adventure · Creative Writing · love · Poetry · Travel

For the Women who Lost Themselves. {Poem}

She lost herself in tumbling streets,

beside canals lit with fireflies flickering like stars.

She walked among couples, hand in hand,

whispering the secrets of the chosen into ears, and necks, and lips.


She lost herself in alleyway bars,

with milk-crate stools, and tumblers of warm amber

that burnt away the memories of another’s touch.

Men’s dark eyes watched her move across the cold stone floor,

longing for the warmth of a pretty girl’s smile.


She lost herself, in lakes and rivers and oceans,

drowning in the turquoise caress of water on skin,

fingers tangled in foamy waves.

She danced with mermaids to the bright song of the moon,

stardust in her hair and freedom in her heart.


She lost herself, in words,

her own and others.

In worlds where villains never win,

and love conquers all.

She dreams of the places where life goes on,

long after she has left them,

and there is peace in that. 


Author: JoJo Rowden
Image: Unsplash
Editor: Lieselle Davidson


Originally published at Elephant Journal here.

love · Marriage · Travel

Our Fairytale Chateau Wedding



JoJo & Cam

I met Cam in India ten years ago, on a graduate training program with the company we had both joined; he was from Sydney, and I was from London. Our holiday fling turned into something more serious, and we decided to give long distance a go. After six months apart, I moved to Sydney to be with him, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Cam proposed in a photobooth, which he had decorated with balloons, streamers and photos of us. He even remembered the red rose and a princess tiara on the seat. I just thought that it was part of my birthday celebrations, and it wasn’t until he gave me the coins to count out, that I turned back and saw the gorgeous Tiffany & Co. ring he held out to me. The camera flashed just in time to capture my utter shock!


Our engagement snaps!

I always wanted the fairytale wedding, so getting married in a castle seemed the perfect choice. We knew that our guests would be coming from all over the world, so we decided to pick a beautiful destination, where people could relax and make a real holiday of it. We asked Marry Me In France to find our perfect venue in the land of wine and cheese. The Chateau Cazenac was everything I had dreamed of, and I fell in love with it instantly. It’s nickname is the fairytale chateau – so it was obviously meant to be!



My dress was a Ronald Joyce design that I found whilst with my mum and sisters in the UK. I knew it was the one when I put on the veil and burst immediately into tears, then turned back to tell my mum, only to find her already crying and nodding in agreement. I wanted something with a dramatic back, and I loved the beautiful beadwork that I attached for a more glamorous look in the evening. As my Mum helped me to step into my dress, ‘Kissing You’ by Des’ree began to play, and I was completely overwhelmed with emotion.



I left my dress a surprise for my Dad. He waited for me at the bottom of the Chateau’s spiral staircase, and the look of absolute pride on his face is an image I will treasure forever.



We held the ceremony on the lawn outside, under the trees. It was touch and go as to whether we would be able to as it showered on and off all morning. But we made the call 15 minutes before show time, and the sun shone gloriously throughout.

Our wedding planner Louise (from Marry Me In France) was sensational. Every detail had been covered and executed to perfection. She was the first one on site in the morning, and one of the last standing at the end. I was so grateful because organising a destination wedding is pretty difficult, but she gave us brilliant advice, and answered my millions of questions with the patience of a saint! Everyone commented on how chilled out I was on the morning of the wedding, and it’s really because I knew everything was under control, and all I needed to do was turn up and tell my man how I felt about him.

My little sister did my hair and make-up. I’m so lucky to have such a talented hairdresser in the family, as I trust her implicitly, and knew that she would make sure that I looked perfect for my big day. We did two hair trials prior to the wedding, and I felt like a total princess when she was finished. She also did the hair for the entire bridal party, including an elaborate up-do on herself. She seriously amazes me.

mckinley-rodgers photography_0003


We wrote our own vows, so there were plenty of tears during the ceremony. I almost lost it a few times. It was important for us to make promises to each other that were heartfelt, and to let our playful side shine through at the same time. Our celebrant Roland was great fun and worked with us to make sure that the ceremony was exactly as we wanted. I walked down the aisle to ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.



