Pink speckles

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Just a few words today, because I’ve spent too much time at the computer this weekend, working on my writing assignment in the hope that my genius would turn up and give me a hand (in vain!).  So I leave you simply with this photo of a beautiful camellia, of which there are many at the Botanic Garden in Cologne. I love how the silky light green outer petals open for the explosion of the flower, the flurry of pink speckles and dark pink patches on the curves of the petals.  Wishing you a good week!

 

 

Changing mindset

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #129

I am grateful for an intense and satisfying week in my new position at work. It was one of those weeks where you start out feeling very uncertain and clueless and then look back flabbergasted at how much you learned over the course of the last few days (whilst at the same time becoming more aware of how much there still is to figure out!)

This week I consciously tried to shift from that inner-voice that repeats like a broken record “I have no idea how to do this, what if I don’t manage and let them down!!!” to “what is the next small step I could take to move this forward? I’m curious how that will pan out”.

This is a major change for me. It starts with getting really mindful about how I am feeling, especially when anxiety holds me in its grip, making me double guess everything.  It takes deep breathing and scraggly morning pages (or should I call them morning rants?) scrawled hurriedly on the tram in my green moleskine notebook. It takes the leap of faith to just show up every day, believing IT WILL WORK… and in the end, it turns out having that approach brings just a little more ease to everything.

And now, some quiet time on the weekend, to process all this info and emotions:)

Glorious ferns

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When I was in Cologne visiting my sister recently, we spent a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon exploring the Botanical Garden.  I was particularly excited by the many fern varieties on display, each one more intriguing than the one before.

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I’ve mentionned before both how much I love ferns and how they are my photographic nemesis, so it was great to have some practice in trying to capture their beauty.

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While I knelt down here and there in this fern paradise, my sister patiently wandered by my side and was a perfect assistant, placing herself in such a way that no direct sunlight fell on the plants if needed and looking up the species’ names on the ‘plant shazam’ app.

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I really love the tightly wound extremities, like tentacles, ready to unfold and stretch out into the world, as well as the different textures and colours.

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Jotting down tiny scenes

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #128

In the spirit of trying to channel inspiration for my writing, I have been making a conscious effort to be more observant of what goes on around me.  I am easily overwhelmed when there are too many stimuli and living in a busy city means that there are constantly a million things vying for my attention, as well as the need to be careful of traffic, so most of the time I feel like I am blocking out a lot of my surroundings.

However, I do find opportunities to practice noticing things, like sitting in cafés and people-watching, going for walks in my neighbourhood which is rather quiet or just staring out of the window of the tram. Lately I’ve started jotting down what I see. Nothing fancy, just the date and a few words to remember the details of the scene which can maybe serve as inspiration for my next poem or story.

Here are some recent examples that caught my attention:

  • a little boy on a bike wearing a t-shirt, blue shorts and a ski mask, pedalling wildly on the sidewalk
  • a gaggle of geese patiently crossing a busy street, head held high and unphased as cars stop to let them pass, and people on the terrasses of cafes watching the spectacle in amusement
  • delightful blossoms fallen off a tree onto the pavement, forming a pink carpet in different stages of decomposition

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Has any particular scene caught your eye lately? I’d love to hear about it!

The mirage of perfection

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Things are not always what they seem at first glance. The leaves on this photo for instance are not autumn foliage, they are actually tiny spring leaves bright and vulnerable.

Lately I’ve been trying to be mindful when I catch myself making assumptions, in particular when thinking this or that person clearly knows exactly what they are doing without seeming to question things, and then going on to compare myself and wonder about my constant doubts.

Some deep conversations recently have reminded me that we are all just human and that we are all simply trying to do the best we can at any given moment, including the people who often seem to have their life perfectly sorted out.  With this in mind, I want to show up and try to be more myself, quirks and all. I want to stop hustling so hard for the elusive goal of perfection, a bewitching mirage, shimmering close by but never reachable as it does not exist.  I want to use that energy instead to be more open about how I feel, even when my truth is awkward and tough, and hold space to hear others’ tough and awkward stories.

Medicinal herb garden

Pulmonaria officinalis - lungwort

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #127

Recently during a walk with two dear friends, we discovered there is a lovely garden with medicinal plants in the Beatrixpark in Amsterdam Zuid. I am so glad that after nearly 13 years of living in this city, I still keep stumbling upon hidden gems by chance. Surrounded by hedges, it is a peaceful space in the park and there are some benches to just sit and relax, a perfect spot to soak up the quiet atmosphere and listen to the birds.

