Wednesday, September 7, 2011

10 years

Ten years ago today, we arrived. A little boy, a woman, and a man.

Arriving from the US to begin a Brand New Life in Australia.

Bleary-eyed and plan-less, we were driven to my mother's house up on the hill. I don't remember much about the day except we

went to the sea.

And I have a picture in my mind, of my husband standing there in the water, thousands of miles from home, gazing out.

My husband had never been to Australia before, but agreed to move here

because I asked.

Kind of beautiful, don't you think?

We didn't have jobs waiting for us, or a home, or any sense of where in Australia we'd ultimately end up. We just moved here.

And arrived on September 7, 2001.

I remember thinking, Wow. That's so close to my seven year anniversary of being away.

Because almost exactly 7 years before, I'd left Australia and run off to America.

To be with a boy, and to follow a dream of becoming a writer, and because staying felt so much harder than leaving.

I arrived in the US on September 11, 1994.

September 11. It was my arrival date, and 'anniversary-of-being-far-from-home' date, for 7 years.

Every year that went by, I'd take note of that date, and think, Another year! And: "I wonder when I'll ever go home?"

By September 11, 1995, I had travelled through Europe with the boy I'd followed, and was living in Rome with him for three months. I remember feeling lonely more days than not.

On September 11, 1996, I was living in Seattle, trying to make the best of a relationship that was never meant to be.

Just after September 11, 1997—the boy and I having broken up—I left Seattle and headed south-west. Drove across the country in my little VW, with just two boxes and two bags to my name. I had no idea where I would end up. Which was scary and beautiful, both.

September 11, 1998, I was living in San Francisco. I was renting a room in an old Victorian house, writing, studying, working part-time and playing lots. I would ride my bike to the tops of hills and float down.

September 11, 1999, I was pregnant with my son. But I didn't know it yet! I was starting a new job, living in the city, and I was deeply in love. My baby boy was no bigger than a bean.

By September 11, 2000, I was married to my love. We were living in the East Bay, and I spent all my  days with my baby boy. I was also at the beginning of a roller coaster ride with post-partum depression that swept me up and dragged me under. But I loved my son as hard and big as it's possible to feel. And my husband was my lifeline.

So then, September 7, 2001 found us here.

Blinking and newly arrived.

I remember thinking, Wow. It's almost exactly 7 years to the day.

Here we were, starting our unmarked, unmapped adventure. I thought, "September 7 & 11—these dates I will remember always."

Four days later, the world changed.

In the middle of the night (but morning on the 11th in the US), my mum came and said quietly to my husband, Come look at the television. Something terrible is happening.

My husband's home, my other home, was altered forever.

So many sad and shaken days followed. I don't know exactly what my husband felt, but I imagine he felt lost and raw. Unmoored. We held each other and grieved.

And my simple anniversary became another thing entirely.

September 11 represents so much now.

Sorrow, hurt, anger, retribution, loss.

Loss beyond measure

of so much, of so many,
in so many places.

But it represents more than this.

You have to believe there is compassion, too.

Understanding. Connection and kindness in great waves.


And in this moment, four other words call out. I hear them, clear as bells.




     Joy. (Finding it. Remembering it.)

Those are the words I hear. The words many carry now, and choose to hold close when the date swings by again, again, and we
stop to remember.

And those words

are the ones our 10 years here have come to represent, too.

Building. A new life, a family, a home.

Rising. Out of a darkness that nearly claimed me.

Rebirth. The three of us becoming four; finding my heart, my happy, my words again; stopping to see how the sky turns so many kinds of blue.

And Joy. In being, creating, cherishing, living fully. In waking every single day, so grateful to find

I am, and we are, Still Here.

So on this day, September 7, 2011, a day that is special to us,
I celebrate.

Ten years here with this man, in this beautiful place, with these amazing adventures behind us and new ones waiting.

On this day I say:

Look at these children we made, and the home we created together, and the work we do, and the people we love, and the roots we've put down!

Look at the gifts these ten years have brought us.

Look at the joy.

Honour what it's built on. 

Treasure everything we have.


  1. Amazingly beautiful post. Simply delicious words. I am always excited when something new from you comes up on my sidebar.

  2. Helena, Simply beautiful...your Words, your photos, your Life and the way you express it

  3. This was beautiful. I would love to sit down with you and just talk and talk and talk. I have a feeling we have walked some of the same roads many times.

    I love that you ended up where you are. Isn't it beyond ironic about all the dates? September... 9/11 also brought me home from San Francisco...and you know what I found there. :) Lovely post Helena.

  4. Beautiful family and celebration of life! Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Lovely post, Helena...and a wonderful way to remember such a significant day in our history!

  6. Helena, my friend, more commonalities arise. I, too, was living with a boyfriend in Rome (lonely when I wasn't) in 1995, but mine was a keeper, and we're still together. Wonder what you and I might have talked about then, had we met in Rome?

    Thanks for sharing so eloquently how our memorable and tragic moments can be so connecting. And, thanks also for giving us your positive spin on piecing it all together.

    Your stories emanate joy. Thank you.

  7. Yet again, beautiful words. I'm moved to tears. Thank you for your gift of writing.

  8. Wow what an incredible story so beautiful put into words. Brought tears to my eyes!
    Thank you :)

  9. Happy Australia Return Anniversary.

    The 11th is bound to be filled with many happy memories. It's a shame they will forever be tinged with the pain from the past.

    Lovely memorial.

  10. Beautiful memories, beautiful tribute, beautiful family and a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it with us Helena. Much much love to you on this bittersweet weekend :).
    xx oo

  11. Thank you for these precious memories. All day this weekend on 9/11 I was remembering that it was 10 years and 4 days since you came back to Australia with your wonderful husband and gorgeous baby. The connections among us all are so binding in body and soul. Yes a bittersweet weekend.Glorious photos.


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.