The Weight of Water


I grew up in a city that was built around a river,that is famous for it’s locks, that was flooded by a creek, and that is perched on the cusp of a wilderness of lakes.

As kids we ran through the sprinkler for hours on the hottest of days and flooded the backyard for a massive ice rink in the dead of winter. We let the water run while we brushed our teeth. We flushed toilets with abandon and showered for as long, and as often, as we pleased.

We knew no limit to what flowed from our many taps. We were water rich. It was weightless and we were drowning (swimming) in it.


I live half of my year in a half-built house in rural Australia with my love. Our home is a quiet, off-grid design that is being made out of storied parts and salvaged supplies, built by our own two hands. For the last 4 years, every drop of water we have required has had to come from the sky. The only tap we have is at the base of a rain tank. Our two tanks are connected to our two roofs by a series of gutters and pipes. Every drop of rain that hits our steel ceiling finds it’s way into our holding tank. One day those tanks will feed into more pipes that will funnel into our finished house. One day there will be taps and sinks, even a bath. But always the water that flows from them will come from those two tanks, those two roofs, that one sky. But for right now, every bit of water we use needs to be carried – from the tank, up the hill, to the kettle, the dish pan, the wash tub. We feel its’ heaviness every time we use it. The weight of our water is teaching us its’ value.


My hometown is not far from the shore of great Lake Ontario. Forty minutes of driving can have me standing eye-to-eye with the waters edge. Smokestacks and seagulls and Canadian geese are ever in the periphery, but if I position myself just right then I can look out and see nothing but wet horizon. Those shores have saved me many times on days when the world felt too big, the questions too heavy. The gift of big water is the chance to feel small in its’ presence. I can stand there and look out as far as my eyes can see and still not find the end. It’s the sound of waves lapping, a music that resonates deep in my bones. It’s a body to throw stones at without causing harm. It’s a void to yell into when I need the strength of my own voice more than I need to be listened to. Big water is a humbling force that proves strong enough to carry the weight of whatever I need to unload.


It started raining on my caravan roof while I’ve been writing this. Not a heavy rain, just a light spattering that will likely evaporate as soon as it hits this sun-baked ground. It is easy to recognize the sound of rushing waterfalls or crashing waves. The force of water can be deafening. But even tonights’ small, seemingly insignificant rain drops held a weight that was loud enough for me to hear. They played a song on this tin box that made me pause in my tracks, made me listen.


Yesterday we drove the 25km from our grassy shack to the big beach to submerge ourselves in the cold waters of the Tasman Sea. We were heat scorched and in need of a bath. Without fail, every time I put my salty skin in the ocean waves, I squeal like an excited child. It is a full-immersion saltwater baptism that leaves me laughing and lighter and grateful to be alive. I am learning to let my limbs ride the waves. I am discovering how to be brave in water that is merciless and wild. I am forgoing composure and handing myself over to the raw pleasure of being washed over and swept along, weightless and reborn.


*This essay was originally published in Topology Magazine in April 2016.

this town.

me + hills

These small town streets only ever seem to point uphill. I walk the shoulder to the general store to buy the backyard bread that shows up fresh every Friday. The roadwork crew has sprayed white happy faces at the base of every metal picket. The air is damp after morning rain, a sultry mix of eucalypt and mud. Dry leaves drift. The river runs, half empty.

On the street I meet a family because they look like strangers and have beautiful black haired children and I’m at a place in my living where that’s all the reason I need. We talk about the last remaining phone booth, our shared roots, and the beauty of the valley. I all but invite them over for tea.

The gas man is the bedrock and keeps the main street feeling like home. There’s smoked trout and a smart alec barista and a guy in a sarong who makes it all smell real. The afternoon sun is long. A man in shorts smoking a ciggy passes me on horseback. I watch for heat hungry snakes and get greeted by a feasting Rosella and two small clingy dogs.