There’s a wide array of plants and short explanations of what they can be used to heal.  Featured above is lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), a plant traditionally used to treat lung problems and chest infections. It was said that the spots on the leaves looked like diseased lungs… to me it just looks like a beautiful pattern:)

The joy of train travel

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Last week I took the train from Amsterdam to Cologne, I settled in with a book and lots of good intentions but ended up simply soaking up the warm sun streaming through the window as I looked out at the thousands of yellow flowers on the side of the railroad and people cycling along happily in summer clothes along the green fields bordered by small canals. A couple of hours of quiet, the pure luxury of just being, lost in thought and unwinding from the week…

While chatting with my sister over the weekend about climate change, she told me that now in Swedish a word exists for feeling guilty about taking a flight because you know it’s very bad for the environment. I looked it up, the word is flygskam, literally ‘air shame’ and it’s definitely something I feel more and more often, and from conversations around me I realise I am not the only one.  Having a word for it makes it easier to discuss and I don’t thing shame or guilt is really the point here, but rather awareness. I love to travel far away and I take the plane way more than I wish I did meaning I feel flygskam regularly and am keen to look for alternatives to reduce my flights…

Good news is that next to flygskam, I feel something else which is the joy of going somewhere by train. You could call it trainthusiam or exhilarailtion 😉  I enjoy looking for destinations accessible by train and discussing them with friends. There is the pleasure of travelling without needing to be two hours early at the airport with the stress of the security checks with the un-packing of liquids and taking off my shoes, and especially without carrying the inevitable CO2 on my conscience. And also the satisfaction of easy-going adventures, where I can settle for several hours with my journal, a book and snacks from my tupperware, feel the kilometers go by and watch the landscape evolve as I approach my destination…  I’m still deciding where I might go this summer and I’ll take travel mode into careful consideration;) Any tips are welcome!

Off to Cologne for a few days

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #126

By the time this is posted, I will be in Cologne spending a few days visiting my sister for the long Easter weekend. I cannot wait to explore the city together, organising our adventures around nice places for drinks and food:) We’ll be catching up over amazing veggie meals, open to discovery and chilling in the park while chatting about everything and nothing!

Slowing down to notice

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One thing I love about photographing plants is that there is just such a profusion of possibility to explore and play with.  With the seasons passing, the plants and their textures evolve so much. There are new buds appearing and fresh shiny leaves, perhaps flowers, rough bark, apparent roots, unusual seeds and pods, rugged surfaces, uncanny spikes, odd stems, gorgeous color combinations as the light evolves and changes the aspect of the backdrop…

I am astounded that even without wandering far there is always more beauty and unusual details to be found, an infinite amount of inspiration.  Look at these star-shaped pods that I came across in the Amsterdam Hortus a few weeks ago, aren’t they delightful?!

What migraines are teaching me

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #125

I am grateful for migraines. This may seem like a very strange thing to be grateful for considering the extreme pain they bring, leaving me writhing in my bed, eyes closed against the slightest ray of light, each sound magnified, my brain banging incessantly against my skull. You would probably never hear me saying this while I’m in the throes of an actual migraine, but now safely on the other side of a recent one, I can appreciate how migraines are teaching me to respect my limits. To accept what I cannot control. To reset my overachiever expectations of what I should be able to endure and instead practise (again and again) being kind to myself.

In the (not-so-distant) past, I used to resist the migraine, then wish for it to disappear as soon as possible so I could go straight back out into the world. Recently, I’ve decided that the strategy of walking shaky-legged, weak and raw right back into the day to day grind doesn’t work for me, and I believe this reflex has been exhausting me over time. So I’m experimenting with allowing myself a day to recover after the tsunami of the migraine, to rest at home with no obligations. It gives me time to simply rest, find my footing and my appetite again and gather my strength, so I can go back into the world with more appreciation and vitality.

I realise this is not a possibility for everyone, and that I am very privileged to be in a situation where I can take paid sick leave and take time to recover.  However the reason this is a turning point for me is that for many years I believed that to-dos and other tasks had priority. I feared I may be letting people down by taking the proper time I need to get better.  But it turns out that putting my self-care first hasn’t caused the world to stop turning in any way, and I hope this might inspire others to push themselves a little less hard when possible, in order to be more resilient in the long run.