Trish Jean

Exploring through language, photography and soundscape, Trish engages in community arts and writing projects, exhibits, performs, and inhabits anthologies. This image also appears on Trish Jean’s Somewhere Else artwork page.

Destination Somewhere Else 
Pop Up Zine 2024: Somewhere Else theme (Writing)

 I’m tired, all the time. The fear and worry and anxiety. The mental load. The physical causes of pain and discomfort and the triggering of my mind by the body. I try to share the load. I take someone with me to appointments that might matter, the ones where the oncologist has a scan result; to the palliative care appointments because it might be upsetting by its nature; to the physiotherapist where I have to learn to huff and puff, and where next week on my own, I have to admit I haven’t been breathing. I have been too tired. I get Catherine to take me to my writer’s course to make sure that I go, it removes a barrier. She went to my first chemo. I tell her when I need help to find things that I will eat.

I glance at social media. The wonderful but dead Irish mystic John O’Donohue is exhorting me to realise that I have a soul with a unique shape and that I have a destiny. There’s some solace in this. That what is happening now for me is part of something beautiful and eternal. Ancestors before me, still with me. My friends and family in this life and realm somehow continue with me too. I have to believe that. It makes living and leaving easier. Pig’s arse.

I pack my tiredness into the burden of my suitcase with the dress an adopted sister has made for the wedding. She made the wedding dress too. Our youngest sister is getting married. Rattling around in my head for four months was the hard steel of worry etched with the words and emotions of “you may not make it”, and yet here I am in the driver’s seat. I’ve seen her baby smile, roll and crawl.

After Albury there is some car swapping. Sisters in together. It becomes reminiscent of childhood trips to Melbourne; although many of those were made in the dark, on the floor or in the back of the old kombi, before the seatbelt laws came in. Night hours spent watching from my safe bolt hole above the engine, the reaching branches of ghostly gums in the dark, bowing to the back window, to me. I didn’t know how to feel about it.

I know how I feel as we near Lake Eildon. Excitement that there is a connection. That one time I actually got to go on my uncle’s houseboat there. Sorrow at the circumstances. It was about a month after my mother died of cancer, and four months before my father would. And now I have cancer too. I may only have nine more months. Enough time to be in the womb of my family and friends, to scrape from its lining all the richness I can, before I am borne into a destination, somewhere else.

Across the lake we climb off the bridge and pull in beside the water. I get the camera out. My sisters walk in different directions, I swear their memories are about them too. This place is like a collision of past, present and future. Future because I want to come back already.

I see movement on the water and am excited by the colour and texture. Each body of water that I capture in my photographic portraits has its own language. I have not spoken with this one before, even though as a teen I had swum in its depths, skirted dead trees with a paddle in my hand. Now I hold the camera. Whilst my body coated wet sought interpretation, the lens here has the means of representation.

It took me less time than reading the first paragraph of the first chapter of Holly Ringland’s The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding to realise that during the four times I have lived on the coastline I had failed to really engage with the environment around me. That the best I had done was come down from the clouds enough to spend an evening with a small fish following me as I ran in the ocean pool on the coast near Wollongong.

When I lived in Adelaide and Sydney I was geographically close to the ocean but separated by traffic and time and work and the ease of the local swimming pool. In Newcastle I would run in the water after work, usually in the company of other Novacastrians, and until the water hit about 17 degrees in the Winter and I couldn’t feel the sand beneath my numbed feet. In Wollongong, I was not working. This meant I could run with the tide rather than other people. I loved to seek the sunset and the satellite that was the International Space Station, which orbits around every 90 minutes depending on its altitude. That would give me two sightings on my 3 hour odysseys, my legs propelling me up and down the ocean pool, my mind propelling me much further.

Now I have a constant longing for the water. It is sometimes assuaged by photographing a local creek or suburban wetland. While I wait, sometimes with diminishing despair about whether I will again be able to run free in the water, I have twisted my identity to become a fish out of water, to embrace another destination, to have my own wedding with nature, as a gardener of small things.

I tend to a range of pots, in the colours of the sky and ocean, and which typically hold a predominate greenness with the occasional flower; most of which are true to the colour scheme, and some of which provide a kind of poking reminder of what else nature can do with a paint brush. During a mild Canberra summer, wracked by the storminess of my own life, there is the making of the Walled Garden and the making of me. I am also learning little deaths and other lives, a practice for someplace else.