The mountain range is in silhouette. The black cows have brought the flies home to nest. The season is changing. Light moves more quickly now. It will be dark soon. A full moon. Suddenly the sky comes alive, a feathered blur of grey and white and pink and song, as a giant flock of Galahs decides to relocate, move west, follow the setting sun. The swallows fill the space they left behind, and dance as only swallows can. I let my breathe sink deeper, try not to blink, pause to take it all in.


paradise found.

paradise sunset
i’m perched at a small table, set in front of half-open french doors, looking out on to green hills that roll further than my eyes can see. the sun rises in a window just above my head as i lay in this borrowed loft .12 hours later it sets over the range, soaking the huge sky in fire. at dawn and at dusk, the hills erupt. birds sing and soar and swoop in frenzy. roos come out of hiding to lounge and feast. my late morning ramble brought me past bushes that hummed with bees, down pathways busy with skittering lizards, through swarms of dizzy butterflies. i’m sitting in some sort of paradise here.
i have been thinking a lot about time lately. it’s so tempting to say that there isn’t enough of it. every day seems to end as full as when it began. we lay the calendar beside the to do list and they don’t line up. autumn is settling in over here which means more darkness, less light. our days are ordered by the sun. we need time to do the work. time to make the money to keep doing the work. time for ourselves. time for each other. time to stop thinking about time and just get lost in something unmeasurable.
it’s so easy to get anxious, hearts and clocks ticking too fast.
too fast.
i am trying to write myself a different story. instead of tightening up at the idea of having never enough, i’m working on seeing that time is measured out in perfect doses. Time is constant. in a life full of uncertainty and continual transition, that holds a lot of weight. the sun, she moves steady and sure. she doesn’t change her pace for no man – no matter how anxious or hurried or ambitious they may be. Time is sufficient. it’s me who is over-busying my days or dragging my heels on giving myself to what really matters to me.
time starts to feel inadequate when i focus on doing rather than being. i bet there is exactly enough time for me to be who i was born to be, if i actually live every day fully.
easier said than done maybe. but tight-chest, clock-watching, calendar-flipping, time-resenting feels pretty damn hard and exhausting. i know. i’ve given it a good run.
i want to try a different approach.
it’s quiet hour now, at mid-afternoon here in paradise. i can hear branches breaking and a blow fly buzzing around my head. the gum trees are dropping bark and small branches in the wind. i came to this cabin for a couple days in hopes of remembering some things i could feel myself forgetting. i’m hard work sometimes. but i’m getting there. gently, gently, there’s time enough, by the grace of another dawn and dusk.

loaves and fishes and so much love.

i made gingerbread men with glasses and moustaches to sell at a folksinger show in our tiny town hall because it seemed like a fun idea and i needed to make some dough. literally.
i was squeezing out icing and swatting at flies and grooving to a hobo jungle fever dream. i took a break to run next door to buy coffee from the blokes who brew a tasty decaf. while i waited for my frothy soy i looked down at the days news. blood and tears and airports and fear. it was everywhere. in color and bold print. i felt my stomach roll and my mouth run dry. my loves were miles away and i wanted everything dear to be within reach. the world felt crazy.
back in the kitchen i felt lost. disoriented. getting scared comes so easily. despair is a cinch to inhale. i felt my feet wobble, my knees go weak.
then i thought about love.
i thought about the way love is a force of courage. the way love heals. i thought about love as light in darkness. i heard the wise J Byrd sing in my ear that Love Is The Law. it’s not ruled by law. it is the law.
i thought about love and felt the wobble of fear and i stared at dozens of gingerbread in-waiting and i remembered the folksinger who’s not afraid to let his freak flag fly and i decided that the best thing i could do in that moment was tap in to all the brave love inside me and keep going.
i stopped worrying and thinking and started squeezing out icing like i was the Keith Haring of pastries. it may sound like the smallest thing and the silliest of notions. but for me alone in that kitchen, icing cookies became a tiny act of revolution. it was a choice to move from a place of love rather than a place of fear. it was trying to be honest and brave in the very place and moment i found myself in.
maybe it doesn’t make much sense to explain.
but later that night while i sat in my seat and listened to the whole-hearted song-slinger sing, i wanted to weep with gratitude and relief.
sometimes the world steps over the line.
but with time, all things shine.
i sold a bunch of cookies that night. i gave a lot away too.
the darkness hung heavy over so much of our world that day.
in some tiny way, i just wanted to live a bit of light.
there were cookies and folk songs and stories and a small town. there was a lot of courage and probably some fear.
and there was love. so much love.
the more we gave the more it grew.
loaves and fishes. miracles multiplied.
when there’s nothing else, there’s still that.

rainbow shack

a bridge.

fay + rae

i live in and between two worlds. they are lands of similarities and opposites. they are miles and miles and miles apart. i hold them both inside of me.
i’ve never been too afraid of distance. sometimes i’ve even craved it. solitary spaces. this woman is an island. by default or design, i have a habit of retreating.
but lately i’ve been longing for bridges.
i’ve been wanting to find ways to weave yarns to connect here and there, this and that. maybe i’m just craving cohesion.
maybe my fragmented heart just gets tired sometimes.
maybe it just seems easier that way.
less explaining, more understanding.
see it all with our own eyes.

