May your heart be the map ……..
It’s been a long time since I have written properly, and even longer since I wrote about the progress of Wonderland. The days and months have flown past in a blur of sunlight and seasons, and I haven’t stopped working once in all that time.
Publicly there has been a silence regarding the new pictures since April, but inwardly for me it has taken over everything to the point I have made myself ill again with exhaustion. I made the decision to step back, and focus on the pictures with a new approach, to try my hardest to create them exactly as I had seen them in my dreams. To not feel pressured about delivering things quickly, and to instead try and create works that were all I could give emotionally and physically.
I have been working mainly on my own as some of the costumes have been very intricate, with the help of dear Elbie at times, and then others on the approach to the shoot days, but for the most of it, it has been a long drawn out labour of love and frustration.
So much has changed over these months; I have felt a shift inside me from hoping and dreaming for the project to become a full reality and success, to the realisation that this change has to come from inside myself and through my actions. My life has been torn between working as a fashion designer and the photographs, with nothing left in between to actually rest or look after myself. Music has become a huge influence and inspiration for me, and I have lost myself through the early morning reflections of my train window, headphones on, skin against glass, trying to make sense of things in a swirl of daydreams and film scores. These journeys were the only times I could find any clarity, and managed to feel some distance from all the pressure of where on earth this was all heading.
The highs and lows have been acute, and it’s those that have led me to writing this post and the decision I have made. Back in August I spent some time alone, and for a few brief wonderful days I lived my life how I wanted it to be. I went out location scouting at the dawn with my camera, old clothes, a backpack, no one around, just myself and the landscape. I guess I could say that morning was an awakening; everything began to refocus with each step I took away from the car and the hum of the road behind. The sun fell through the trees and broke across my skin as I reached the edge of the valley, and there below, the ground dissolved into a deep haze of wild flowers. I had discovered it 2 days before, but this time it was a completely different experience. The dawn, the light, the colour, the breeze on my face, I can’t remember ever feeling so alive and connected to nature. I have never considered myself a spiritual person, but I have come to realise the landscape is where I truly feel an energy, and an unexplainable emotion for all that surrounds me. That morning felt like a birds first flight as I ran from the top of the hill into the flowers letting out the odd whoop with my arms open and my backpack swinging wildly from side to side. I was 10 again, and everything felt possible. I took endless pointless pictures of trees, light through ferns, brushed my fingertips against the bark of towering oaks, and stood in pools of warm light with my eyes closed until they filled with tears. You see this is how I always feel closest to her, I have this thing where on the right kind of sunny morning, when the light falls in those shards you can touch, I stand in front of the window at home and let it fall on my cheek with my eyes closed. I pretend its mum’s hands on my face, sometimes the warmth is so convincing I’ll say a few words out loud, let her know how I’m doing, tell her I love her. It may be a silly habit but nothing felt truer than when I did it that day. So I took a picture of my shadow on the ground where I stood with my phone so I’d remember how it felt, sometimes photography is nothing to do with a finished polished picture, Its just that fragment you need to hold onto a little longer than just the memory. I walked for another 3 hours, for once at peace with all the mess in my head, and knew by the time I collapsed back into the car seat that something inside had changed.
I carried that morning with me through the weeks that followed, slowly becoming more and more stressed, struggling with the reality of walking away from a 10-year career in fashion to the promise of committing entirely to my photography. All my old problems returned, sadly my body has a habit of wearing its stress on the outside, until last week I just broke down. It was 3 days before one of the biggest shoots in the entire Wonderland series. I had been working on the costume on and off for 5 months, and it was the first time I had designed and commissioned props that needed to be made by an industrial factory. It was costing me a great deal of money, and the model had been waiting over a year for this scene. I looked in the mirror and saw the mess I had become, caught the train to work and cried the whole way. I did the same on the bus, and then by foot, until I arrived at the design studio shaking. I hadn’t prepared but I knew it was time, and so did it, I quit my job forever.
Some people might wonder why I have chosen to write all this down and maybe be as personal as I have been, but it goes back to the first few lines I wrote in this diary over 4 years ago now, which was I needed to remember this. Like a letter to myself in the future I don’t want to forget. Sometimes I wish It could work in reverse and that the future would write back to say this was the right decision, and that everything is going to be ok, but it can’t. Instead I just have to trust my heart, and be happy to live with no regrets. It was the biggest decision I have made in my adult life, and making it was frightening. It has forced me to believe in myself, and the future of Wonderland becoming what I first set out for it to be, and this is my promise to myself.
It was then just a few hours after all this had passed, that the strangest thing happened. After sitting outside the design office block, trying to pull myself together I returned to my desk to find a package, it was an original edition of one of my favourite picture books I used to spend hours looking through with mum. I had ordered it from a second hand bookshop some time ago and had completely forgotten about it. The book was called Masquerade, and was released in 1979 amidst a storm of publicity triggering a world wide treasure hunt to find the prize of a solid gold hare, buried in the English countryside. It was made up of 15 magical paintings created by the author, each of which contained hidden clues and an image of a hare. Sometimes it was obvious, and other times much to the amusement of my parents I spent hours searching the pictures furiously for the hare. It seemed enough that this book had arrived on that day of all days, but as I tore the paper off, I realised the book was a later edition, entitled ‘The Answers’ released after the prize had been found. As I turned the first page, a piece of paper softly fell from the spine and opened on my desk in front of me, it was a sheet with a printed rhyme and underneath a signed, hand written message from the author that read ‘Fair fortune be yours’. I froze, it spoke directly to me, It felt like a message from my mother saying everything was going to be alright. I sat in disbelief, the book, the title ‘The Answers’ and finally those hand written words ’Fair fortune be yours’. Whether or not it was all a huge coincidence, it didn’t matter, it was what I needed to hear so badly, some kind of reassurance this was the right choice.
Going home on the train that night I kept the page folded tightly in my hand, staring at my reflection in the window bounced back by the harsh electric light, surrounded by exhausted passengers swaying uncomfortably into each others personal space. Everything inside me was surging with the blur of the streetlights and platforms that passed in the dark. It’s a feeling I never expected to have in my mid thirties, that apprehension that life is suddenly about to completely change, and for the first time ever it’s down to me what happens next.
All I know is that I have tried my hardest with what I can accomplish on my own. I love the new pictures, and feel I have brought to life the dreams I have had. Unlike the early days there are reasons for everything, nothing is a random thought, and in a few cases the references back to my mother and her stories are deep rooted, and I feel quite proud I have managed to create those links when at times I just wanted to give up.
So that’s all I guess, the next time I write here will be to introduce the return of the project after 7 months of waiting, I’m excited, nervous, and now it means so much more than it ever did before. In all this time I have held onto an album I listen to every day by Epic45 called ‘May your heart be the map’ that I love with all my heart for many reasons. This week for first time ever that title finally seems to make some sense, I’m letting go, and heading for the things I hope for, this is my future now and so I’ll choose to follow that path, and finally let my heart be the map.
This was my first step into the unknown, deep breath….I can’t wait to show you all what I’ve been doing and I can’t believe I’ve finally left my job.