Posted in motherhood, personal March 31st, 2015 by pia


Thank you Mum, for all that you have taught me, all you’ve been for me. For your care, your love, your trust and kindness. Thank you for offering me life, for showing me how to love and to be loved. Thank you for the many gifts of life, knowledge and wisdom you’ve given me over the years.

And in the last few weeks, being with you and baring witness to the incredible feat of enduring the last part of your life journey;

in the last days, being with you, baring witness and sharing your last moments with me;

and in the last hours, being with you, baring witness and being intimately present with you: in mind, body and spirit.

All of it, all of this is an incredible gift that I cherish, and because of all you have endured and shared with me, I am filled with immense gratitude for life and for you being my Mum, for the countless experiences and life lessons we’ve shared, for the laughter and tears we’ve shed. Even the anger and frustration we’ve risen in each other through the most challenging times – I understand so completely now that it arose from loving each other so deeply, and to know that, to feel that, is such a gift…


Mum had immense strength, and a will for life that exceeded her own expectations. She was a rebel, and a deep thinker, a lover not a fighter, but a warrior that was never willing to give up or give in. It was this incredible spirit in her that kept her going over the last ten years when she felt her body betraying her, determined she was to see me, her daughter find happiness in Love, and ever determined to be around to meet her last grandchild, Laly, and deeply connect with her over her first years of life.

I would like to share with you some of the gifts of life Mum gave me – and not always through her own direct experience, sometimes by default. Today I offer you a glimpse of her, through me, and some of the moments we shared.


Mum gave me a love and appreciation for nature, for earth, for water, air and all of life that comes from, and goes back into it. When we lived in Italy, we would take daily walks after lunch, when the village was sleeping, and walk along the cobblestoned streets, past the castle walls, sometimes in silence, sometimes not caring to let our English voices carry up to the windows high above, while sharing our latest thoughts on life or memories from younger days. Although we’d often take a different cobbled path or skinny alley, we’d always end up at the Adige River, watching it rush off down the mountain, over the rocks and down to the lake far out of sight. We’d be there for a long time, breathing in the air off the water, and watching the leaves be carried away. She told me to be like a leaf, and let life carry me like the river water, to go with the flow of life and let it wash over me.



Mum gave me the appreciation and deep respect for music, its importance in life, and mostly how to feel it within me. When I was three, she noticed that I loved to sit at her uncle Ron’s piano whenever we visited, so she got an old second hand piano and I soon started lessons. Although she couldn’t read music herself, she learnt so she could help me with my learning, and she would sit patiently with me as I learnt my classical pieces. She instilled the importance of discipline in my learning, and when other school friends had given up, casting doubt in me to fit in and give up to, she encouraged me in the gentlest of ways to keep going. So I did. When we moved countries four times, she made sure I had a piano every single time, no matter how many obstacles were in the way. She always searched out for piano teachers so I could continue my lessons. Today, I still play. I sit and I play from my heart, and I will forever be grateful for this incredible gift she gave me.



As soon as I learnt to write, Mum encouraged me to write my thoughts, feelings and memories in a notebook. She knew that this would carry me through life, through hard and hurtful times, and give me a way to express my true self in a safe place that belonged to me. Each year, for Xmas or my birthday, she bought me a new journal. Over the years I have filled dozens of journals. Writing has indeed sustained me, becoming my point of expression when my physical voice felt weak and blocked with fear. Because of her encouragement and determination for me to live openly and fearlessly, writing enabled me to share my strength, courage, and love with the world.



Mum was a quiet artist. Although she dabbled with different mediums over the years like ceramics, pencil and oil, her chosen medium was watercolour – she was patient with her brushstrokes (something I did not inherit) and saw colour in life where others simply couldn’t. I loved seeing Mum’s paintings take shape, and listen to her tell me what she was aiming for with her work. We shared a love of art, and she introduced me to artists whose work I also fell in love with –Van Gogh, Egon Schiele, Monet, and Gustav Klimt. When we lived in Europe, we were able to visit and see many of our favourite artist’s paintings in galleries in Paris, Venice and Amsterdam. When we came back to Australia, she encouraged me to take art in school and it was art that made my heart soar. Because of Mum’s support and enthusiasm, I took a fine arts degree at university and now, after more than a decade of working and living as an artist, art is simply a way of life for me, a way of being. She taught me how to see beauty and colour and life in everything, and to live with beauty and colour and life, everyday. For this, I am eternally grateful. One thing Mum did not encourage however, was craft. “I don’t do craft. “ She would say. “Whatever you do, do not give me scissors and glue!”