Our friends are a huge part of our lives, and we wanted them to have a special place in our ceremony too. We had three readings: ‘A Gift From The Sea‘, ‘A Lovely Love Story‘ and my favourite passage from ‘His Dark Materials‘. We also asked our parents to be part of a French wedding tradition, holding out a white ribbon across our path, to be cut before we walked back down the aisle as man and wife. The idea is that the couple cut the ribbon and walk into their new life and show that together they can overcome any problems they may encounter in their married life.


Lou organised our flowers with a local florist. She was delighted that I wanted to go for something with a real pop of colour, rather than the more traditional pale pinks and whites. We opted for deep fuchsia and purples in peonies, roses, lisianthus and alliums, which stood out against the navy of my bridesmaids’ dresses. There were some very special people missing from our celebrations; my stepdad Colin, Cam’s stepdad John, and our grandparents. I carried them with me, attached to my bouquet, and close to my heart.


Our photographers were Mckinley-Rodgers, and they were absolutely brilliant. Pen and Cam are a super-fun couple, who made us and our guests laugh constantly on the day. They are based in Newquay, in the UK, but are soon moving back to Australia. We went to meet them for a coffee whilst on a visit home in the year before the wedding. They set us at ease immediately, and we knew that we had found life-long friends in the two of them.

Their style is very candid, and they captured the story of the day so beautifully. Even the afternoon rain showers didn’t faze them, and they managed to get one of the most impressive shots of the day inside, in an impromptu ‘Vanity Fair’ style shot of the bridal party in the Chateau kitchen.

The multi-talented pair also captured a video of our day, which makes me cry every single time I watch it. It really brings alive some of the most precious moments, in a way that stills just can’t. We absolutely love it!


We didn’t have a specific theme, but we were going for a romantic, rustic vibe. The venue was so beautiful we didn’t need to go overboard with additional decorations. We used vintage keys for our seating plan, and Luminous Event Lighting did an amazing job with candles, fairy lights and uplighting on the chateau itself. I’m a massive literary nerd, so we named the tables after books. As Cam told everyone in his speech, our own story and table name, Mr and Mrs Swords is a tale still in the process of being written.



We decided to embrace our destination and chose to have a cheese tower, rather than a wedding cake. The catering, including the tower, was prepared by Chez Amis. Everyone told me that I wouldn’t actually get to eat much at my own wedding, but the food was so delicious, so I made absolutely sure that I did.

We had a sweetheart table for the two of us, which gave us a chance to enjoy a few private moments together during dinner, as well as slipping away for some photographs when a beautiful mist rolled in over the hills, and again later, when we were blessed with a truly spectacular sunset.



Our first dance was to ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ by Frankie Valli. We had thankfully taken lessons with Sydney Dance World, so we felt ready to have some fun with it. I loved the dips and lifts, and the way that my dress swirled out around me as Cam spun around. All of our guests joined in with the chorus and it really set the tone for the night ahead. We danced until 3am, and couldn’t believe how quickly the night had flown by. We didn’t want it to end!



My favourite memories of the day were the moments that we spent laughing with each other and our loved ones. We took several moments to just stop and soak it all up, and were completely overwhelmed by the amount of joy and love in the room. All these people that we adore were under one roof, smiling and dancing and laughing, and all because of our love story. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect gift on our wedding day.



Swirl divider

Ms Chinoiserie Says: Congratulations JoJo and Cam; your beautifully romantic French chateau wedding was straight out of a fairytale!

Photographer: Mckinley Rodgers / Bride’s Dress: ‘Erin’ design by Ronald Joyce. / Hair and Make-Up: Rebecca Cheri / Ceremony and Reception Venue: Chateau Cazenac / Wedding Planner: Marry Me In France / Ceremony Officiant: Celebrants In France / Catering and Cheese Tower: Chez Amis / Dance Lessons: Sydney Dance World / Cinematographer: Story Catchers Films

Originally Published on Polkadot


He Brings Her Flowers.


 He picks her flowers on his way to work.

Pink confetti rains down on his head, a secret smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

‘Who is she?’ I wonder as I pass him. Our eyes meet and a million stories swim in his topaz depths.

I imagine her joy as he presents her with the plucked embodiment of his love. That beautiful bunch of ‘I saw these and thought only of you.’

Perhaps she is a new lover, dark hair tumbling over a crisp white pillow. He leaves her sleeping, admiring the way her ruby lips curve deliciously, pouting through vivid dreams. He longs to wake her with kisses, but resists. She needs her rest. She wakes to find the blooms laid beside her, the heavenly scent a promise for the night ahead. She must wait the whole day to thank him with her satin touch.

