how to create your own edible garden…
Posted in australia, creative ventures, food, nature June 24th, 2015 by pia


Earlier this year on a drizzly and rather misty Saturday morning in February, I drove down to the very beautiful Glenbernie Orchard in Darkes Forest, in the Northern Illawarra of New South Wales. I had signed up to talented baker Tara Mills of Mill Lane’s workshop on “how to create your own edible garden”, encouraged by my dear friend Jenni who was also attending and lives in the area (I’ll be showcasing Jenni’s gorgeous home here in the (blog)house very soon, in the meantime you can have a little sneak peek here).

I love turning off the highway upon entering the Royal National Park, like other times I’ve traveled in that direction, I wind down all the windows in the car and take deep belly breaths to absorb the gorgeous air. On this occassion, I was playing the latest album of Tenzin Cheogyal called Heart Strings, and so by the time I arrived at Glenbernie, I was well and truly at ease and ready to enjoy the full day workshop ahead. It’s an incredibly rare treat to have an entire Saturday to myself, and to spend it with like-minded people learning all about permaculture and enjoying a glorious home made lunch by Tara made it very special…





These seasonal workshops, hosted by Tara, take place in a large shed on the Glenbernie Orchard property, looking out over the apple orchard. It is taught by Narelle Happ, horticulturalist and garden designer, who has over ten years experience in permaculture, and is filled with knowledge which she passionately shares throughout the day. She’s a great teacher, very patient and willing to share everything she knows about creating beautiful edible gardens.



Throughout the day Tara served a delicious array of dishes for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. At lunchtime we sampled the orchards own apple cider, as well as indulged in a glass of sparkling wine, which relaxed us into the afternoon. In the morning we talked about the principles and ethics of permaculture, designing our individual gardens, and creating health soil, while in the afternoon we learnt about specific seasonal and perennial plants, propogation, and seed saving and raising. Narelle incorporated a lot of hands on activity, so we were able to learn through experience which I have always found the best way to soak in information, especially for those of us who are visual learners.




At the end of the day we each came home with an armful of gardening goodies including our propogated plants, seeds, companion guides, notes, a wooden handled trowel, and some of Tara’s delicious recipes.


It was a wonderful experience, and to be able to come home to my own garden and see it afresh, implementing Narelle’s advice and teachings over time spent in my own little borrowed patch of earth. I have more confidence now with things I wasn’t sure about like my compost system and soil, as well as the needs of certain vegetables. And I’m inspired to keep trying, keep planting and experimenting, and then to cook as Tara does, with pickings straight from the garden.


Thank you everyone who attended that day for the wonderful conversations and a big thank you to Tara, Narelle and Jo who owns the farm, for having me along. I am keen to get back down there for Tara’s baking workshop now, called “the art of making French breads” ah oui!




all photographs by Pia Jane Bijkerk

Related Posts :
Kaspia's Caravan pop up in Surry Hills...
a portrait and a story...
Kaspia's Caravan...
Welcome to Stef Bassett's Hessian Shack...
mother. nature.
fiji love...
a portrait and a story…
Posted in artists, behind the scenes, photographers June 13th, 2015 by pia


A number of years ago when I was living in Paris, I was asked by Sydney-based visual artist, accomplished photographer and friend David Knight if I would consider coming in to his studio on my next trip back to Australia to do some very raw (very nude) photographs.  I knew it was a great honour to be photographed by David, his portraiture is beyond words, and his exploration at the time was capturing raw beauty, sans makeup which resonated with me. I knew I could trust him. But my timidity rarely allowed me the courage to place myself in front of the camera throughout my life, so I took my time to think about it. On the following trip back a few months later, I went into his studio, nervous but ready to bare all.

Recently David began a wonderful blog titled Paper Aeroplane where he interviews talented people he knows and has worked with over the years and today, I have been featured. Another honour. Along with the interview David has combined a selection of the photographs (warning: some nudity) from that session as well as some of my music.

I hope you’ll enjoy both the interview and the photographs. To read and view, please click here. Thank you David.



portrait photograph by David Anthony Knight

mother. nature.
Posted in australia, mini trips, nature June 8th, 2015 by pia



A few weekends ago we flew up to Northern NSW  to spend some time out in a beautiful cottage nestled within a macadamia farm, offered to us by a wonderful friend. One morning I walked down to the creek at the bottom of the hill,  alone, and with gum boots on I stood in the middle of the gentle flow of icy water…


I breathed. I watched. I tried to let go of my thoughts to connect more deeply with the surroundings. In my effort I heard the loudness within. My body and mind throbbing with busyness that I recognise comes from the city we live in and the people that inhabit it, and the intensity of events of the past few months. Years. Instead of feeling at peace to be in natural surroundings, I became more aware of the battle within. And I know for me that open awareness is the first step to healing.


I’ve been craving nature – to be surrounded by wild nature – and although this craving has always existed within me as a low hum, it is louder and feels more intense and insistent of late. When I explore this craving, my mind is cast back to my childhood, and how being in nature, playing with nature, always felt like my true sanctuary and was often the place I’d run to when I felt the urgent need to escape.


Today I understand with more clarity why I love being surrounded by nature. It’s where I connect. To myself, and to the world and universe. It’s where I feel freedom. Of spirit. Thought. And emotion…


As I gain clarity, I continue to observe. And remain open. The winter darkness allows me to rest more. And to be.


And I write. And write. And write. I know I am in the midst of making another book. I can feel the energy of it. In time, it will take form. For now, I write.


Related Posts :
Kaspia's Caravan pop up in Surry Hills...
fiji love...
Kaspia's Caravan...
Welcome to Stef Bassett's Hessian Shack...
a portrait and a story...
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.


Related Posts :
it's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's...
3 little steps...
being enough...
as the sun sets...
recollection, part 2