celebrate the positive side of that time, I added bubbles of some of my favourite projects.

There’s bread baking, of course. What ode to the pandemic would complete without that ubiquitous hobby we all picked up? Finishing my rainbow blanket was a major milestone, so that was included, along with a reference to my new found audiobook habit. Morning sketches, one of my earliest plague projects, was a no-brainer to include. I finished a quilt that had been hanging around for a decade, for bubble number four. To round out what felt like “iconic lockdown projects”, bubble number five honours the finest of covid traditions – Camp Covid.

It was a joy to work on, watching the land heal frame by frame, and my heart along with it. To watch those bubbles rise and float up through the passing years, taking the weight of those early days along with them. Over four hundred and fifty layers went into it and I am actually rather pleased it grew larger than first expected. It was a chance to reflect on the events of this crazy time period, celebrate the little wins, and honour the things we have missed out on and the way our lives have changed irrevocably.

Today’s post is part of my “FIFTEEN AT FORTY” project, a fifteen day, fifteen project, celebration of creative exploration, to mark my fortieth year and my blog fifteenth. The journey so far has been amazing. The creation of the pieces I plan to share with you over the next fifteen days has been a revelation. I am brimming with inspiration and motivation for what is still to come.

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