I’ve been spending more time than ever in my home lately, what with working from home and social distancing, and though I’ve been tidying and decluttering, that does nothing to help when my thoughts are whirling around my mind like a washing machine. The best cure for that, I’ve learnt throughout the years, is taking a walk around the neighbourhood.
So between two rain-showers, I pulled on my shoes and strolled along, lost in thought, until I passed a beautiful yellow bush, that was buzzing. On closer look, I found that it was full of pollinators: flies, bees and especially many many bumble-bees. I was amazed by the diversity of the bumble-bees: they varied in size, had different combinations of yellow, white and black stripes and even distinct ‘hair-styles’. But they all went about their collection of nectar like bunch of hungry teenagers tearing into an all-you-can-eat buffet!
I was thrilled to watch the bumble-bees buzzing around and to see such diversity. It was great to be reminded that even in such a small space between the wall and the side-walk, this modest garden is bountiful for so many pollinators and supports real bio-diversity.
By the way, if anyone knows the name of this plant with yellow flowers, please let me know in the comments:)
Last Friday, I went for a long walk in the Amsterdamse Bos to enjoy the lovely afternoon sunshine and magic hour. I ambled without destination or time-pressure, taking time to breathe and looking closely at the plants along the way. Spring has done wonders since I took photos there on a cold windy day back in the early days of confinement in March.
The wild flowers and purple grasses are popping up everywhere, brightening the path with their delicate shapes and burst of colours. I took a break to write my ‘Late-Afternoon Pages’ on a bench by the water, accompanied by the clamorous song of countless birds perched in the trees all around.
There were plenty of new leaves showing off beautiful patterns and colour combinations. It felt so relaxing to wander without haste for several hours, enjoying the softening of the light, until my stomach started to rumble and I decided to make my way home, the sun low in the sky.
Greeting card action for charity is still on-going – find all the details here and don’t hesitate to reach out:)
If you are cooped up indoors and can only go to the supermarket and back with a self-written permission slip, this post is dedicated to you. You may be wondering what spring looks like out there, well let me tell you it is magnificent!
In between the flurry of zoom meetings and skype calls, I’ve been taking walks in the parks around my neighbourhood. On Friday, the sky was overcast and it was cold and windy, but I went deep into the Amsterdamse Bos and walked for a couple of hours in no particular direction, letting myself be guided simply by interesting-looking branches with budding leaves.
From afar there was not much to see, but when taking a closer look, the textures and colours were amazing. Soon the trees will be green again, and I am so glad to have the possibility to witness the transition of the seasons and observe these wonderful details.
After spending too much time reading the news on Saturday, I decided to go for a walk to get some fresh air, as it is unclear how long we will still be free to do so. I took my camera along and did what is best when my mind gets overworked, which is to enjoy forest bathing and focus on details.
So far in Amsterdam we are still allowed walk outdoors freely, as long as we keep our distances from others. There was a cold wind blowing, but the sky was bright blue with wispy clouds floating by. Spring is progressing undeterred by what is going on for us humans.
It felt really good to be among trees that are coming back to life after winter, with tender leaves budding and catkins of all sorts. I liked how the sun shone through the leaf above, creating a tiny scene with the shadows. As I was walking quietly, a male pheasant crossed the path and disappeared into the undergrowth, leaving me just enough time to admire its bright colours.
I was also captivated by this surreal-looking fungus which looks like very delicate skin. A quick google search leads me to think it might be a Wood Ear Mushroom – but I’m not sure and would love to know more about it if there are any experts reading this:)
I’m enjoying these quiet days with my family, baking cakes, chatting, eating delicious meals and of course napping. This afternoon, I decided to get some fresh air before nightfall. I wandered with no particular destination in mind, turning into random streets in the neighbourhood, open to whatever I may come across. When I set out, it always takes a little while for me to start noticing details. At first, everything seems uniform, I just see houses, walls, gates, sidewalks…
However when I start to look more carefully, interesting colours and textures appear. Hanging from long vines, these beautiful dry flowers caught my eye, so in the last light of this overcast day, I played around trying to capture the simple delicacy of their unruly petals, while they were blowing lightly in the wind.
Late this autumn, I planted some mixed seeds into the soil of the empty looking pots on my balcony, and to my surprise some these lovely orange flowers came up. I can see them every day, through the glass of the balcony door when I sit at the kitchen table. Their hardiness and bright colour have been giving me so much joy in past weeks.