Embrace the NOW…

For this I read a quote from Mum’s diary, taken from a series of books we both loved written by the author Robin Hobb, introduced to us by Romain…

“The exercise of centering oneself is a simple one. Stop thinking of what you intend to do. Stop thinking of what you have just done. Then, stop thinking that you have stopped thinking of these things. Then you will find the NOW, the time that stretches eternal, and is really the only time there is. In that place you will finally have time to be yourself.”

That was Mum. Always in effort to embrace the now. Even when she wasn’t able to, even when, in her last years she felt trapped by the now, she still maintained the importance of it, and instilled it in me – being in the moment, trying not to get lost in thought, or in past, or in anticipation, or in hope. She taught me how to embrace new experiences, new places. Mum made beautiful friendships wherever she was in the world – and this is something she gifted to me, opening me up to the world, to new places, new experiences.



Mum was not religious, yet she encouraged me to learn about the religions of the world. She used to ask me “how can you have an opinion about something you know nothing about?” I remember in primary school when we had to do a lesson of scripture each week, I moaned and groaned and begged her to take me out of the class so I could just hang out in the library. But she insisted I go, for no other purpose than it gave me the chance to learn about the religion and to then make up my own mind. Even though I firmly already had (and still stay firm on that one). But with her question, she opened me up to learning about other cultures and religions well out of my immediate surroundings. She enjoyed Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and once she shared some of the things she had learnt about it, I soon picked up an interest. We exchanged books on the topic, and shared our learning. In my mid-twenties I went on a 10 day silent retreat, non-religious, but certainly in line with Buddhist meditative ways. When I came back, I felt incredibly centred, grounded, and nothing anyone could say hooked me, everything was water off a ducks back (unlike ‘the me’ from before the retreat). I remember standing in the kitchen with her and Dad, as I shared some of my experience. She studied me and I saw a look of panic rush over her as she exclaimed, “Oh God my daughter’s going to become a Buddhist nun and go live in a cave for the rest of her life!”. I couldn’t help but laugh, and just like that I think she may have broken the cord to that possible future. None the less we continued to share our interest in Buddhism, and with her appreciation for it right up until and after her last moments, and with some guidance, I read her Buddhist meditations to send her on her way.



Mum loved to dance. She was an awesome dancer. She had the moves. And as a child I would watch how she moved with the music, and try to match her. I was no match for her, and although I entered competitions like she did, I didn’t win like she did, but the moves remained in me, becoming a big part of my expression. As kids, my cousin Simone and I would create dances for our family Christmas concerts, and that remains one of my fondest memories, not only for the fun and creativity shared with my cousin, but being given free reign to dance our hearts out, with such enthusiasm from our Mums. I can still hear Mum and Aunty Sue’s laughter when my cousin Nathan or my brother would enter our professionally choreographed performances. For dance, for the love and gift of dancing my heart out, I am filled with gratitude.


This dance. This dance of life we’ve shared. Moving in and out, between and over, to and fro. We danced together Mum. We danced together and it has been beautiful. Every step, every trip, every wander back and jump forward. Thank you. Thank you for it all. The ultimate gift of life has been and will continue to be your daughter, for that I cannot thank you enough.


My Mum died on Monday, March 16, 2015. She was 67 years old. She died at home, in her bed, where she wanted to be.  The above piece was the tribute I spoke at her funeral last Monday, March 23, 2015.  I felt ready to share with you these words. Thank you to everyone who has sent me messages of love, courage, support and understanding over the past two weeks. Every word has touched me deeply.


stop, look, breathe, feel, love…
Posted in personal March 4th, 2015 by pia


I wrote this with a rock, on a rock at Balmoral Beach yesterday while looking out to sea and feeling the warmth of the sun on my back and the cool ocean breeze on my skin. I wondered if anyone would come across it during the day before the tide washed it away. Perhaps I was thinking also of this quote…

“Beauty abounds all around me, yet the state of my heart is the ruler of my vision.”

It’s something I wrote in my diary a number of years ago. It’s in My Heart Wanders, in californya font. And these past months it’s been a part of my email signature. While hitting ‘send’ on an email a moment ago,  I read the lines again, and realised how pertinent it is for me at this time in my life, and at this very moment when I feel so consumed by what’s been happening and how I feel about it.

I have a growing collection of unfinished blog posts here in my wordpress account. I have lists of things that I’d like to get done that haven’t been touched. There is a pause in my everyday. How do I get on with my everyday? How do I compartmentalise ‘that’ part of my life? My blog and my everyday life feel like worlds apart at the moment, and every time I sit to type and share my life and thoughts here, to find a connection, to bring the blog back into the everyday, something happens again to pull me away and the gap grows ever wider. I have wonderful ideas on how to refine and perhaps redefine this space that will also connect to a new book I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year. But that’s been halted, for now. It’s hard to get into a creative bubble when the bubble keeps bursting.