i cling to patient hope.
word by word, picture by picture, all in due time. the lines between spaces will strengthen and bind.

two days ago this beautiful soul showed up at my door.
this is Fay. she has been a teacher, a mentor, and a gorgeous friend in my life for many years. she is a life-giver and a truth-teller and I love her deeply. and today she came all the way from Haliburton, ON to sit and eat lunch with me in our half-built house in Candelo, NSW. it was both surreal and completely normal. and I am so so so grateful.

sometimes a bridge is built of steel and stone; other times of flesh and bone. this vibrant woman was a bridge between my two worlds this week. i realised as she was leaving how profoundly her presence touched me. the power of that connection. the gift of being seen.

bless the spaces between us.
bless the courage required to cross the divide.
bless that gorgeous smile.


sunfire and stardust.

sunrise- r.kennedy

the day started with sun fire streaking the pink sky. it was hot by breakfast and i couldn’t stop sneezing. our tin box bedroom is being taken over by ants and i was shaking cinnamon with wild abandon, grasping at old-wives straws that somehow the spice would convince them to pick up and move house. in the still heat of the morning i was folding all the laundry that i’d washed by hand the day before in my preserving pot basin with cold rainwater and eucalyptus oil soap. somewhere in the middle of the ants and the heat and the folding i heard music. bagpipes calling out Amazing Grace. it was strange and surreal and i stood still, listening and wondering, and then realised that over the hill was the old cemetery, usually forgotten and overgrown in this tiny country town, but today it was singing. today there was dying and remembering. today there was music. so i stopped and i listened because that felt like the right thing to do for a stranger life that lived and lives-no-longer. pay attention. 

in the afternoon i dug my hands into the bounty of tomatoes we’d been given from friends abundant gardens, and let them roast till they popped with basil and garlic and olive oil, the smell of late summer sticking to the sweaty air. i sang bob marley songs while fingering wool and tried to funnel my hazy mind into acts of creation. i watered thirsty plants. i made sage brews and laid flat on the concrete floor of our half-built house. when the sun went down i put headphones on and danced my bones under a galaxy of stars. because i can. at the end of it all i stared up at the night sky and let moments and remembering move through me. it was a day that marks an anniversary in the calendar of my mind. sadness and celebration. loss and gain. it’s a journey full of feelings. full of learning. 

the day started with sun fire and ended with stardust.
so many people tell me that my life is a dream. 

i’m here to tell you it’s as real as the sweat on my skin; as full of loss as the fresh dug grave; as delicious as late summer tomatoes; as true as the breath in my lungs when i dance my bones in moonlit skies.
i couldn’t dream this. i wouldn’t dare.
pay attention.
this living is so real.

beauty + weight

sea urchin - r.kennedy

i have been living in the company of stories – not mine, but becoming a part of me. my days have been ordered by cups of tea + remembering + listening + toast with marmalade + work in the garden. the kitchen here has a stove and a full pantry and the baker in me has been unleashing. today i ate triangle egg salad sandwiches and strawberries plump from the garden, in the company of two women who have been friends for near on 60 years. we wandered through rose gardens, among towering trees that my host once planted herself by hand. every day feels full of both the future and the past. somewhere in there i have had my breath stolen by art and my heart swollen by trust. i was caught in a downpour, buried a bird, wove my first basket, and found an unearthly purple sea urchin washed up on the beach. 

all i can say is bless the day, the beauty and the weight of it.

thirty days.

beachport - r.kennedy

30 days in and how do i begin?

maybe with the smell of the ocean and the sound of breaking waves and the wild empty beach where the sand was carpeted with smooth fragments of shells, and the washed up seaweed was like an Andy Goldsworthy-art-installation just sitting there being beautiful regardless of whether anyone bothered to come and take notice.

i could tell you about picking ripe mulberries, straight off the tree, blood red juice running down my fingers, staining everything in reach, while Bunter the sheep ran around crying for attention and tasty leaves.

i would want to mention to you about the farmers and wholehearted gardeners i meet who work hard to passionately grow native Australian flora; sun-drenched + kind as, wise in their knowing that so much of this country is relentless + wild and water is a scarce and precious resource, and only the seeds that were born of this place have the strength to innately survive.

koala crossing - r.kennedy

there was also the taxi driver in Adelaide named Amad, who taught us back-seat-riders how to meditate and make traditional soaked almond + poppy seed chai; who understood that not every idea was worth holding on to, and that happiness was born on the inside.

