Photo Essay – old leaves of 2013

2013 was in many ways a fucker and I’m glad it’s expired. But there were also many new leaves scattered throughout the Year I Turned 30 – literal foliage, emblems of self-regeneration, seasonal changeover and the transient nature of being with all its green, diaphanous possibilities.

There was also a mound of festering mulch. Some of that has been cleared up, set alight or raked to the side to make way for the freshly falling, non-rotten leaves of another new year.

In writing class I learnt the phrase ‘dead metaphor’ and although I think I might have murdered this one, I’m not going to let it go.

leaf, lēf/ noun: leaf; plural noun: leaves.

1. a flattened structure of a higher plant, typically green and bladelike, that is attached to a stem directly or via a stalk. Leaves are the main organs of photosynthesis and transpiration.


When I arrived here in September, I was struck by the size and variation of the plant-life in South East Asia.


Everything seemed more vivid.



There is a lot of stray rubbish in Mae Sot (see the scrap of red in this photo) and no apparent recycling system. In Burma, it’s even more of a problem. Development seems to invariably bring with it an influx of garbage.



These lily-like fronds are in the garden of Borderline, the place where I go to stave off anxiety and try to write. It doesn’t have WiFi. Nuf said.


Like leaves in nature, walls are a feature of the built environment that have been attracting my attention. This one is a stained, mouldy, colour-streaked part of someone’s concrete fence in the Burmese migrant district, at the tail-end of the rainy season. I miss bike-riding through those mud puddles.


I spent Christmas visiting relatives of friends in a refugee camp south of Mae Sot.


Young sugar cane

Before they arrived over 7 years ago, my friends’ brothers were farmers in Chin State, Burma, and they’ve managed to secure a a small plot of land just outside the camp perimetre. The vegetables they grow and sell in the camp market are the sole source of income for the family.

Cabbage patch

Cabbage patch

Selecting something for Christmas dinner

Selecting something for Christmas dinner


Towards the end of the year I started researching small-scale agriculture, income generation and sustainable livelihood initiatives with the view to expanding the Kitchen Garden Project – a plot of land, part-owned, part-rented, on which the organisation I volunteer for grows some extra food for the women and children in its shelters.




I dropped the new leaf metaphor to my colleagues in the middle of a brainstorm for a draft funding proposal. They liked it – the Burmese language is well-supplied with nature metaphors – so, if it eventuates, it will be called the New Leaf Project.


Happy New Year!!


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