JOYFUL GRATITUDE #208
Recently storm Darcy swept across the Netherlands leaving a layer of snow over the city and immobilising public transport. The first couple of days the clouds hung heavy and the wind was blistering cold, but that didn’t deter anyone from going out. The streets and parks were full of people dressed in full-on ski-suits and colourful hats and scarves.
Wrapped in my many layers, I also went to explore, enjoying the crunch of every step in the fine snow. It’s amazing how these paths, that I’ve been walking along so regularly during the last months to keep my sanity during lock-down, looked so new and exciting just thanks to a beautiful dusting of snow.
It was also fun to watching people on long-distance skis making laps around the park, children on fancy sleighs or simple constructions made from kids’ chairs cleverly tied together, snow-people and snow-forts being built on the side of the road…
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #207
Lately I am trying to walk at least ten thousands steps a day in an effort to move just a bit more. Even when the weather is grey and cold, I lace up my boots, pull on several jumpers, wrap myself in my warm scarf and beanie and head out, motivating myself to wander a bit further than I may otherwise.
Today when I reached the forest I left the paved road and focused on just one task, trying not to slip on the muddy path. It was the perfect way to connect with each step and be in the moment. On a drier part of the path, I spotted a multitude of yellow catkins, flashes of colour in the bare undergrowth. They swayed lightly in the chilly wind, my fingers getting more and more frozen as I did my best to look for a pleasing composition.
On the way back, I was captivated by how the light shone through this mushroom, playing with the intriguing shapes. I experimented for a while, trying to capture those translucent effects despite the luminosity. By the time I got home, even if my fingers ached with cold in my gloves, my feet were warm and I felt energised.
There’s nothing like cold, windy days for staying inside and pottering about the house while listening to some great podcasts. Here are a few of the ones I’ve been particularly enjoying lately:
- This beautiful episode about DELIGHT on This American Life and its reminders of how to find joy in all sorts of ways at any age.
- Really loving learning about all sorts of feminist topics while laughing out loud with The Guilty Feminist – super fun, amazing and inspiring stories!
- How to fail reframes failure in a lovely way. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially in vulnerable times, because it reminds me that everyone learns the most and grows by failing, it’s just part of being human.
What have you been listening to lately? Any recommendations?
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #102
Last weekend we spent a lovely, slow-paced weekend with my Mum and her partner who were on a visit to Amsterdam. I must admit, for many years I wondered why my Mum would systematically come to visit at the end of October, when the wind is icy, the rain always ready to tumble from grey clouds and the days are getting shorter. But I think I’ve finally understood:)
It’s because with this weather no excuse whatsoever is needed to walk just 200 meters before feeling justified about going into the next cafe and indulging in some delicious cake, and staying cosily indoors while we catch up with each other and discuss possible travel plans for next year. Also, spending two afternoons in the dark of the cinema, being transported to other worlds through movies, is a totally acceptable pastime and way to keep warm. It offered the perfect occasion to discover a talented young pianist in the small room of the Concertgebouw and be moved by her stories and music, shielded from the cold outside. So grateful for these fun moments spent together!
February in Amsterdam has been sunny but relentlessly cold. Typically on the weekend I have a lot of ‘shoulds’ popping up, like ‘I should go out for a long walk to get fresh air’ and ‘I should make the most of the sun to take some photos’… Most of the time that works for me and being outdoors makes me feel great. However in these days the winter now feels like it is dragging on. Despite the days getting longer, the cold feels excruciating and my fingers ache in the freezing air as I try to snap pictures. So I decided to give myself a break and make it a weekend for lying on the couch with the sun pouring through the window, reading an easy thriller uninterrupted for several hours, and for enjoying fun conversations over a lengthy delicious brunch in a warm cafe. It was perfect!
Sunday was a gorgeous sunny morning, so I followed my good intentions and went straight out into the cold for a walk. Sometimes when I go to an area where I regularly wander, I lack inspiration for taking pictures. I often long for new horizons, exciting unknown places as it seems so much easier to be delighted by unfamiliar locations. So to counter that feeling, I challenged myself on this walk to see things with fresh eyes and to take in what was unique to that particular morning.
Apart from a few people walking their dogs, I was nearly alone in the rose garden in the Vondelpark. The sunrays were barely starting to touch that part of the park and the pathway was slightly slippery with ice. I took my time, as if exploring for the very first time, captivated by the beauty of the ice on the grass and leaves, that started melting away in the sunlight. I was also mesmerised by this tiny yellow rose left over from another season, with its near transparent petals like a delicate pastry.
My balcony overlooks a lovely patchwork of gardens and sheds, belonging to the owners of the appartments on the ground flour. The walls of the building form a large rectangle around the gardens, enclosing this wonderful ecosystem in which birds are the main protagonists, seemingly oblivious to us humans as they go about their business.
Fat turtledoves fly heavily from the railing of one balcony to another, groups of green parrots (who have taken root in Amsterdam) come by from time to time sqwaking loudly, tiny blue tits flit amongst the branches and there’s even a beautiful lone woodpecker who appears from time to time, tapping for bugs in the bark its favorite tree…
I love how the view on the gardens is constantly changing with the seasons. Today heavy snow flakes were swirling around in the wind, giving the gardens an enchanted look. The birds took shelter as they could, while the snow gently covered the ground and the branches and it was quieter than usual. So beautiful!