I’ll try to connect the dots here as I realise I’m rambling without context. As Nadia wrote on an instagram photo of hers the other day, “Today words are tangled up”. I’ll try to detangle what I can…

Those of you I have met in person over the years or exchanged personal emails with may know that one of the reasons I moved back to Sydney was to be closer to my Mum. I may have mentioned it fleetingly here on the blog as well, though no doubt trying not to make a big deal of it. In my family, making such a decision would be taken as a sign of my weakness, so even though it was ‘the’ reason, as a matter of survival instinct I just dropped it in with a number of other reasons – like Romain was ready to experience life in Australia, having a baby, and at that time (2011), for the book launch of My Heart Wanders since it was published by an Australian publisher. I don’t think I’m ready to go into the details of why and how I feel I needed to be closer to Mum at that time, but to sum it up neatly, I felt her illness was progressing, and knowing that Romain and I were feeling ready to start our own family, I wanted her to have this time with my child, whoever that was to be. As it turns out, it was our beautiful Laly now 3 years old.


That time is now coming to an end. It’s been intense. Even more so these past weeks. And I sense it is going to get even more so. Mum has a will like no other, she is a rebel and a leader at that, and although again, the family I grew up with define sickness as weakness and physical prowess as superior I know that Mum and all she has been through is nothing but strength and courage, even if she refuses to recognise it herself. I can’t imagine her doing anything but calling out demands, right to the very end. These past few years for me have been rough, tough, wild, and most often without appreciation and certainly with a whopping amount of frustration and hurt.  Navigating this terrain, mixed with raising our girl at the same time, has been incredibly ugly, and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s at times wild and other times smooth. When it’s smooth, I am drained and exhausted, yet I feel in those times instead of resting I am supposed to just pick up where I left off. Sometimes, if the path has become consistently smooth and even seems to have stabilized, I do manage to get back on my feet, replying to emails, returning phone calls and text messages and even saying ‘yes’ again to people, friends, work, projects. But then the path, even though I’ve been carefully watching it the whole way (which in itself is a tiring addition to the everyday), turns into a massive rocky drop which I have to scramble and slip and slide my way down, leaving all that I just picked up in my hands at the top . Looking back up, knowing I’ll never be going up there again, I wonder if I’ll be able to pick those things up again somehow or if I just keep going and try not to feel what I feel for the people I’ve disappointed in not upholding those commitments. It’s always my hope that some part of them understands, even if they haven’t been through what I’m going through.

It’s a roller coaster of mixed emotions – at one moment I feel a flood of gratitude for all of this – for it being such a suffering-filled and slow journey for her as in my caring and witnessing of her I have grown and learnt so much. I feel immense gratitude for my friends, those who have stood by me through this time, listened without judgement or expectation and let me weep on their shoulder. But then something is said to me in her feeble state, something that cuts to my core and the gratitude flies out the window and turns into deep sadness. I would love to say it’s all gratitude (like the word ‘authentic’, I can almost not type ‘gratitude’ without feeling such resistance as it’s been so heavily overused online these days), but it’s not.

I know other long time carers will relate to the roller coaster, perhaps there are some of us on it together, right now at the same time. Holla if you are, and if we can hold hands virtually, I would love that – my hand, palm up, is reaching out to you now.

I’ve been reading a book by Zen Buddhist Joan Halifax, whose knowledge and experience has helped me so much, and this statement here, sums up what I am learning to do right now: “…the waves of birth and death…our challenge is to learn to not drown in those waves but ride them freely.”


I have much more to say, much more I feel, but small steps, right? Small steps as I pull out these tangled threads and cords.

Thank you for being here.


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Posted in personal July 29th, 2014 by pia


A few weekends ago I had a wonderful experience that I’ve been longing to share with you. In the photo above, there is a little treasure that I made by hand using a technique that has been passed down over thousands and thousands of years. Can you guess what it is?


This basket, this tiny basket the colour of sunshine.

