In Front of the Tree

Logical CJ

Carols and lights
Joy and laughter
Another Christmas
Is here again

CJ Hat

A few photos I took by my tree last night. I try to do at least one nice photo with the tree each year to keep track of the years going by.

This year I found my Spock Christmas hat so I thought I’d use that for something a bit different. Yes I’m a geek. Tell me something I don’t know.

CJ Tree 1

I did a couple of normal photos as well. I thought this one came out quite well.

CJ Tree 2

I like this one with my glasses too. I don’t wear them as often anymore but I do still need them from time to time.CJ Tree 3

And this one in black and white I really like as well. Black and white doesn’t always suit me but with the lights in the background I think it works well.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Photos and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2015

I’m Dreaming of an Aussie Christmas

I finished my annual Aussie Christmas song tonight. This is my seventh song now and this year I thought I’d do an Aussie version of I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.

I chose it as it’s one of those songs everyone knows so hopefully it’ll be easy to follow, and also because I wanted to tell a bit more of a story this year. Christmas is a fun time but it can be very hard too, particularly if you’re missing people you love. I really wanted to try to capture that feeling in the song.

I hope you enjoy it and if you have any suggestions for next year’s song, let me know. 😉

Sydney Lego Santa

I’m Dreaming of an Aussie Christmas

The snow is falling, the wind is cold
The airport is crowded and grey
There’s never been a colder day
And I miss my family so far away
It’s December the twenty-fourth
And I’m still waiting here way up north…

I’m dreaming of an Aussie Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the summer sizzles
And it never drizzles
And there’s cricket on the radio

I’m dreaming of an Aussie Christmas
With friends on a warm December night
May your summer be warm and light
And may all your Christmases be bright

I’m dreaming of an Aussie Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the water shimmers
And the hot sand glimmers
And we play in the sun’s golden glow

I’m dreaming of an Aussie Christmas
With everyone I love holding me tight
May your days be filled with delight
And may all your Christmases be bright

And may all your Christmases
May all your Chrissie days be
May all your Christmases be bright

My other Aussie Christmas songs:
The Aussie 12 Days of Christmas (2008)
Aussie Jingle Bells (2009)
We Wish You An Aussie Christmas (2010)
Deck the Ute (an Aussie Christmas Song) (2011)
Have Yourself an Aussie Kind of Christmas (2012)
Santa Matey (an Aussie Christmas Song) (2014)

There’s No Place Like Home

Home 2Home 1

Do you ever wonder what it is exactly that makes a home, well, a home? What it is that makes something more than just a collection of bricks and mortar and instead a home, somewhere special that you look forward to coming back to every day?

I’ve been thinking about that quite a lot recently. Largely it’s been to do with the time of year as the festive season always makes me rather contemplative and there are many reminders of ‘home’ over Christmas; of buying gifts and going home for the holidays, of decorating your home for guests and loved ones, of music telling stories of loneliness and missing home.

Christmas can be a nice time of year but if you’re lonely or away from home or nursing a broken heart then it’s not much fun. The constant reminders of home and how Christmas is for spending time with the ones you love can be depressing. I must admit I’m struggling with that quite a bit this year and I’m feeling little desire to celebrate at the moment.

I think the other reason it’s been on my mind though, and probably the main reason, is that I was broken in to recently. A couple of people went on a rampage through my block of flats; they were after my neighbour initially who wasn’t there, then in a rage they started to destroy everything; they rounded on my flat next and smashed through the screen door and yelled and threatened me, before they broke the windows in the block and hit someone on the head as they ran out.

It was scary and it took a few days (and the door to be fixed) for me to start to feel relatively safe in my own home again. And yet, that’s the thing as well… I was upset and obviously scared but I actually felt very little about the break in itself, which surprised me. I thought I would feel angry or violated in some way but I didn’t. Which I think goes to show how little this place has ever really felt like ‘home’ to me.

I’ve been living here for a little over two years now since leaving Sydney and while I’m grateful to have shelter, a roof over my head and (relative) security, I guess I’ve never felt much attachment to this place. It’s okay as far as flats go but I took it out of necessity rather than because I really felt anything for it and I think that’s why it doesn’t really feel like home. It’s a place where I live and sleep and have created some wonderful memories – but it’s not ‘home’ and I don’t think it will ever feel like home to me, or the way a home should.

But how should a home feel? And have I ever really felt that? I’m not sure. There’s what society and Hollywood tell us a home should be like and I guess that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about it – the idea of a happy family living in a nice house, with a couple of pets, a picket fence and lots of laughter, etc. The kind of place you come back to years later and the place echoes with memories.

