One sunny afternoon in April 2004 Greg, baby Tommy (6 months) and I wandered through the enchanting city of Venice, or, as the Italians call it Venetzia. We fell head over heels in love with this romantic city. We rambled through the cobblestone streets without direction. Many memories were made during this trip and the Venetian mask I bought there has survived 6 or so house moves, my minimising and it now sits all whimsey on my typical Dutch window sill. The type that has plants and edges so closely to the street that you feel part of the daily life that walks and cycles past throughout the day. The mask has been broken and glued back together. It cracked in half again this trip, the feathers look a little worse for wear but it still lives here. I treasure this mask with it’s own story. It reminds me of how Venice felt to me that trip, mystery to uncover. On our most recent adventure I walked over the bridge into Venice with a question a friend had recently asked me on my mind. If I had a perfect memory would I risk it by going back and trying to recreate that moment again?
Greg and I started our careers as hospitality workers. We met working functions together. I was at uni and he was climbing his way up the ladder to become the Food and Beverage Manager of a big hotel chain. We love food and wine. So many of our falling in love stories involve food and wine. Although, if I’m honest, mostly I just love eating and drinking it, he is the one who creatively and lovingly prepares it. I do love how it grows and the stories behind the food, how it made it to the table, but no, not the cooking. He gets food and wine in a way that I don’t. I get feelings and people in a way that he doesn’t. We all have our strengths and talents. Anyway back to the story. Where was I? Venice, moment, yes. On this afternoon in 2004 we stopped into Harry’s bar for a Bellini. The combination of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach nectar, so perfectly sweet. Greg has the Harry’s bar cookbook and it had been on our bookshelf since our first one bedroom apartment in St Kilda, it called us to visit. Harry’s bar was surreal, like stepping back into a grand time. We were served by career waiters in their white jackets. It was a luxury so we only sipped one but we’ve had the memory of that Bellini ever since. The story has been shared countless times. I’ve since read that it was a favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis and Orson Welles so it feels a little more mystical. I wonder if one of them had stayed in the writers apartment that we had rented…I’ll never know.
Fast forward to 2017 and baby Tommy is now 12 and has three siblings. We wandered past Harry’s…should we? Could we? What mood were big Tommy and his 3 siblings in. Of course we could, this was a highlight of our past trip. We took our table and because it’s Italy no one minded us bringing 4 children into a fancy bar. The Bellini’s were a luxury in 2004 and oops now they seem a total extravagance. The cost of one more than a couple of pizzas, we cooked dinner at home that night. We did make sure each sip was savoured. Would I go back to Harry’s next time? Probably not. We created many new memories in Venice on this day and there were places we revisited with our big family. The mask is as relevant today as it was when I bought it…there is still mystery and wonder to uncover in places that have a hold over us. I don’t regret trying to recreate the Harry’s moment. It gave me this story.
I find wonder and mystery in the bush hiking up One Tree Hill near my parents house. The same walking track I’ve hiked a thousand times. I found it running the Irish lanes last week. The lanes I had run every day for the three months we lived there. Just as I enjoy moving and exploring new places I’ll never tire of the places that give me the greatest contentment. Often the places I wander are right outside my doorstep and there is usually nature (I like it wild), sometimes there is coffee and food, some days there’s a deep conversation with a like-minded soul and other times it’s enough to be amongst people without needing to talk, city vibes. Today we cycled in the local woods for the first time. Pinch me please. The children had the ride of their lives, it feels like home and here we are again, recreating a moment.
We’ve lived in Holland before. Greg and I moved here in 2002 and back then it was me that needed to re-calibrate after burning out trying to change the world teaching. That’s another story. That’s us below re-calibrating in the Italian Alps. Mostly, I’m either closing my eyes or they are cross eyed in photos. Living in the fast lane just doesn’t work for us, we live slowly by nature. We came back here with the children to give them a lifestyle that we missed. Granted upon returning to Aussie we added 3 more children, another degree, a big house and followed a rocketing corporate career. Actually we still have all that. The 4 kids, the extra degree, the house is rented and the corporate career well it’s not rocketing so much, he’s stepped sideways to gain more life. We do however, live smaller and there is harmony. A harmony that comes from making choices that are in line with our values. We sang as we rode today, we sing most days and I’m sure we would be doing that wherever we lived. Naturally, there are days with all the feelings but that in itself feels meaningful, they bring new harmony once they’ve been acknowledged. In creating this quiet life of ours there is space to grow what matters not build on what doesn’t.