I made it by weaving pandanus collected from the outback, soaked and hand dyed with colour made from bush roots. With many thanks to my dear friend Kylie who invited me to attend the weaving workshop with her mum, sister Tiff and friend Jennifer, and to the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane who hosted the workshop taught by two beautiful Aboriginal women named Lucy and Shirley from the gapuwiyak community in East Arnem Land, I spent 2 hours sitting among 30 women, learning the technique and absorbing the sacred energy. It was such a privilege to be in Lucy and Shirley’s company, I could feel how special it was to be in their presence, and to be learning the ancient weaving technique that was passed down to them by the women in their families over millennia. During the workshop, Lucy and Shirley guided each of us as we began our coiling mat, it took two hours to get this far…


…so how many hours does it take them to create an entire basket? Not to mention the walking to and gathering of materials which are collected along the shoreline of crocodile waters in remote parts of the outback, land that I will most likely never know, but these women know as their backyard. They also search and collect roots to create the dyes to colour the pandanas, all of which take hours of itself. Even though I’ve always had appreciation for Aboriginal art and wares, I didn’t know the depth of my appreciation until I sat with them and tried my own hands at it. When I came home to Sydney, I was eager to finish my piece, turning it into a little wonky basket that fits snuggled in my two hands.

Thank you Lucy and Shirley for travelling to us to share your knowledge, and to all Aboriginal women past and present and future, who will continue to weave and teach us how to connect with the earth. Thank you to Shannon for organising the trip and all that goes with it.

Please take the time to check out the website and facebook link to the gapuwiyak culture and art center, there is much to admire. And if you can attend one of their workshops, all the better.


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Posted in motherhood, personal April 30th, 2014 by pia


A few weeks ago, just before I finished writing my last blog post – ‘being enough’ – I serendipitously received an email from RAW beauty talks asking if I’d participate in a challenge today (Wednesday April 30, 2014) to post a photo of myself on my blog without any make-up, photo editing or filters – completely raw.

As those of you who have followed me from the early days of my blog will know, I rarely post an image of myself. And I’d love to tell you it’s because I’m really shy, modest and/or want to keep some anonymity. But truthfully, it’s because of a much simpler reason: I believe I’m ugly.

I’ve always been interested in learning more about my inner workings, connecting with my inner world, but it wasn’t until I became sick last year after my last book feat that I changed the balance of things in my life and started to focus less on work and more on my well being. These past few months in particular I’ve been working on letting go of old self-beliefs, letting go of old perceptions and welcoming new ways of seeing my world.

When I agreed to take the challenge, all those thoughts about how I look came up louder than ever before as I wondered how I was going to be able to do this. Although I rarely wear makeup, the biggest challenge for me comes simply from posting an image of myself where I am not turned away from camera, and I haven’t cropped it, photoshopped it, or added a filter. I’m a photographer after all, purposely behind the camera, seeking to enhance the everyday, being asked to let go of all that to create dialogue between you and I about the pressures we face in how we look, and the socially constructed notion of ‘beauty.’ Big challenge. Big ask. Here goes nothing…



Today, while looking at these photos I see my ugliness, I see all my faults, and I hear the unpleasant words used to describe my face and body over and over again as a young girl and young woman, but now each time I think those things, I’m releasing them instead of holding on to them. And as I release those thoughts there is then space, and in that space I have made the choice to only allow a new, positive perspective on myself to fill it.

These photos were taken by Romain on Monday, while the three of us were on a mini break in Byron Bay. It was a cloudy afternoon after a stormy morning, and the 3 of us spent a few hours playing at Watego’s Beach. With nothing but white sand, rocks, and ocean to entertain us, we had a blast. I felt good. I felt free and happy, and it felt like a good time to ask Romain to take some photos of me by the water’s edge. At that moment I thought, no matter what these photos turn out like, or how I feel about myself when I see them up on the screen, I will post them.

I’d love to invite you guys to join me in this challenge by posting your own raw photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, just add in my name @piajanebijkerk as well as #rawbeautytalks and/or #rawbeautychallenge so I can see your beautiful face and join in the conversation.


I do this for myself, and as much for my little girl. I want her to feel confident and I want her to love herself exactly as she is, everyday. I don’t want her to ever question her beauty. And I know that the only way to achieve this is to do all I can to lead by example.


With love,

Pia x

being enough…
Posted in motherhood, personal April 17th, 2014 by pia


Yesterday at noon after I put Laly to bed for her midday nap, I flopped onto my bed exhausted, wanting to sleep for hours, days, however long it would take for the exhaustion to go away. This is how I feel at some point in the day, every day  – feeling the sting of it without exception when I put Laly to bed at night.  This is a feeling I know well as I’ve learned to live with it for many years, but it’s all the more apparent now that I have a little being in my life to nurture and nourish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I know now how important it is that I stop pushing the feeling away and listen to it.

So yesterday at noon, while lying in bed desperately wanting to fall asleep… why am I this tired? What have I done this morning that has made me so tired? I thought about all the things I’d done for that six hours: making Laly’s breakfast, tending to the chickens, laundry, cleaning the kitchen, helping Laly use the potty, gardening, preparing morning tea, and all the while attending to Laly’s various other needs. These are simple, everyday tasks that I know other people do without feeling exhausted, so why does it affect me so much?

