Broken Places

The second day of summer, again, & the hardest day of the year for me. Today is the fifth birthday of our lost daughter Willow Blue Lotus Ariel Oldfield. The photo above was taken by my good friend Ryan Heywood. It's of my wife Eliza & I, with our son Noa, walking out at my favourite place in all the world, to give Willow's ashes to the sea a week after she died. It's a difficult photo for me to look at, because in retrospect I can see us just at the beginning of a very dark & terrible grief journey from which we did not emerge unscathed. Strange perhaps, but true, already - even in those early benumbed days - I was thinking about making a surfboard & film for my daughter, which of course became Noelani & Seaworthy.

Sometimes for me blogging seems almost dishonest. It's a carefully edited selection of good moments, rather than a document of real life, with all its despair & desire & disappointments & dreams. A few weeks back, someone actually wrote to me saying that they wished that they had my life, which was a generous thing for them to say, & clearly well intentioned, but it made me reflect on how misleading blogs can actually be. In the future, I might try to take this little piece of cyberspace to a more open, transparent place.

For years, when I was younger, I regularly wrote in a little journal I called my 'Think Book', & it was a beautifully cathartical process of unfolding myself. I poured my soul into that book really: poems, dreams, photographs, songs, inspiration. In a way it was like a blog, but realer, less self-conscious, more raw. So I thought I'd share an extract from it, today on our daughter's birthday, penned on a very bleak New Year's Eve just a month after Willow died.


Four weeks ago yesterday, my darling beloved daughter Willow Blue Lotus Ariel Oldfield was born – December 2, 2005 at 12.51 in the afternoon. With fierce courage, tender love & a very bold & broken heart, my incredible beautiful wife gave our baby the natural birth that she deserved. After a day & night of grief & labour, I at last received Willow’s warm but lifeless body as she slipped silently from between Eliza’s legs into my waiting, trembling hands. I buried my face in our Willow’s tiny, still, exquisite body & I covered her with tears & kisses & tender words & anguished groans. In that terrible & beautiful moment I felt my spirit being torn asunder & I recognised that some essential part of me had in that very instant been broken irreversibly & utterly & completely. It is a brokenness that I will never hope can be restored in this life.

Now Eliza & I are a storm tossed ship riding grief’s wild seas. Sometimes great waves swamp & overwhelm us. Sometimes, fleetingly, we find that our fragile craft arights herself & runs with the wind. Other times we are blown flat unexpectedly, the whole world is spume & spindthrift & disorder & the swell pours over the gunwales; & our ship groans with the weight of enduring such dark & violent seas & I fear we might finally lose her in our awful struggle. Then again at times we are becalmed but it is the listless & lethargic calm of a doldrum, featureless & directionless & empty, & we lose our way. Then, after an age, we feel the wind stir & we set our battered sails to meet the next storm front that we see gathering on the horizon, all dark & grey & foreboding, with sharp teeth & vicious intent.

And we would despair but for one thing: our masthead in silhouette against the threatening cloud-wrack is the shape of a cross. On such a cross at Galgotha two thousand years ago our God lost his own beloved child, saw him as still & lifeless as our own Willow. We are thereby promised that death – dark thief death – has a power that only holds sway in this world’s realm.

One shall come a day then when our ship finally & forever finds her home & port, & even as we disembark upon the Kingdom’s golden perfect shores, even as I lift my beloved bride & set her feet upon the sand of our last & complete homecoming, we see a proud tall beautiful woman running towards us, her parents, with sun-kissed olive skin & long dark hair framing her flashing smile, impossibly gorgeous & carefree & youthful & alive…& oh, how we do run to meet her!

But, for now, we must sail on brokenhearted. Forlorn for a time, yes; aggrieved & broken & incomplete, too. Yet never, ever, ever without hope. Because all of us, if we do receive & bend to our brokenhearted God, will live forever & always.

New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2005


“The world breaks everyone," wrote Hemingway, "and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

I don't feel particularly strong today. My broken places still feel broken.


  1. thats a very special post nath. beautifully written.
    my thoughts are with you and your family mate

  2. Thank you for sharing such a tender and vulnerable place, I am most humbly touched...

  3. definately a "beautiful cathartical" piece of writing Nathan. Thanks for sharing this at such a deep, pure & intense level.

  4. sometimes devastating events produce beautiful results

    the true masters of the world possess the ability to take such events and show the world the beauty behind it..

    i dont know where in this you see yourself..but id say your work speaks for itself.

    thank you for all you share..

  5. Moved deeply by your words, my thoughts & prayers are with you & your family.
    Thank you for your honesty and openeness in sharing, beautifully written and appreciated by all who frequent Look & Sea. God Bless

  6. Hermano, be sure Willow Blue Ariel is watching after all of you, watching you grow, enjoy... live. Eliza and yourself honor her short existence in this earthy world everyday and that makes her immortal.
    I am terrible at saying things in moments like this, but you know my heart and thoughts are with you.
    Thank you for sharing this deep personal piece with us, Dec. 2nd has a meaning for me know and I mourn with you.
    Un abrazo Nath...

  7. My thoughts are with you and your family Nathan.

  8. Nathan, such sadness yet such a beautiful post at the same time. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Thankyou for sharing a special piece of your life in such an open way.My thoughts are with you and your family.

  10. beautifully written nath..ending with a quote as strong as yours and hemingway's was perfect

  11. very moving piece Nathan. I wish you and your family all the strength that you need...


  12. thoughts are with you nathan - a pain i cant fathom, and i thank you for sharing this part of yourself with the world, i hope the act of sharing comes just some small way into healing, Willows memory is honored by this.

  13. Amazing, and so moving. My families thoughts are with you. Bless you mate for putting this out there.

  14. yes. thank you for sharing such a vulnerable moment for you and your family. very courageous. I am humbled.

  15. 'Dear Layla,
    If I could sing you back into existence, I would.
    If I could speak words that would make you whole, somehow breathe you back to life, I would. If I could turn back the clock to make you safe, I would give anything. If I could sell my soul to any devil for your life, I would not hesitate.
    But the world turns and you have dissolved back into the place from where you came. All I have is your urn of bone shards and ashes. And these words. The story of your existence. A scrapbook of love, desire, death, grief,and new beginnings.
    You came into my life like a lightning bolt and I am not the same since that searing. I love you for striking me open, yet can sometimes hardly bear the wound you left.
    I write so you will not be forgotten. I write to sing you back into existence.
    All my love my darling'

    - Vanessa Gorman from 'Layla's Story'

    You know our thoughts are with you Nathan. Long thoughts for your beautiful wife Eliza and the strength and resillience these women show despite their losses. To you, and the courage and honesty you show, despite your loss and pain. I am in awe that you both continue to be such good parents and role models to Noa, Blossom and River. But, I can't stop thinking about Willow and the fact that she will never be a part of this and that to me is a tragedy.
    Love from the Waters Clan

  16. I'm lost for words, beautifully written Nathan. My thoughts are always with you & your family.

  17. I read this post today Nathan, such a beautiful honest reveal of your self.

    I knew when I sat at dinner that night with you, Eliza & Johnny, talking of your experiences 5 years ago - that I'd forever spend a little moment every December 2nd celebrating little Willows life xx Much love

    Thank you for sharing this with us xx Lizzy