Of course that’s an unrealistic fantasy; no matter how much money you have, there’s no such thing as the perfect house, just as there’s no such thing as the perfect family, or the perfect you. Life is about compromise and working hard to make your life better and eventually afford the things you want; a lot of people though seem to want everything now without being prepared to wait and work for it and I think that’s why many people seem so unhappy these days. They seek instant gratification and in the end that only leaves them unfulfilled.

So no, that fantasy, which I think a lot of people have (particularly first home buyers), isn’t a home. It’s a lifestyle, a fairytale; it’s what we’re told life should be like if we want our happily ever after. A real home, is something else.

Personally I think a home is not just a place, it’s an idea. A ‘home’ obviously must be somewhere that is attractive to you and suits your needs but I also think as a concept it is much more fluid than that and what ‘home’ is is probably different and unique to every person. For some people the ability to get a mortgage and buy somewhere they like may be what makes that place actually feel like ‘home’ to them, because they know it is theirs and they can build their life there and make what they want of it. For other people a mortgage may mean little and it’s only when they have realised whatever work and life goals they’ve set for themselves and have more freedom that a place starts to feel like ‘home’. For some again it may be when they have children and a place fills with their laughter; for others it may be when their children have grown and the mortgage is finished and the next stage of life begins. I think a home can mean many things and perhaps in the end all that matters it is that it feels special.

For me I think home is not a fixed place at all and never has been; I don’t feel like I’ve ever really felt an attachment to a place, at least not that I can remember, nor feel like I will anytime soon, so for me I think home is the memories I have made wherever I’ve lived. It’s the memories of where I grew up; the memories of where I had my first kiss; the people I have shared my life with; the fun and laughter, the pets who brought me joy, the friends who stood by me; the moments I cherish and the sorrows that define me. In that way everywhere is home, and nowhere, as I take it with me.

Or, to borrow from Doctor Who, for me home is like a Tardis; it’s my heart and it’s bigger on the inside.

I used to think that maybe I was missing something because I didn’t feel a particular attachment to somewhere, to a physical home. Perhaps I still may one day, if I buy a place or have a family. But even then I don’t think it will be having a physical place that will make it ‘home’ for me, it will still be the memories and the life I bring with me.

And I think ideally that’s what a home should be. It should be what we bring and what we make there, not the place itself. I think a lot of people get too focused on buying their idea of a dream home and that’s another reason why they can feel unfulfilled, because in the end the reality can never match up to the dream.

I think that’s why I didn’t feel much after the break in as well as it’s just walls to me; they could have trashed it, set it alight, done anything, but all I would have lost were things. It would have been unfortunate but I wouldn’t have lost anything important and I have insurance.

It’s probably also why I’m struggling a bit with Christmas this year now that I think about it as well. This is the first year I’ve really been by myself. I wouldn’t say I feel lonely necessarily but I definitely feel a sense of loss this year.

Then again I often don’t get into the spirit until late. Maybe I just need a mince pie, put some music on, and create some new memories.

Either way I guess the important thing is to make the most of what we have. Home can be many things and come in many shapes and sizes but it’s what we bring to it that matters. In the end there really is no place like home.

‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there ‘s no place like home;
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which sought through the world is ne’er met with elsewhere.
John Howard Payne – Home, Sweet Home
From Clari, the Maid of Milan

Dusk on the Lake

Dusk on the Lake

I was in Belmont for a few days last week and went for a nice walk along the lake a couple of evenings ago. The sun had almost finished setting and there was a beautiful dusk light that was perfect for photos.

I was deliberately trying to play with silhouettes and patterns with the photos. My goal was to try and keep them as minimalist as possible and let mother nature speak for herself.

Dusk on the Lake

Dusk on the lake

Dusk on the Lake

A hungry pelicanDusk on the Lake

Colourful reflections, dark silhouettesDusk on the Lake

Alone on the water

Dusk on the Lake

Seagulls near the shore

Dusk on the Lake

Water lapping over the rocks

Dusk on the Lake

Blue waters

Dusk on the Lake

Rocks near the shore

Dusk on the Lake

The dying light

Dusk on the Lake

Water, waves and metal

Dusk on the Lake

Through the bars

Photos © CJ Levinson 2015

The Bird and the Mountains

The Mountains

Across the water
Mountains rise
Telling the story
Of this young land

This is another shot from our New Zealand trip earlier this year. We stayed near Lake Taupo for a couple of days and I took this while we were there, looking across at the mountains.

It was a beautiful day and I was lucky to catch the seagull flying across at just the right time. Turned out really well.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2015

5 Things (part the third)

I turned 31 a couple of weeks ago. I had meant to post something at the time but I didn’t want to mark it that much. I’ve never really liked birthdays. I know a lot of people say that but it genuinely just feels like another day to me and I don’t like making too much out of it.

