stripped-back storytelling…
Posted in (blog)house news, personal March 26th, 2016 by pia

Yesterday on…can I admit this without internally cringing –  facebook –  I shared a video shared by a friend shared by someone else titled “3 reasons why you should share your work” featuring author Austin Kleon. I’m not a fan of the word ‘should’. And I hadn’t heard of the host or author Austin, but I took the 4 minutes to watch the video and was instantly reminded of how those very 3 reasons Austin gifted were at the very heart of how and why I started my blog 9 years ago, and hence became a published author. Without realising it at the time, I started my blog because I had ideas and stories and experiences I felt a calling to share. I also had a very deep longing to connect with other souls like me, and a hidden away dream to become an author. And now I understand it was that deep part of me that found blogging and got me started. To be fairy-like about it, the Universe answered my call.  Because after all, it was this very blog that launched my published creative writing career. But in recent years, I lost my way. Before I continue, here is what I wrote on facebook:

“As I’ve been rebuilding my website over the past few months, reshaping it and bringing it into alignment with who I am now, I’ve also been looking at how I want to progress from this new space. Looking back at how I started blogging, what I loved the most about the experience was the rawness, openness and connectivity that developed and I want to find that again, perhaps it will require carving out a new pathway in the face of how much the format has changed in the last decade. This video below is exactly what happened with my blog when I first started, these 3 reasons to ‘show your work’ naturally developed and it’s how I became a published author. This is so helpful to those who want to do the same. And I’m taking note for my own creative journey ahead as I’ve definitely gone off track since those early days…”

To elaborate, it was during the manuscript writing of My Heart Wanders, I remember back then in 2010, I felt a struggle and need to separate the content – writing and revealing intimate stories of my life and journey became reserved for the book, and in the process of that need to seperate, I lost the fluidity and rawness and ‘stripped-back storytelling’ I was known for and what I loved about my blog. My posts became more refined, less raw. And 6 years on, I feel the calling again to connect and share getting louder and louder. To just ‘put myself out there’. Perhaps it all came unhinged in the over planning, and the what ifs. In the past 6 years my life has changed so dramatically and even though I haven’t been blogging in depth about it, writing has been one of my best healers, though keeping everything locked away in my diaries feels somehow, not the place for it. I think I felt it was a safer place there. I was scared to share as what I’ve felt has been so raw, so real, there are no pretty pictures that go with them.

But I need to forget about formats and pretty pictures and books now and get back to what I loved about writing on my blog in the first place. The openness. The connection. Yes this can be a vulnerable place to be, but my vulnerability is what I was taught to spend my lifetime suppressing , and it’s what I have now understood I need to nurture.

The lovely editor Amanda Carmen Cromer of My Heart Wanders wrote in reply to my post on facebook:

“Stripped-back storytelling gets me every time. Like the first draft of My Heart Wanders. X”

Her comment got me thinking and inspired me to write this blog post. Then came another comment from Heather Sanders, it was as if she was reading my mind:

“I am sure you know how many you inspire, your book MHW sits in my front room and I turn to it often. I find it not just beautiful but somehow comforting. However, it is in your more unrefined – if that is the right word… posts, blogs, that now speak to me even more. The polished works of all artists whilst beautiful and inspiring separate us somehow. The sharing of more vulnerable, less edited words and pictures connect with people on a different level. They make us believe that the impossible may indeed be possible. They awaken the writer, the artist the dreamer in all of us. For that I thank you.”

So while I build my new website, I am figuring out how I want to proceed with blogging. For a long time I’ve been focussing on the idea of sending out a newsletter, thinking it would be more intimate but in recent days I’ve gone off that idea, as I realised it was yet another form of controlling and fitting into a format, and yet another piece to write. Instead I’m going to stick with blogging in it’s straight forward, simple format. I want to be able to share what I’ve read, what I’m creating, what I’ve learned, what Laly’s reading, what’s happening with her, the things we do together… I want to make it loose, light and carefree again. I also want to make it interactive again – I miss replying to comments and my new website will have the feature for me to reply directly  to comments. Perhaps I need to give myself a time limit per post, so that there isn’t enough time to refine and self-edit other than grammatical errors. And perhaps I’ll start it with this very post! Yes, this very post: I got up at 6:15am with Laly, I told her I’d be writing on the computer in the office and that she needed to play on her own like she does if I’m still sleeping. She was great for about an hour and has been wanting my attention for the past 15 minutes but I’ve managed to write this post. Can I post it without images. Can I? Oh that seems like a stretch. But if I don’t post it now it won’t get posted. Okay, here goes! Breakfast time for us. Thank you for reading and thank you for connecting.

