Photographed by Bec Parsons, styled by Jill Davison, collage by Cynthia Swanson, Vogue Australia, November 2020.
“Nature’s job: to shift things elsewhere, to transform them, to pick them up and move them here and there. Constant alteration. But not to worry: there’s nothing new here. Everything is familiar. Even the proportions are unchanged.” —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Nearly a year ago, I landed in Sydney and was greeted by some enthusiastic and passionate women whom I grew close with in the days that followed. As we took part in the journey of visiting the Ronald McDonald House in celebration and to raise money for McHappy Day, I was transformed in spirit by the families I met and the generosity of so many people in Australia who gave to this beautiful cause.
The families I met were so strong and accepted the suffering they endured with grace and stamina, and expressed gratitude for the simplest and grandest acts of kindness they received. A few days after McHappy Day, I drove to my photo shoot for Vogue Australia. I was so honoured to be chosen for the cover and thrilled to take part in creating images that evoked a heightened glamour and grounded strength. I worked with a group of incredibly creative and talented women who embodied that glamour and strength in the way they worked and interacted with each other and me.
Today I am in New York City. It is October of 2020. The city is emerging as a whole because of the fortitude and hard work of so many. There is a feeling of true connectedness among strangers. The subway isn’t as busy as it once was but we see each other more clearly now. We think about one another in appreciation for having survived the pandemic mentally, emotionally and physically.
The journey of the pandemic for me was filled with many experiences. During this time, I revisited books that I value, including, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Just Kids by Patti Smith and Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion.
Hobbies such as sewing, painting and writing became new hallmarks of satisfaction and having had time at home to just be. To listen. To live for a moment in time without the pressure of results and instead appreciate the natural rhythms of mother and daughter was the most precious gift.
I enjoyed the time to escape into films by Ingmar Bergman, Agnès Varda, Jacques Demy and John Cassavetes. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg brought such a sense of joy to the lockdown experience and watching the documentary about Jacques Demy and seeing the impact he brought to so many reminded me of the power of storytelling and the value of putting joy into the world.
During this time of uncertainty, remembering to be creative and positive has been something I have tried to keep at the forefront of my mind. Throughout this experience the through-line for me has been a heightened awareness of each moment and really taking it in and appreciating it.
Seeing my family in Ohio after months of FaceTime calls felt like Christmas morning. My mom’s eyes were brighter, my dad’s hands even stronger and our hugs much tighter. Taking time in Washington Square Park with a friend whose little child was taking his first steps brought me back to when my own child began to walk. I felt nostalgic and in awe of the power of time and the continuation of life.
Now the leaves of October are falling and dancing through the air on windy days. Soon my window will be covered in the beauty of the first snow. And I feel better. I feel inspired. I feel grateful. The beauty of the world is before us.
The world has shifted and taken on a new shape and I believe we have become better people. The absence of routine, the revelation of truths that lie just below the surface, the challenge of moving forwards despite fear, and the willingness to be open to what our new world will be, are realities that have connected us all.
My fingers are crossed that what began as shock will end in hope. And that our deepened empathy towards one another is what we will carry with us into 2021 and beyond.
Words by Katie Holmes, November 14th 2020.