Normally the petals reach straight outwards from the center, but recently, maybe because of the cold, they started curling slightly, making the flower even more beautiful. One morning last week I decided it was ok to miss the usual tram I take to work, to spend a few quiet moments to photograph its fleeting charm in the first rays of daylight. So glad I did!
With Paolo we’ve been joking recently about how many random things I can get done when I am procrastinating from doing my writing assignments. I’ve been found baking spontaneous apple pies for instance, cleaning the bathroom or sorting out and tidying the attic (something that was on my to-do list for at least 6 months).
When I’m feeling blocked and just can’t seem to find the way to start writing, I try and remember that taking a walk, while it does not contribute to getting words on the page, is generally a good cure for break my mental resistance. In the worst of cases, I tell myself that even if I still don’t write afterwards, I’ll have at least stretched my legs and gotten some fresh air. In the best cases, I come back with a sliver of a new idea to work on.
Saturday afternoon was one of those days, so after sitting frustrated for a while and uselessly distracting myself by reading other people’s writing, I decided to go out and catch the last of the afternoon light. I set myself the challenge to attempt to capture the colour contrasts in that lovely low autumn light. So with my ISO set high, I looked around for bursts of colour to photograph while trying to hold my camera as still as I could.
When the light faded and the cold got to me, I headed home, clear-headed. I even saw a beautiful pink sunset that I would most likely have missed were I staring at my computer screen. My inner-critic probably also got a bit frozen, because it left me enough space to sit down and start typing when I got back.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #153
Last Sunday I kept an entire day free of plans, so that I could recharge my batteries. I had some work to do on my writing assignment and plenty of other to-dos, but I decided to first take some time for myself.
I spent an hour meditating, sitting in silence and trying to focus only on my breathing (which in reality ended up being more like becoming aware of my incessant thoughts and letting them come and go). It felt like a reset for my overstimulated brain, a welcome break from constant inputs.
Afterwards, since the sun made a welcome appearance after some very rainy days, I took the chance to go for a slow walk in the neighbourhood. I did my best to stay as much as possible on the sunny side of the street to soak up lots of vitamine D and watched people enjoying the good weather as I ambled along.
The autumn colours were beautiful, with colourful leaves holding tight to their branches and covering the pavement. I also enjoyed observing the details of the last flowers remaining in people’s gardens, like this purple flower with its silky petals emerging from the strange black and green pod, and the petals around the remnants of this bordeaux-coloured flower.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #151
It turns out it doesn’t take much more than a few hours exploring another city on a quiet weekday morning to get a holiday vibe:-) I am grateful for a wonderful half-day spent in Utrecht with my friend Eva. Our initial plan was to go and visit the Oude Hortus (the old botanic garden) and we made it, though not before making a few spontaneous stops on our way through the city center.
We spent a perfect slow morning sipping delicious coffee in a cosy spot, then finding treasures in a great second hand shop, before enjoying a tasty lunch and chatting as the rain poured down outside. When the sun came out again, perfectly timed with the end of our lunch, we headed over to the Oude Hortus and strolled through the lovely garden showing off its autumn colours. We also explored the laid-back green houses, home to succulents, cacti, waterplants and giant ferns. I felt my senses come alive with the smells of soft fuzzy japanese citrus fruit, the incredible textures of the plants, the splashes of sunlight falling on the foliage.
I’ve been enjoying some time off to explore near and further afield in the Netherlands. Last week, I took a walk in the Amsterdamse Bos which is just a 10 minute bike ride away from my house. Initially, I was disappointed, having just returned from the Hoge Veluwe I was expecting lots of colourful mushrooms on the side of the path, but this was not the case.
As often happens with expectations, it was just a question of realising I was holding on too tightly to them and letting them go. I reminded myself this is a different ecosystem and I should stay curious and keep walking along patiently. In the end, the mushrooms turned out to be much more discrete. Either a multitude of teeny tiny ones on a dead stump, or huge ones that push up from the ground covered in leaves and therefore harder to spot.
I also tried to alternate looking very close up for details and staring out over the fields at the autumn colours and menacing clouds on the horizon. It always takes a while to get into the creative flow and start to ‘see’ patterns, textures, combinations…
My favorite find was this tiny little snail, perfectly camouflaged amongst the seed pods of this plant. Can you see it? Such a gorgeous colour combination!