I love this peaceful place here where I write. It has taken me places I never dreamed of, back to myself. I’ve met people through this space who fill my heart and soul in a way that I never knew I needed. I look forward to watering my creativity. Of course that scares me a little. Gosh even calling myself a creative is scary, but I am. I know I am. Deep in the depths of my bones I know creativity is the answer. I think it is the answer to most of life’s problems and I think it looks differently to what we are sold or taught it looks like. That’s why we loose it, our natural creative flow. There are so many forms. This by far will be my hardest challenge. This is where I need to dig in, be vulnerable and have courage. All the paths and doors have led me here. Most people presume that me moving overseas with 4 kids and selling our stuff was hard and brave. But for me that was the easy path, I am a minimalist by nature and I’m a wanderer. The creative, that is who I need to uncover from the depths. How will that unfold? Isn’t that the exciting bit? I don’t know. I just know that’s where I want to go.
When I lived in Holland last time I sat at a computer in our apartment in Amsterdam and I wrote the first line of a book. It went something like “…as I rode along the Amstel River today, my hair blowing wildly in the wind I took some deep icy breaths and said to myself take it all in Fran…this won’t last forever and it’s everything”. That’s all I wrote and I never entertained the idea again. How weird, here I am again. Same thoughts. This time I’m ready to answer the call, I’ve done the living and the story she is ready. I will need to do the work, nothing happens without work so here is my plan.
- Write daily. Wake early to spend the hours before the house rises to write. It will be my secret world. Coffee, warm woollen socks and darkness.
- To do the above I will need to exercise to ensure that I sleep well.
- I have also given up drinking. I just can’t do the writing if I indulge in sharing a bottle with my love. Thankfully he has also given up. I’m a little more determined. So far I have said no at every opportunity since our trip finished. I’m done. A door closed 🚪.
- I’m slowly reading Stephen King’s On Writing (recommended by an author I recently chatted with). Re-reading BIG magic and a novel or two a month.
- I looked at joining a book club in Amsterdam and there was one based on the Artists Way by Julia Cameron. A little synchronicity there. I started the book and she also gave up drinking to write. Her book is all about unblocking creativity. A door to open 🚪.
- As part of reading The Artists Way you commit to writing three pages of freehand “stream of consciousness” writing each day. It a spiritual path to higher creativity, that’s my thing. I’ve committed. So far 21 pages.
- Keep myself surrounded by the circle of creatives I’ve met online. Share my work and support, appreciate and learn from other creatives.
- Of course I have 4 little people to nurture and settle into school so I’ll take my time. Afternoons will be theirs, screen free (me too). We have also decided not to purchase a TV, more head space all round. Space for everything that matters.
Lastly and a big one:
7. I want to write here more frequently. Commit to a post a week. What should I write about? Is there anything in particular you want me to explore? I can write about my Dutch life. I live a minimalist life. We live in the slow lane. I love to hike and I am a little bit wild at heart so adventure calls me. Camping, hiking and travel, love. I am an introvert as is my husband and most of my kids. I love being alone and quiet is important to me. I don’t have a load of friends but I love the ones I have, HARD. I make new friends as old ones drop away. That is the nature of being a mover. I’m good at letting go but the real ones stick. My spirit animal is probably a wolf. I’m loyal, a little wild and I act on emotional instincts. There’s are other animals I identify with, you? I am a wanderer so I do chapters, opening and closing doors. Intentional parenting is also my jam. I’m learning to be a writer and am discovering my own creative process, my current curiosity is exploring this. I think a lot and I love to join dots. I do believe in the magic of the universe. Yes, that’s a little about me. There’s more but those are the things that I can probably write about with heart if you have questions. I have found that answering questions is an excellent way to practice writing. Opinions are also on my practice writing list, ask me for an opinion if you wish.
Let’s go for a ride!