saying goodbye

You Were Always On My Mind — Saying Goodbye to John

saying goodbye

When I walked out of the Penguin office in Sydney with a contract to write and photograph a book, I had no idea of what that meant and how that piece of paper would open my world to endless opportunities and people. 

My editor Julie Gibbs cleverly asked me as I was about to get into the lift, ‘Do you remember the book A Thousand Days in Venice?’ and I replied, ‘Yes, it was one of my favourite books.’

Julie replied, ‘She was very honest,’ and wished me good luck.

I had no intention of being honest when I signed up to photograph and write a book but it was those words that accompanied me on the flight home from Sydney to Florence and haunted me when I sat down to start the project. 

Did I have to be honest? At some point, I figured no one was going to read it anyway so I might as well tell the truth.

Italian Joy was a modest bestseller in Australia and maybe it was the honesty that touched the people that needed to find it and in turn reach out to find me.

The first person that ever wrote to me was John and it was an old-fashioned letter via my publisher. I was truly shocked that someone would actually write me a letter; it was way back in 2005 and the internet hadn’t ramped up to its current state of being able to reach out to absolutely anyone on the planet. 

John wrote how he had loved Italian Joy and was of Italian descent, was mad about photography, and worked in Adelaide as a car salesman. I was fascinated that someone not only bought the book but liked it and touched that this mystery person would bother to write to me. 

When he signed up to come to my first ever workshop in Sydney, I felt nervous and wondered what I could possibly offer this sweet person. He sent me a note days before the workshop telling me ‘that he couldn’t wait to be inspired’ and again I never thought anyone would be coming to be inspired, just to learn the information I was ready to pass on. 

His words were like an electric cattle prod, I reworked everything. 

I thought about what would be inspirational if you had never had your photography published or if you dreamed of being a photographer or having your work admired by others.

My audience was predominantly female and as we welcomed the people to my first ever workshop, I knew there were only a couple of male names on the list and that the smiling face was John even before asking his name. His eyes twinkled, his smile was of the wraparound variety, and I just wanted to hug him. 

It’s always an honour to think that someone would travel all the way from Adelaide to Sydney to attend my workshop but this husband and father of one was one of those rare souls that you felt like you have known forever within the first five minutes of meeting them. 

As the day progressed, John would sidle up next to me or pass by when I was in conversation, and out the corner of his mouth utter ‘in awe’ with that twinkle in his eye, and for someone who was overwhelmed by the thought of even holding a workshop yet meeting many of the kind souls who had written to me throughout the years, they were two words that puzzled me at the same time made me burst into laughter. 

I had never been put on a pedestal and for the first time in my life, the beautiful John Callisto had managed to do that. That was John’s magic: he made you feel good. I attribute the success of that workshop to him, for looking forward to being inspired and in turn inspiring me to make it better. 

Years later, I had the joy of holding a workshop in Puglia and travelling with a group of photographers to Puglia, and one of John’s dreams was to come on that trip. His wife Claudia made it happen and John joined our ‘Caravan’ and adventures in the South of Italy.  

On that trip, John went from being ‘my number one fan’ to family. I loved that man, he was the glue in a group of eleven women. John loved photography and was an excellent photographer. He would carry two cameras at once and he would literally throw himself into situations whether it be a card game in a men’s club, trying to get the best shot in a local butcher, or capturing a religious service. Hence, his photos were imbued with his incredible empathy and love for life, with the passion and enthusiasm that John had for Italy and people. 

John was ‘all in’. He would talk to people in Italian and if they didn’t understand then he would try in sign language,  the energy of the man would bubble and flow till they all understood. 

John lived life wholeheartedly, there were tears and laughter, hugs and wonder, jokes and stories from the heart. John would tell us over and over how much he loved and missed his wife and son, some days he would be late for breakfast because he was gathering his emotions from being so far away from the people he loved. 

If Brené Brown needs a photograph for the depiction of what it means to live and love wholeheartedly, she could simply put a portrait of John Callisto under the word ‘wholeheartedly’. 

John passed away recently from a heart attack at the age of 53 and my heart broke. How could the man that had such a huge hand in my life and success just leave us like that. As his wife Claudia said in her eulogy, “Today we are placing John’s physical body at his final resting place but I know his soul has already reached heaven above. They process the good ones real quick and he would have certainly been in the VIP line. He probably knew the person at the entrance gate and got the special treatment. The person would have announced to everyone hey John Callisto the Merc one has arrived, let him directly through. John would have replied, ‘Oh no, please don’t make any fuss on my part, I’m just glad to be part of all the action. Let this old lady in first, she looks more tired than me.'”