Maybe she is his wife. He has picked the same flowers that he presented to her with shaking hands on their first date. He creeps up behind her at the kitchen bench and spins her round, close to his chest. The years have seen them grow together, through heartache and tears, through triumphs and exhilaration. The small betrayals of everyday life melt away into their story. He strokes her face as he passes the bouquet to her and she smiles at the secrets they share. She smiles because the flowers, like their relationship, are full of promise, returning year after year to radiate their beauty to the world.

I wonder if she is an elderly neighbour;  alone these days, her once-bustling home echoing the ghostly laughter of days gone by. He visits her on his morning walk, delighting in the way her world lights up at the sight of him. The flowers are a lifeline for her. They are a reminder that to someone, she is still somebody; a somebody worth a riot of colour and beauty, even as her own is slowly dulled by the passing of time. She glances at them throughout the day- a canvas of tenderness, a reason to keep going. They are hope.

Does he collect them for a love from his past? He is a pilgrim on a sacred journey to pay tribute to her. He visits her grave, silent with moss and memories, and lays his precious bundle at her feet. Does he tell her she is remembered, always? The flowers are ethereal against a stark reality: she is gone, and will never rejoice in their soft morning scent. They aren’t enough, and can never be, but they are all the comfort he has in this moment.

As I watch him stretching up to find the perfect addition to his beautiful bunch, I realise that perhaps it doesn’t matter who she is after all. She is me, and you. She is him. She is anyone who needs a moment of kindness in a world that isn’t always kind. She is all of us, and we all deserve flowers, once in a while.

First Published on Elephant Journal here.

love · Marriage

Thank You, to the Mother of My Future Husband


Dearest future mother-in-law,

In just five months, I will walk down the aisle with one of the most amazing humans that I have ever known: your beautiful son.

I don’t need to tell you how special he is, because you already know, probably more so than anyone else. What I will share with you, is that he lights my life in a way no one else has. He demonstrates a peaceful power, without conforming to society’s expectation of a strong alpha male, and I am left in awe, both of him, and of you. I know it takes an extraordinary woman to raise a man so unapologetically himself. For this, and for so many other things, you have my eternal love and respect.

As you know, I come from a family of women. My dad was outnumbered by my mum and three daughters. He complained about it, but we all knew he secretly loved the way we fussed over him and each other. Boys were a mystery to me. I had no brothers, and most of my similar-aged cousins were also girls. My first two romantic relationships introduced me to the world of men, and though they didn’t last, they taught me what I wanted and didn’t want in a life partner.

Then I met your son.

You showed him that emotions were something to embrace. 

He had the air of someone who was not afraid to be himself, a very attractive trait. I noticed his gorgeous sunny smile first, and his easy-flowing tears second. I remember being alarmed though. Tears in my household meant something was terribly wrong, and were hidden away. A stiff upper lip was the norm; a pattern I carried forward into my adult life.

I discovered later the true depth of his sensitivity. He is not scared to let his tears flow freely, nor is he ashamed. You never told him society’s biggest lie, that “boys don’t cry,” and you were comfortable in the face of his emotion. I realized his tears are a beautiful gift. He is connected with his heart and proud to show it. His willingness to be soft, and to let the world in brings a new dimension of openness to our relationship.

You taught him the difference between strength and aggression.
He isn’t a stereotypical macho man, and yet he remains deliciously masculine. At 6 feet 4 inches he towers over me, and yet, his physical attributes never intimidate me. His temper is slow to build, and when it blows, he is firm, with a composure that pacifies my quick and fiery temperament. You have taught him that a message communicated calmly with assertiveness, is much more powerful than knee-jerk aggression, and it is this peaceful warrior stance that commands the respect of all who know him.

You established the value of family.

He adores his family, which says a lot about you, and stirs something deep in me. You give him space to be his own person, but always make your time, wisdom, and your home available when he needs the strength of your love. I admire that. A man who values his mother, and yet remains independent of her, is a keeper in my eyes.

I have seen you live your own truth, that family are the people we choose to keep close, regardless of blood ties, and that appeals to me, because I hold similar beliefs. The way he focuses on fostering and maintaining a connection with you tells me that he will strive for the same when building our family, and that, I cherish.

