olive and oak

elize strydom's photo journal

it is well

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I have never been happier, I’m quite sure of it. Things are not perfect, no, that’s not what I mean. But I am surer of myself. Calmer and lighter. I am being presented with spontaneous opportunities to learn and understand. I am incandescent with hopes and plans. Nourished from afar. Brimming. I am pleased to be here.

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only words

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I am the dreamer, always the dreamer. After that evening spent taking photos on Ange’s rooftop and after my stroll home in the delicious warmth, I collapsed on my bed and gazed out the window and experienced such a lovely sense of wellbeing. A few ideas began to piece themselves together and words started to form an orderly queue in my mind. A poem was taking shape, for the first time in years. I texted Ange and Amelia: ‘How do I write a poem without sounding like a 15 year old girl?’ ‘Maybe write more how you would speak to me? I don’t know, I never mastered it’ came Ange’s reply. ‘Reading poetry can always help you figure things out. Don’t overdo adjectives, never talk about hearts or butterflies. Avoid rhyming…look for truth!’ said Amelia. I wanted to write about  something I’d observed, nothing groundbreaking, just interesting to me: Saying goodbye to someone who was about to take a trip and how strange it was to say goodbye as he was almost 12,000 kilometres away from me to begin with. When he arrived at his destination there would be almost 16,000 kilometres between us. But what’s another 4,000 kilometres? Apart is apart. Once we were in the same city and didn’t even know it, or each other. The poem is on a scrap of paper by my bed, unfinished.

on a clear night

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A week ago, at the end of that really hot day, I spent a few hours taking photos of Ange and Amelia up on Ange’s rooftop in the city. I bossed them about and took snap after snap. They indulged me, like always, and dutifully obliged as I told them to “stand here/walk over there/look up/act natural/STOP!” Anyone who knows me well knows that the only time I assert myself and act with certainty is when I’m behind the camera, shooting what I want to shoot. I get in the zone, as they say, and all distractions fade away. I’m wrapped in ribbons of euphoria, a goofy grin on my face, as I make pictures that may or may not end up the way I imagined they would. It doesn’t matter, though. It’s the process that elates me. The possibilities, the potential for a ‘perfect’ capture. Instead of depleting my creativity stores, being creative seems only to replenish them.

I walked home in a haze, relishing the warmth of the evening, lungs full of intoxicating spring scents. I noticed a girl riding her bike fast down the middle of the road. She was gazing up towards the sky, long hair flowing behind her, as if she expected the wheels to lift off the ground at any moment. It really did seem like she was flying. That goofy grin spread across my face again and I felt like I was walking on a dream. It struck me that my life is full, so full, of intelligent, bright, creative, gorgeous women. These women are my best friends and I treasure them. When I was younger I was one of those guy-friend girls. ‘I just don’t get other girls,’ I remember thinking. ‘All of the drama! All of the petty fights! No thanks, I’m not that kind of girl! Guys are just so much easier to be friends with.’ I didn’t realise it at the time, but as this article on xoJane explains, “…I can see (now) that my subconscious strategy for coping in a sexist society was to align myself with men, to avail myself of their considerable powers of protection, to get what I could from them using the only weapons readily available to me — my body, my charm, my femininity and my compliance. By gaining the approval of those in charge, I hoped to gain access to the perks and opportunities of masculinity.” I’m currently reading, no, devouring, Lena Dunham’s ‘Not That Kind of Girl‘ and feeling grateful for who she is and the difference she’s making. I was late to feminism; I still have a lot to learn.

Two days ago I joined a girl gang for a roadtrip to Canberra to attend a flower festival, Floriade. Being with these women – chatting to them in the car, strolling around the festival, taking photos, sharing, connecting – filled me. When we got back  the city was steamy. Lee, Maddy and I drove to the coast, sun setting behind us. We dipped our toes into an ocean pool then jumped into the cool darkness. As we swam through the saltwater I looked at their wet, shining faces, lit by a combination of moonlight and distant citylight, and I was happy. Our eyes adjusted and we realised we were surrounded by blue bottles. We shrieked and scurried and how none of us were stung, I’ll never know.  We giggled as we wrapped towels around our shivering bodies, amazed by our lucky escape. I aimed my phone in the direction of the sea and took a grainy photo, to remember.

I implore you to read Amelia’s latest blog post here. And if you want to get a visual sense of the things I’ve written about – the photos taken on film won’t be back for a week or so – you can check out my VSCO grid.

girl and the sea

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“So I closed my eyes and the salty air filled up my head and covered my face like the gentle hands of every person in the world who was ever in love with anyone.”Nobody Is Ever Missing, Catherine Lacey

Yesterday RaRa and I spent a few glorious hours on the rocks at Gordon’s Bay chatting about all of the things, taking personality tests (turns out I’m INFP…ohhh yes, I am) and devouring The Ladies Reading Circle’s prescribed text, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. I opened my eyes as I swam beneath the surface and felt free, free indeed.