John was a great one. The kind of man we need more of, a man willing to feel the love and the pain, the laughter and the joy, to give and receive, to have the courage to put words to his feelings and dare to say them out aloud to the people he cared about. That’s true courage.

It has been seventeen years since that first letter arrived and we always stayed in touch. Many kind words have been said to me over the years but John Callisto’s have stayed with me. When he was on the way back to the airport after our Puglia workshop, he said to my fellow photographer, ‘The workshop was overwhelming,’ and my friend said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘The first half of it, I was just getting over the awe of being with Carla!’

I wish I had one more chance to tell John the enormous impact he had on my life, how those words made their way back to me and filled my heart with pride. That his words counted more than he could ever know and that with everything I have ever done since that first workshop, I ask myself, ‘Would this inspire John?’ If the answer was no, I would improve whatever I was doing. 

To Claudia and Marcus, the love and light of his life, I send my deepest condolences to both of you and I can vouch along with a whole group of photographers in Puglia that you were two of the most loved people on the planet and John proudly told us so daily.

As Claudia said in her eulogy, ‘John had a life well-lived, despite his passing at an early age. I know that in my heart, a good life is not measured by the years you have lived, but by the love you have given and received. In terms of this definition then, this would in fact make John very very old — ancient in fact.’


Godspeed, beautiful John.

thanks mum

Thanks Mum

I am so grateful I still have my mum in my late fifties. 

I needed to get to this age to really appreciate how great my mum is and all the things she has done for me in my life. 

Something happens in your fifties: you become even more curious about the role of motherhood and womanhood and all the women who have come before you in your family that you only know as the faces peering back at you from old photos. 

Who were they? What were their hopes and dreams? Which parts of what I believe in were passed down from them, and which parts of their nature and spirit did I inherit?

I have often wondered if Mum’s mothering style is thanks to the women that came before her who too were gentle with her and showed her a path of joy and love for their children? 

When I look into those old photos, I ask the women questions and I thank them for passing to Mum her combination of loveliness and can-do attitude, her respect for the great outdoors, nature, and animals.

thanks mum

I realise in many ways she was brave when we were young, brave to let us go and make our own mistakes, whether they were falling out of a tree, walking to school on our own, learning to ride a bike, and setting us free as teenagers.

I understand as an adult who deeply loves her nieces and the young ones around her how it would be easier for a mother to love so deeply they would never let you do anything for the fear of something bad happening.

Mum chose the path of trust and faith instead of white knuckle control with a huge dose of common sense thrown in. She always said that she was just the caretaker of her children and that one day they would go on to live their own lives and she was entrusted to get them to that point and then set them free.

Mum was deeply in touch with her divine feminine, not only great at nurturing her brood but also great at receiving and allowing herself to be supported. 

One of my fondest memories was Mum in a white tennis skirt! Mum was off playing tennis with her friends whilst we were at school and she thought it was the proper way to bring us up by making us contribute to the running of the house, my eldest sister helped do dinner, my youngest sister put the washing on, and my brother who could hardly reach the line, hung it out and I ironed for six people. This taught us many things as well as that you can be a mother without being a doormat. 

She trusted her intuition when we were up to something and short-circuited it before it escalated into danger yet gave us enough space to develop our own personalities, intuition, and self-esteem.

thanks mum

I watch mum now with her grandchildren; she observes the over-sensitive ones and encourages my brothers and sisters to pay attention to them, not to push too hard or let their silences go unnoticed. She can spot the wild ones a mile away and whispers in my brothers’ and sisters’ ears on the odd occasion that maybe they need to rein them in a little or give them stronger boundaries. 

She’s a child whisperer, my mum, maybe it’s because she has never disconnected from her inner child, she knows how to delight a three-year-old boy but simply taking him for a train or bus ride and to see rapture on the face of a little girl by filling a little handbag full of necklaces and shiny jewels that were in the back of the cupboard. 

As a coach, I’ve learned modelling the way you do things is the strongest way we learn, even more powerful than telling someone what to do. So on this Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to my mother who has modelled day after day, year after year, her way of doing things and still loves and supports us for choosing to do life our way. 

A special hug to all the Mums who tirelessly take care of their families and without you we would be lost.


Love and hugs and happy Mother’s Day.

Carla x


P.S. We have an ongoing Mother’s Day offer on my print shop that gives you a FREE 12 x 18-inch flower girl print if you purchase a Limited Edition print (20 x 30-inch or larger) from any of my collections. All the details here. Offer ends on Sunday, 8th May 2022.

the divine feminine

How Mothers Embody the Divine Feminine

the divine feminine

Mums today have an impossible task! 