I then thought about what else was happening while I was doing these things – how was I feeling while I put the clothes in the washing machine, what was I thinking about? And that’s when an inner light shone on an habitual pattern that I hadn’t noticed up until that point.

It occurred to me that while I go about all these daily activities, I am thinking one or all of the following: “I’m probably not doing this right”, “This isn’t good enough”, “Am I doing enough?”, “I should be doing more”,  “This is not enough”, “I’m not enough”. I question and doubt the way I go about every single activity in my life. It’s exhausting.

As an example, while I was sorting dirty clothes and putting them in the machine with the natural detergent I use, I was thinking about how so many of Laly’s clothes now have paint or food stains that won’t come out in the wash, or the whites have turned grey. I started to compare my washed clothes to those I see on other people or in advertisements. That’s when I started to spiral down in my thoughts and think, “I’m probably not washing our clothes properly. I’m not doing a good enough job at washing our clothes” which then, over a matter of seconds as I start to think about other parts of my life where I feel inadequate, it leads to “I’m not good enough”.


Another example is that for the first time yesterday Laly sat on the tree trunk stools I created for her in an unkempt part of our backyard near the hen house. Without any prompting from me she sat on one of the logs, looked around, and decided to bring her favourite teddy to sit with her on a log and offer him a tiny cup of tea. I couldn’t have wanted for anything more after my grand search of finding the right tree logs. This was exactly what I had hoped she would do and at that moment I wanted to breathe it in, feel nourished by the scene before me. But instead, I thought: “Is she safe?  The stools aren’t very clean, I should stop what I’m doing and wipe them down. I should put insect repellant on her in case there are mosquitoes… am I doing the right thing by leaving her alone there? Am I doing enough?” With all the self-(re)searching I’ve been doing these past 2 years, I was able at that point to observe these thoughts  instead of immediately act on them, and so I took a breath, knowing that I wasn’t able to allow myself to be nourished by what I saw because of my thoughts but also acknowledging that yes she was safe, I was safe, and to let her enjoy her time without me hovering around her.  I’m becoming more and more aware that it is this thinking pattern that is exhausting me, this constant conflict within, this constant doubt. It runs through my mind like a speed train on a loop track, taking me away from the present moment and into unsafe territory. Yet because it’s become an habitual pattern, I’ve been under the illusion that it makes me safe to think these things because I’ve been with it for so long – I know it so well.


At the end of everyday, I plonk my exhausted self on the couch. For all the time that I’ve felt this tiredness  – reaching as far back as my mid teens, I thought that it was life in general that was tiring me. All this time I’ve been thinking that I’m too weak, that I can’t handle simple every day tasks, that I’m simply not able. But I’m now seeing this is not the case at all. I can do all the simple every day tasks, and I can do really great tasks too like write a book. What has been tiring me all these years is the constant self-criticism and self-judgement that runs through my mind with everything I do. I plant seeds – have I done enough to help them grow? I let Laly sit without socks on, will she get sick, have I done enough to keep her warm? I put her to bed at night – what if I haven’t done enough for her today? This self-criticism affects every part of my life – I have always had the feeling that I’m not enough – I am not enough of a friend, a daughter, a partner, I’m not enough as an author, a writer, a photographer, a blogger, an entrepreneur.  I know that this self-criticism has been learned by example, along with being criticized from those I’ve adored over my youthful years. All of which helped to make my inner critical voice louder.


But as I discover these aspects of my mind, I’m opening up who I truly am, and what I need. And that it’s okay to need while I myself am being needed. And by keeping myself surrounded by people who connect with my core, who understand and support me, I am getting stronger, and wiser.

There will be judgement for this post, this I know. But I know that judgement will be coming from those who have their own loud inner critic just like me, the voice of judgement. It’s an aspect of ourselves we can be aware of, and accept, but not indulge. I heard a wonderful life coach say in an interview the other day, “If this inner critic was a real person, always hovering over you, criticizing everything you do, would you invite them to tea?” The answer for me was immediately no, and I laughed at the absurdity of allowing such a voice to dominate my life.

Have a beautiful weekend mes amis. Thank you for being in my life.

With love,

Pia x

PS these are our backyard hens, Plume (the isa brown), Alouette (the white leghorn) and Esther (Rhode Island red). I’ve written more about them on instagram (my username is piajanebijkerk)if you’d like to follow my everyday adventures in chook rearing, mothering, gardening and more.