and there are the blue fairy wrens + king parrots + sulphur crested cockatoos + kookaburras + rosellas + lorikeets + magpies + wedge-tailed eagles + giant orchard butterflies + all the other winged wonders and singers and squawkers that fill my skies every day. oh, and also the King Brown snake i almost stepped on + the family of tawny frogmouths i saw sitting in the tree + the hilarious blue-headed emu that ran in front of our car + the mud wasp that is building the most mind-blowing nest on our roof beam + the partial skeleton and still perfectly intact ring of down feathers from a little fairy penguin that i found washed up on the beach.

tumbleweed - r.kennedy

there has been a lot of timber moving and ant-infesting and to-do-list making and big-idea dreaming and in-your-face-obstacle wrangling. there has been wood fired pizza and spinach + cheese pasties and fresh tomatoes and homemade marmalade. there has been days of non-stop rain and nights that begged for extra blankets and afternoons where the salty smell of my own sweat feels suffocating.

sydney - r.kennedy

i have road-tripped to the city and sipped flat whites on the rocks. i have spent days by the sea shore, waking up to beach rambles and falling asleep with a belly full of fresh fish and an ocean moon. there have been meals around big tables, and fish + chips on the beach. but mostly there have been days waking up in a small unfinished shack, the bed sitting where the shower will one day be, the water coming from an outdoor tap on a rain tank, the light coming from the sky. and on most days my view is green hills with cattle grazing, two competing roosters crowing in surround-sound, and a close-to-home existence that has everything to do with hopeful ambition and life-giving community.

i’m so grateful for all of it.

30 days in. there are only beginnings. this adventure has no end…

shack - r.kennedy

the other day i woke up lonesome.

beachballrags - R.Kennedyreflector - R.Kennedyhouse 1-R.KennedyIMG_0109 IMG_0310 IMG_0317 IMG_0325 IMG_0344 IMG_0952 IMG_0947 IMG_0979 house1-R.Kennedy


the smell of sawdust + eucalyptus.

the taste of lamingtons + vanilla slice + bush honey yogurt.

the chatter of the magpies + the belly laughs of the kookaburras + the all day cry of old Charles’ rooster.

the way the light moves.

the mountain range, unchanging.

the salty ocean within my reach.

the half-built house that is bliss + toil + home.

the good bones + hearts that make it all come alive.


i am here and i am there. i feel full and fragmented. i am home and homesick.

i want it all. and with gratitude, i have it.

this isn’t wailing, it’s me exhaling.

when i breathe i feel big enough to contain it.


but still


i wake up wanting

and missing.




incredibly close


thanks to strangers and friends, and people with knowledge about things that i still don’t understand, this little site is finally allowing me to upload photographs again. it’s been a glitch in my blackbird world, a glitch that has deterred me from posting too much for a while. it just didn’t feel right without pictures, you know? anyway, gratefully, it’s fixed now. and i’ve got thousands of miles worth of photos and stories that i’ve been saving up to share.

and since today is a recovery day from a nasty flu, and i’ve found myself escaping from the heat of my farm field home to a quiet hideaway with a fan and electricity, it seems like a good time to tip toe back into the land of picture-book storytelling and put some color back into these word scrawled pages.

so today i give you pictures.

a handful of shots i took while staying in the shack at Fig Hill this past January, in the green wonderland that is the Bega Valley, NSW in summertime. D was off making a record on far away shores, and i took residence near the chook pen, at the bottom of a steep hill, with the nearby company of dear friends. i packed sewing needles, a basket of cloth, and a few spools of thread and set about making little stitched studies with no other aim but to create something every day.

there is a beauty in the utility of spool + needle + thread that i never tire of. i love that they are tools and materials that have never really changed. they hold stories. they get the job done. they are fragile and durable all at the same time.

they are materials that make sense to me. and sometimes, that is everything.



IMG_0243 IMG_0247 IMG_0248 IMG_0249 IMG_0281 IMG_0278 IMG_0277 IMG_0276 IMG_0258 IMG_0253 IMG_0289 IMG_0291 IMG_0293

Next Posts

Words + Photos + Credit

Unless otherwise noted, all original photography and text are property of Raechelle Kennedy. If you see or read something here and feel inspired to share it somehow, please be considerate and give the artist (me!) credit, or even better, drop me a note and make sure I don’t mind.
Thank you!

Here + There

Secondhand Sainthood and the gift of losing it all – Topology Magazine, December 2015

Ten Things Made – Topology Magazine, December 2015