When a woman decides to become a Mother, she signs up to the oldest and most precious club on the planet, she goes where many women (or cat Mothers) can never imagine. 

Today mothers are expected to be so much to so many people, not only do they have the role of embracing the divine feminine, loving, giving, nurturing, watching and waiting, caring, and bringing up their children but our society expects them to be superwoman and have an amazing career at the same time. 

Somehow Mums got lumbered with twice the amount of work of women a couple of generations ago. This catapults them into perpetual motion and overgiving and into an imbalance of their inner masculine energy where they find themselves ‘doing’ in the form of an endless laundry list of tasks to tick off, meals to cook, clothes to wash, people to look after, and a career that needs their devoted attention, this has them teetering on the edge of burnout.

Mothers and women of today who spend more time in their masculine energy, their doing, logical, structured, linear, controlling, and planning energy feel like their lives are held together like a balancing act, and at any moment if they aren’t double-checking something the whole thing will fall apart. This feeling is exhausting and that is one of the primary reasons why we need to celebrate Mothers not only on Mother’s Day but every day.

We need to give back to our Mums. In the past two years, the Mother’s workload was impacted again, quadrupled in lockdowns with Zoom lessons for their children with her brood at home instead of school or work, more cooking, shopping, cleaning, and tasks with very little space, time, and peace for herself. 

Mums are the Queens of our lives, sometimes we may not see the crown but our Mums I can assure you stepped into Queenhood the day they decided to bring children into the world. 

When we give to our Mums, whether it be making them a cup of tea, helping them hang out the washing, or surprising them, they have a chance to step out of their inner masculine energy and receive. You give them the gift of being present, of resting and going back to a place of embracing their divine feminine, a place of balance and harmony where they feel calm, nurtured, supported, more creative, and loved. 

When women have their divine masculine and feminine energies in balance, their worlds and ‘our world’ are more harmonious.

We hope you celebrate your Mother or the women who have mothered you this coming Mother’s Day. 


Sending Love,


P.S. Forman Picture Framing, On the Wall Framing, and I are helping make it easier to give back to your Mum with a special QUEEN code that gives you a Free 12 X 18 inch print with every print purchase 20 x 30 inch and over shopwide till Mother’s Day. All details here.




My dear sweet Parisian cat, Avedon, put his head out the door of our Greek village house and looked down at the ground beneath his feet, left to right like he was watching a game of tennis and then raising his nose towards the sky with eyes wide open like saucers. 

After ten years of living exclusively in a Parisian apartment with no garden or balcony, his senses were overloaded with sweet scents of Spring and new information. His eyes were trying to take it all in, his soul appeared like it was ‘rewilding’, running the tape of innate data that had been stored and passed on from his cat ancestors and giving it an update.

Watching Avedon’s ‘rewilding’ is not that dissimilar to mine over the past twenty years, reconnecting to nature, the wild within and without, and listening to my needs and wants and respecting them.

When we reconnect to our instincts, curiosity, intuition, joy,  and the natural world, it’s a sort of homecoming to ourselves, a solid place of contentment where you get your North Star back. 

When the sights and smells, the birds chirping and the wind blowing were too much for him, he would dart back inside to the safety of the house to regroup before he would race back outdoors for another look and whiff of this new world. He just couldn’t take his eyes off it!

It took about 15 minutes of racing backwards and forwards before he had the courage to take one step out of the door frame and onto the ground outside. Neil Armstrong once said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” and Avedon’s version is something like “one small step for a cat, one quantum leap for a Parisian cat!”

We have come so far as human beings but is it too far? Are we too disconnected from a natural way of living and the innate knowledge of Mother Nature? Are we too disconnected from what brings us joy and too focused on what everyone else is doing or thinks to respect our innate nature?

Living on a steady diet of technology, processed food, mass media, OGM’s, pharmaceuticals, and throw in two years of isolation from each other, cancellation of rituals such as weddings, funerals, celebrations of births, birthday parties and anniversaries, and cultural events, we all need a little ‘rewilding’. 

Just like my cat, I believe our instincts are always there, even if they haven’t been called upon in a while, they just need to be reignited. 

Like all things, we need a balance in the way we live, we need love, care, kindness, community, meaning, and sometimes, like Avedon, we need to roll around in the mud! We need to use technology and not let technology use us.