In any case I had a nice, relatively quiet day. My Facebook went into overdrive and my mother and my partner and her son spoilt me after they came up from Sydney for the weekend.

One thing birthdays always do is make me a bit reflective, so I’ve spent the last week or so thinking about the last year as well. It’s been pretty full really, with the trip to New Zealand earlier this year definitely the highlight.

It also made me think about how much has changed in the last few years, not least of which leaving Sydney and starting a new life here in Newcastle. It also reminded me that it’s been a few years since my last 5 Things About Me post and I thought now might be a good time to do another one.

If you haven’t read the original posts, this is the first post and this is the second. Originally it was just a fun meme where you had to answer five questions about yourself to help people get to know you better. I really enjoyed it though and thought I’d start doing it every now and then as a way to keep track of how things change over time, a bit like a time capsule. So I did a second post about two years later, adding a few more questions while still trying to keep to the spirit of the original meme by keeping each answer to just 5 things.

Looking back now, a lot has changed. Looking at my answers I think I was concerned with much smaller things then and I didn’t have any idea how much life was going to change in just a few years. I’ve moved from Sydney, both my grandmothers have passed away, I’m in a happy relationship, I have my own home… life is different and I guess I’ve matured. The world has changed a lot too, from our revolving door of Prime Ministers, to Syria and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, to the Diamond Jubilee and Royal Wedding, to the death of Nelson Mandela… five years doesn’t feel that long but it shows how much can happen when you stop and think about it.

I’ve included a few photos below to show what my home and bedroom are like now as well. Obviously a lot has changed with moving but it’s interesting how the style doesn’t look that different on the whole to the photos in the previous posts… I guess my tastes are still much the same five years on.

I hope you enjoy the meme. What’s changed for you over the last five years?

5 things found in your bag

I’ll use my backpack. This is one thing that has definitely changed as I used to carry a messenger bag and small camera quite regularly. I rarely do anymore though as my phone has more or less replaced my point and shoot these days. The backpack I use fairly regularly though for serious photography or if I’m going to be out all day.

• Camera (usually my Olympus E-M1 with a lens attached)
• iPad Air
• Headphones
• Tissues
• Sunglasses

5 things in your home you love
5 favourite things

Cricket cufflinks
My partner Gen bought these for me while we were in New Zealand. They’re of two sets of cricket stumps with a ball breaking the stumps. They’re lovely and will always remind me of our wonderful trip there.

• The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
I loved CS Lewis’s Narnia series as a child. My parents gave me this hardcover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for my eighth birthday. I adored it and still flick through it every now and then.

Marble chess set
I found this in a charity store a couple of years ago. The pieces are made of solid marble and are beautiful. The whole set was only $20!

• Star Trek pocket watch
My grandmother gave me this watch almost twenty years ago. She knew how much I loved Star Trek and saw it in a Franklin Mint catalogue. It means a lot to me, particularly since she passed away last year.

• Word blocks
I’ve had these for a couple of years now. Some word blocks can seem a bit trite but I really like these and I got them at a time in my life when the messages really meant a lot to me too.

5 things that have changed about you in the last 5 years

• My location
I left Sydney in early 2013 and I live about two hours north of Sydney in Newcastle now. It’s been a transition and I miss Sydney quite a bit at times, particularly as it can feel quite isolated here sometimes, but I’m also enjoying the change of pace and relative quiet that comes with being out of a big city. It’s nice being able to see the stars at night too.

• My family
Both my grandmothers passed away during the last three years, which was a terrible shock both times. My grandfather is also in a nursing home now with dementia. I’ve lost contact with some of my family over the last couple of years as well but I also met my partner Gen who I adore and her son, mother and cats. I’ve lost family but I’ve gained family as well so it’s evened out for the most part.

• My writing
My writing has changed a lot over the last few years. I’m unable to write as much as I used to and have been struggling with a novel for several years now; unfortunately my migraines make it difficult to concentrate, so I’ve mostly shelved that side of writing for now. I mostly write poetry, particularly haiku, these days and I’m also starting to write some short stories again. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back in to longer works again over the next year or so.

• My priorities
Maybe it’s all just part of getting older and growing up but I feel like my priorities have changed over the last five years. I don’t think things bother me as much as they used to, particularly when I don’t reach a goal I’ve set for myself or feel like I’ve been wronged. These days my priorities are trying to be a good partner, a good son and a good friend. What else really matters in the end?