You banished gender roles.

He tells me about his childhood with fondness. He remembers that once a week you insisted he, alternating with his twin sister and older brother, cook a meal for the family. You guided him and taught him the skills that he then, much later, taught me. When I cook for him today, he is grateful, because he doesn’t take for granted that the woman keeps house. This is a lesson that we want to take forward and instil in our own children, regardless of their gender.

You showed him how to respect and love strong women.

I am his equal in all the ways that matter, socially, intellectually, economically. My voice carries equal weight and he listens to what I have to say before we make decisions. I know that I am lucky to be with such a modern thinking man and also, that his respect for women was inspired by you.

I love the way that he appreciates my strength, and is not threatened by my successes. You have been a solid female role model throughout his life. He has watched you overcome your own difficulties to have a career, raise three beautiful children, and develop a loving relationship with his beloved stepdad. You have shown him that women can have it all, and now he wants the same for his partner. He tells me that I can do anything, and with him at my side, I believe it.
And finally,
You let him go with grace.

You will forever be his first love, a precious bond that I always aim to protect. As we move into a future where we share your boy, I thank you for raising such an emotionally intelligent, loving man, who has already made this world a better place just by being in it.

All my love,

Your daughter-in-law-to-be,


Originally published on The Good Men Project here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


Who’s the Fairest of Them All?


She looks at her. She sees her in all of her radiant glory. Her strength. Her passion. Her unique beauty.

And the biggest tragedy in life, she thinks, is that she will never believe it.

She tells her anyway.

“You are beautiful,” she whispers softly, “In the way that the forest is beautiful in the first embrace of the morning sun. Its dark imperfections framed in pinks and golds, as luminous sunbeams race to kiss the dew awake.”

Blue eyes stare back at her, unwavering, unconvinced. But she is just getting started.

“You are strong. Your body is a shrine to be worshiped, to nourish, to adore, no matter what shape it inhabits. It is your ticket to freedom, as it lifts, moves and dances you through this life. It is powerful beyond the physical, and if you nurture it, it will not let you down, despite the insecurities that claw longingly for you.”

She watches the silent gaze flick longingly along the length of her own limbs. She does not move.

“You are an enigma; an ocean of thoughts that glitter on tides, of secrets that flow in the darkness. Not all may navigate your hidden depths, but those who are brave enough are blessed with your treasures. Those who do not drown in you will return often to bathe in your calm stillness.”

Her hand reaches out to touch a cold, smooth cheek. Her expression is stone. Disbelief lingers still.

She won’t give up.

“You are a rainbow against the grey light of the passing storm. In a world of darkness, your love is the sun and people long to feel your warmth on their face for as long as you will allow them to.”

No response.

“If you believe nothing else, you must know just one thing. You are enough. Just as you are. Right now, in this moment. And I will love you, without question, until we are gone from this world.”

In the darkened room, the mirror glimmers back at her as though a curse has finally been lifted. Perhaps it has. A familiar smile tugs at the lips that she knows so well. She bites them shyly.

Her reflection believes her at last

Author: JoJo Rowden

Image: Marta Nørgaard/flickr

Originally published on Elephant Journal here.

grief · love

The Limited Edition {Poem}


He has never been loved.

He tries it on
Shrugging his shoulders to slip beneath its heavy weight,
Admiring its warmth, that cozy glow.
He feels safe.

He turns to the side,
Admiring himself for the first time
Drinking it in.
He’ll never take it off
He tells her.
Tells himself.

This is not an everyday magic.
Others will attempt to imitate her,
To recreate this love.
They cannot help themselves.
Yet they are plain, shallow copies;
A lesson in mass produced boredom.
They are cotton, and cotton has its uses-
But she is silk.

She is an exquisite lesson in burning desire
And soothing nurture both,
The stitching of lust and love.
This heart is a once in a lifetime gift,
An enchantment to treasure.

And when he lets her slip away
Remembering her softness beneath his waiting hand,
When he feels the cold empty place inside
Where once she draped herself-
He will wrap himself up
In regret instead.

Author: JoJo Rowden

Image: Alex/flickr

Originally published on Elephant Journal here.

grief · love

Every Saint Has a Past, Every Sinner Has a Future