If you’ve lost your focus, your world feels like it’s lacking something and you aren’t sure what it is, you may need just to ‘rewild’ a little.

Here are some suggestions on how you can start ‘rewilding’:

  • Limiting technology
  • A walk in the woods 
  • A conversation with someone you care about
  • Giving and receiving 
  • Eating natural food that doesn’t come out of a box or packet
  • Spending time simply being instead of inaction
  • Planting a garden
  • Respecting our natural world and seeing its power 
  • Learning the names of plants in your local area
  • Getting quiet and listening to your voice
  • Recognising your needs and wants 
  • Plant a herb garden
  • Respecting your natural rhythms 
  • Seeing a Naturopath and learning more about natural health
  • Allowing yourself to do things that feel good


Like Avedon, once you get in touch with your instincts and Mother Nature and start hearing your voice, you just want to keep going there, to that place where you feel good. 

Our beautiful Parisian cat loves rolling in the dirt, smelling the flowers and plants and chasing bugs, lying in the sun with his eyes closed like all his dreams have come true at once, when night comes it’s hard to convince him to come inside, we see just a silhouette of a cat on the rooftops rediscovering the joy and wonder of the natural world.


Sending love,

Carla x

winter gardening, almond trees

You Can’t Fool The Fig Tree: The Secret to Winter Gardening

winter gardening, almond trees

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

~ Audrey Hepburn

Dear Lovelies, in my eagerness to start planting a vegetable garden and beautify the village house I will be moving to for a short while, I was talking with a lady in the village about when the frosts stop, apparently successful winter gardening is about knowing when the last frost has visited!

I’m on a new learning curve to understand Mother Nature and her infinite knowledge. I’m a beginner all over again and I know the road will be littered with the broken bodies of seedlings planted too close together, with tomato stakes that are too small and not strong enough to withhold the plants, with gardenias that once held so much promise beg for a sunnier or shadier position.

I wish I had asked my Father more questions about the right conditions to plant tomatoes or peas, what makes a gardenia thrive and how do I get jasmine to climb ‘tout suite’ up a wall that needs some love and beauty?

Almond tree in bloom

The ladies in the village are my mentors as well as my Mum on the phone from the other side of the world. One of the ladies shared with me that you can be fooled by the blooming of the almond trees thinking the frosts are done but a local farmer once told her, ‘You can’t fool the fig tree!’

I loved this snippet of wisdom; I loved the fig tree a whole lot more. Not only do they deliver one of my favourite Summer fruits but they are the weather forecaster or I like to think of as the weather oracle. How is it possible that an early Spring can fool one tree but not another? 

Right now the almond trees are in bloom and they fill the skies with upside-down couture gowns, the height of femininity that is the first flutter of light pink in a sea of brown branches and bows. They bring with it the hope of sunny days ahead and a swim at the local beach and of course an almond harvest.

When I show the ladies my bags of seeds, jasmine pots, gardenias, and carnations (for my Dad, his favourite flower), they laugh with mirth, not the kind to make me feel bad but the kind of laughter that is infectious and tells me I am doing something drastically wrong. I laugh along too.

The fig tree has spoken and what a joy it is to start planting!

Apparently, I have enough seeds to cover a couple of fields, not a small Greek village garden plot and they insist it’s too soon for the gardenias and jasmine. I have fantasies of covering a cement wall and some chicken wire as soon as I can but the village ladies just shake their heads.

So I embrace ‘the beginner’s mentality’; I ask questions, listen, try to understand when there is no English to be had, I laugh at myself for my lack of winter gardening knowledge and I wait for the fig tree to give us a sign, a tender green shoot. Each day as I walk around the village on my way to feed the cats, I check the fig trees along the way. They are everywhere, in abandoned houses, in almost every garden, and growing wild along the sides of the stone village paths. I talk to them, I ask them how long do we have to wait? Are the frosts nearly finished? Have they enjoyed the Winter? Am I annoying them? My apologies that I only knew them intimately through the scent of a Diptyque candle.

I have so much to learn, I want to understand nature and the seasons, I want to go to my grave having communed with nature, learned from her, sat beside her, helped her, wondered at her, and thanked her for her generosity.

For many years, I have lived in a big city, disconnected from the earth, but now it’s my daily joy to learn one piece of information at a time, slowly, slowly waiting for the fig tree to shoot new buds, and then I will have Mother Nature’s green light to start my planting in my garden.

Blooming trees

Please feel free to leave me a comment with any winter gardening tips you may have or any other Mother Nature pearls of wisdom that may be useful on the road ahead. I am all ears!

Love and light,

Carla x


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