 

With Love,

 

Pia x

 

PS maybe I’ll add a few images later if I can’t bare the nakedness of the post :)

 

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calling australia home (part one)…
Posted in australia, personal, pia's photos December 4th, 2015 by pia

PiaJaneBijkerk_australiahome_2015_4

On November 18, Romain – aka french boy – became an Australian citizen. It was a momentous occasion for us as a family. He is very proud to be able to call himself Australian after living here permanently for the past 5 years, and I was touched that he felt at home and connected to this land. But in the days leading up to the ceremony, I became quite emotional. At the time I thought that him becoming Australian was triggering the release of emotion as tears of joy, but they were tinged with sadness and I hadn’t understood why. After much inner reflection over the past 2 weeks I discovered what it was…

PiaJaneBijkerk_australiahome_2015_5I took this photo the other day while up in the Northern Rivers, the country of the Bundjalung people.*

In part two I’ll talk further about my inner findings because I’m sure it’s something that many resonate with – especially those of you who have read My Heart Wanders and connect to the heart stories within the pages.

Today I would like to share with you the moving piece Romain wrote on facebook the day he became Australian. It is so open and captures his observations and enthusiasm for this country. Here it is…

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“Nine years ago, when I met my beautiful soulmate Pia in Paris, little did I know that I was on a journey to become an Australian citizen. Growing up in the ’80s in a small village of eastern France, my knowledge of Australia came at the time from two sources: Crocodile Dundee and Midnight Oil’s video clips. As such, I imagined Australia as a massive red desert with bits of bush in it. Although the red desert covers much of the country, I now know how much more diverse its landscape is: from lush coastal areas with temperate pasture lands, not unlike my birth place, to tropical areas where big saurians live. Did I mention amazing beaches as well?

PiaJaneBijkerk_australiahome_2015_3Beautiful scenery by the water at West Head, Kuringai National Park, the country of the Carigal people.*

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“I am not becoming less French in the process, I feel “augmented” by a second culture. France and Australia fortunately share the same values, except for cricket of course. The new Australian prime minister is even a republican!
“The Australian landscape is diverse, so are the people. A few weeks after I arrived, someone at work asked me: “What’s your background?”. Being in a work setting, I started rambling about my career and how I started up as a System Administrator, etc. I quickly realised that it wasn’t the answer that was expected. “What’s your background?” here, means: “where are you from originally? where is your family from?”. The makeup of Sydney-siders is so varied that it is a perfectly acceptable question and most people value everyone’s background and the positive influence of external cultures on Australia. At my child’s daycare, all cultures are regularly celebrated, to the point that the kids even made Chinese flags around Chinese new year’s eve. Yes, red flags and all. Multiculturalism in Australia is not all rosy of course and maybe it’s specific to capital cities but I do feel people from diverse cultural backgrounds mix well overall.

PiaJaneBijkerk_australiahome_2015_2Laly learning about Aboriginal culture at home through role play

“As a white Australian, I feel I must mention indigenous people. I wish indigenous people and culture were a bigger part of day to day life. It seems to me that a very rich heritage is being largely ignored. I find it funny when white australians say “we don’t have much of a culture here”. Well, yes, you have one that is over 40000 years old. Indigenous people have been wronged in so many ways over two centuries that it will take time for things to improve on that front but I am optimistic they are improving.

“Anyway, time to put another shrimp on the barbie while listening to “Thunderstruck!”

…………………………………………………

Thank you for letting me share your musings here, french boy.  I’ll be posting my inner reflections in part two in the coming weeks…

With Love,

 

Pia xx

* I pay respect to the tribal elders of each area, I celebrate their continuing culture, and I acknowledge the memory of their ancestors.

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

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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.

Nature…

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.

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Music…

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.

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Writing…

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.

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Art…

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!”
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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.

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Buddhism…

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.

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Dance.

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.

PIAJANEBIJKERK_MUM_01

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.

xx

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

PJB_stoplookbreathfeellove2015

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.

PJB_giftsofnature4

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.

PJB_giftsofnature1

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.”

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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.

xx

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Posted in personal July 29th, 2014 by pia

PJB_basketweave_2014_1

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?

PJB_basketweave_2014

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…

PJB_basketweavingworkshop_2014

…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.

xx

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