• My hair
My hair’s started to recede a bit more these days and there’s a nice splattering of grey starting to come through now. I don’t mind it actually; makes me feel distinguished. 😉

5 things you want to do in the next year

• Move
I’m settling into Newcastle well on the whole but I do feel like I’m going to need to move soon. I didn’t know the area very well at the time and this part of Newcastle isn’t where I want to be longterm. Hopefully will be able to move sometime in the next six months or so.

• Watch The Godfather Trilogy
I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen any of The Godfather films, just bits and pieces over the years. As a movie buff I feel a bit weird about not having seen them. Will have to get around to watching them soon.

• Start writing regularly again
As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t written as much as I’d have liked to during the last couple of years. Most of that is health-related but I also think with moving and life in general, I needed a bit of a break too. I’ve still done bits and pieces but I’d like to get back to writing regularly soon.

• Learn to drive
This might come as a bit of a surprise but I don’t drive. I’ve always wanted to but getting regular migraines, it didn’t seem like the best idea. These days though I feel like I’m managing the pain better and I might be able to now, even if it’s with some restrictions.

• See the 2016 Australian Open
I love tennis and I’ve wanted to go to the Australian Open for years. I’ve come close to going a couple of times (it was even on my last 5 Things list) but things kept falling through unfortunately. This next year though I definitely plan on going, particularly as it may be Federer’s last Aussie Open and I’d love to see him before he retires.

5 things you have always wanted to do

• Fly
When I was younger I used to have dreams where I was flying like a bird. It’s something that’s stuck with me and I often wonder what it would feel like to fly. Probably the closest I could get is to go paragliding one day.

• Write a Star Trek episode
I grew up loving the original Star Trek before getting into the spinoffs and I’ve always wanted to write an episode for one of the shows. I know what I’d want to write too if/when Star Trek comes back to tv. I know it’ll probably never happen but still, it’s nice to dream.

• Publish a photo in a magazine
I’d love for one of my photos to appear in a magazine like National Geographic one day. I have sold a few photos now so who knows, if I’m lucky it might happen one day.

• Retrace Isaac’s journey
I’ve written before about my great great grandfather Isaac Levinsohn and his journey to England. I’d love to retrace his journey one day. It would be an interesting way of seeing Europe and might give me a better understanding of what he went through.

• Visit Antarctica
I’ve been fascinated by Antarctica since I was in primary school and did a project about it; I wrote to one of the science stations and they sent me some flyers which I was thrilled with. I’d love to spend some time there one day. The photography alone would be amazing.

5 things you are currently into

• Bob Dylan
I love Dylan and go back through his albums every now and then. I’m listening to The Essential Bob Dylan at the moment; it has most of what you’d expect and is a good quick fix.

• Netflix
Netflix launched in Australia a few months ago (finally!) and I’ve been really enjoying it so far, particularly the original Netflix series. I wish the catalogue would update a little more frequently but there’s a good selection of content seeing as it hasn’t been that long since it launched. Can’t wait for Jessica Jones next month.

• Doctor Who
I just finished going back through the last two seasons of Doctor Who on Netflix before diving into the new season on ABC. I’m still not sure how I feel about Peter Capaldi’s Doctor… I like him but at the same time he hasn’t really grabbed me yet. Maybe this season will do it.

• Monopoly
Mum gave me Game of Thrones Monopoly for my birthday. Game of Thrones + Monopoly + my love of board games… don’t really need to say more, do I?

• Natalie Portman
Because she’s Natalie Portman. And she still rocks. 😉

5 people you want to tag

I won’t tag anyone again but please take the meme if you’d like to use it on your blog or Facebook. I’d love to see your answers.

Seagulls by the Lake

Belmont Seagulls

I wish I could fly
Like a bird over water
And leave life behind

This was taken in Belmont the other week, at the same time as the other two photos I posted a little while ago. The seagulls are always very friendly there and make for some good subjects.

I was mostly just experimenting and was not looking for anything particularly exciting. I wanted to see if I could create a look close to some of the film cameras I loved when I was first learning photography and I like how it came out.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2015

Along Belmont Wharf

On the Lake

Walking by the water
My mind drifts back
To past joys
And simpler times

Along Belmont Wharf (b&w)

I was in Belmont for the day recently and took a couple of photos near the wharf, looking across the lake. It’s a beautiful spot for photography and I’m happy with how they came out.

I particularly like the black and white one; I wanted something minimalist and a little old fashioned and I really like it.

Photos and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2015

A Sign in Wallsend

 

And on the 8th day God created the iPhone, so Humankind could talk to Him whenever they wanted.

Then on the 9th day He created private numbers to stop them from bugging him and was never heard from again.

I was doing some shopping in Wallsend yesterday and saw this sign at the Wallsend Presbyterian Church. Gave me a good laugh.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2015