Today is the 29th of September and I say happy, happy birthday to a dear friend across the sea.

two years

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Somehow I overlooked the fact that this blog turned two last month. Apologies, Olive and Oak – happy belated birthday! I’m quite fond of this space and I do appreciate you popping in to see what I’ve been photographing and mulling over. WordPress stats tell me that more than 60, 000 people from all over the world have visited since my first post in August 2012. That’s pretty cool. Anyway, onward and upward: Here are some shots taken over the last month starting with Bonnie and Matty’s winter wedding.

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All photos developed and scanned at Richard Photo Lab

this is what it feels like now

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Every morning I roll out of bed and pull on the same ripped jeans and a t-shirt, slip my feet into a pair of Birks, twist my hair up to a top knot. I grab the camera and a book and go. I wind my way through the quiet, leafy back streets parallel to King and am passed by cyclists, joggers and early morning commuters. They’re all being pulled towards the city, carried along by an invisible current. I’m swimming up stream. I keep an eye out for neighbourhood cats, will them to come out of their homes so I can say hello and scratch their furry chins. First stop is the little fruit and veg shop run by the two brothers. ‘Extra ginger, right?’ George makes me a juice and we trade small pieces of information. I know what time he gets up and the TV shows he watches at night. I know that he’s trying to cut back on carbs. I sip my juice and walk a few steps further down the way to my coffee place, Shenkin. ‘Morning!’ beams Joss. ‘The usual?’ Wow, that. I mean, all any of us really want in this world is to be known by our barista, right? For ages Joss called me ‘miss’ but the other day he asked me my name and told me his. This morning he’s playing Melody’s Echo Chamber and I can’t hide my delight. I drink my flat white and read my book and watch King Street chaos out the window. The ‘coffee feeling’ – wellbeing and optimism mixed with motivation and clarity – washes over me and I start scribbling notes on a page of my journal, urgently, before the revelations slip away. I make sense and I make plans. I hand over coins, put a few in the tip jar, and mouth ‘bye’ to Joss who’s now swamped with orders, caffeine addicts in suits and pencil skirts with runners staring him down. As I pass the supermarket I notice someone has spray painted ‘GROW UP!’ on the wall in big red letters. ‘Trying,’ I mumble to myself as I take a photo. The protruding roots of the giant fig tree next to the church provide the perfect place for me to perch and read a few more pages (just a few more, just a few more). I don’t know the time but I feel the responsibilities of the day drawing me home. That invisible current is picking me up, carrying me back towards the city. It’s nice, this start to the day. 

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It really is a lovely little life but not one I ever imagined. When I was a teenager I thought about what it would be like to go to uni and I thought about what it would be like to be married and I thought about what it would be like to be a mum. I didn’t think about what it would be like to be 31 and single and living in a terrace house in the city with Rachel. The options, the uncertainty, the fun, the spontaneity, the emptiness, the possibilities, the longing, this way? that way? both. You know, I think I’m in love with all of it and maybe I’d like to stay around a wee while (just a wee while, just a wee while) and get to know this place, this unfamiliar un-thought about place.

Rachel’s getting to know this place, too. She just wrote a special piece about life round here. 

happy birthday, amelia

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Happy birthday to this beer brewing beauty. Over the last three years, Amelia has become one of my best friends and closest confidants. We share a desk, a microphone, a love of words, Sharon Van Etten and Bright Eyes. We calm each other through bouts of anxiety and she helps me untie all of the knots in my head and heart. She challenges me to think harder and feel deeper and gently pushes me to be better. Her mind intrigues me, her radiance captivates me and her stories are simply stellar. I love you, AM. 

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tonight what feels important is this

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Deeper and deeper they talked, baring their souls. Akhmatova confessed her loneliness, expressed her passions, spoke about literature and art. Berlin had to go to the bathroom but didn’t dare break the spell. They had read all the same things, knew what the other knew, understood each other’s longings. That night, Ignatieff writes, Berlin’s life “came as close as it ever did to the still perfection of art.” He finally pulled himself away and returned to his hotel. It was 11 a.m. He flung himself on the bed and exclaimed, “I am in love; I am in love.” An extract from this extraordinary piece: ‘Love Story’

A special thanks to Grizzly Bear for providing my late night soundtrack. Yellow House is still my favourite record. 

 

friends of mountains

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Last month I went to New Zealand with one of my best friends, Lyndal. These photos were taken on the road between Christchurch and Queenstown + Queenstown + Milford Sound. This was last time

she waits, seething, blooming

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I wanted to be closer to her because she seemed like the future to me. – Quiet, Dave Eggers

A portrait of Amelia at the Little Marionette and Ange at home with her cello. 

(Click on each image to enlarge)

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