While we were in Sicily last month, we went for a hike on Mount Etna, accompanied by Pippo, a local guide who’s been exploring Etna for the last 50 years and told us lots of facts and stories about the volcano he’s passionate about.
We didn’t go to the main crater, but rather avoided the crowds on a much more quiet route on the South Eastern slope. The views were breathtaking as we hiked along the crest of the Valle del Bove, a huge valley which was filled with lava of the 1991 erruption and is still the recipient for more recent lava trails. You can see on the picture the darker lava trails from the latest erruption mid-June.
The photos cannot really capture how enormous the valley is, a gigantic bowl catching the lava and protecting the villages and towns further down. The lava field is entirely barren with no plants growing on it, a huge dark moon-like surface, but on our path, above the valley there was plenty of life.
It was a beautiful walk, with changing landscapes, incredible rock formations, and lots of plants that somehow manage to take root in the volcanic soil and survive under the blazing sun. As we walked we were surrounded by butterflies and thousands of bees, buzzing frenetically around the flowers.
As we made our way along the path that was sometimes marked just with a piece of red ribbon, the views on both sides of the crest evolved, always wild and spectacular… It left me wanting to return and explore more.
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
Has any particular scene caught your eye lately? I’d love to hear about it!
Botanic gardens and greenhouses are my happy place. I can easily entertain myself for several hours, slowly making my way along the pathways, mesmerised by the hundreds of different species and their unique details. A couple of weeks ago, I spent the end of the afternoon quietly observing the cacti in warmth of the desert greenhouse at the Amsterdam Hortus. Here are some of the details which I liked the most.
This cactus looks to me like a sea-urchin, stripped naked of its spikes, revealing a pattern reminiscent of a scottish tartan.
These flowers are a delight, the bright colours of their petals popping out against the parched surroundings.
Look at these incredible spikes, lined up all along this plant, it seems like each tip has been handpainted in reddish brown.
The symmetry of the Fibonacci sequence spiralling outwards from the heart of this cactus, growing drier and spikier as it goes…
I really enjoy sending and receiving snail mail, so I’m very excited to announce that a selection of my photographs are now available as postcards and greetingcards on Etsy! I’ve kept the design simple, so the cards work for any occasion and there is plenty of space to write. I love the idea that these cards will be given for ordinary moments or special occasions, and sent by mail all around the world!
If you are interested in purchasing some of your favourite pictures, please head over to my Etsy shop. When buying a set of cards, you are helping me spread my art into the world and take the first steps to grow my independent small business.
Next I will be looking into making larger prints, let me know if you are interested in a specific photograph and what format. In general, please contact me if you have any questions and I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #122
As I type this, it is Friday morning on my blissful day off. It’s quiet and I don’t need to rush to work. I’ve enjoyed a slow breakfast and a chat, looking over a lovely bouquet of flowers towering in an improvised jug-vase on the kitchen table. Ahead of me I have a peaceful creative afternoon with a dear friend, and afterwards a low-key weekend to process the past week, read, stare out the window perhaps, do a little writing and generally take the time to relax. I am grateful for pockets of downtime, tranquil moments to recharge in between the busy office days.
Yesterday in between two rain showers I went for a quick wander to get some fresh air, and I came across these beautiful yellow flowers, a lone stem left on the sidewalk by some recycling bins. Sure, the leaves were a bit wilted, but apart from that the blooms were still in great shape. Look at that multitude of gorgeous, tiny petals! So I took them home and popped them into a small vase. I felt so lucky to have found them and it totally made my day:) They are the perfect splash of colour to lighten up the kitchen in these dreary winter evenings.
As the city of Amsterdam gets more and more full of tourists, one place I love to escape to for fresh air and a quiet afternoon is the Botanic garden in Zuidas. Surrounded by modern buildings, it’s a lovely oasis of calm hidden within the bustling heart of the business district.
I really appreciate that the entrance is free of charge, making it accessible for anyone to come and discover their incredible collection of plants. While I was there last I also saw several patients in wheelchairs coming from the nearby hospital for a change of scenery.
There is an incredible diversity of plants making each visit a new experience as the seasons change. Last time thanks to the Indian summer, there were still a multitude of flowers blooming in October.
It’s always a pleasure to slowly walk around, spot new plants and take in the details of the various species. The splashes of colour bring me so much joy.
It’s a real celebration for the senses with all the different colours, intriguing textures and unusual shapes. The perfect way to be in the moment and feel grounded.
Yellow is a colour that lifts my heart up. I painted one of my kitchen walls bright yellow wall to brighten up the long Dutch winter evenings by reminding me of the sun.
Lately I’m really enjoying how yellow flowers are popping up all over the place in gardens and along the streets of Amsterdam.
On a recent walk in the Kennemerduinen, the pastel landscape was peppered with splashes of yellow, gorgeous gatherings of tiny flowers asking for their beauty to be seen.
Also the bees and the caterpillars were also showing off how colour coordinated they were with their beautiful surroundings:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #84
I’ve been enjoying the longest days of the year to go on after-dinner walks and the neighbourhood is more and more beautiful with a multitude of different flowers blossoming all over the place.
I am grateful to the imperfect flowers who show up in all their splendour despite the fact that their petals are slightly wonky and uneven. These are the flowers I like best, they seem like a kind reminder to forget wondering ‘what will people think’ and just show yourself as the unique beauty you are.
More imperfect beauty from a mindful stroll and a winter walk.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #82
I’m not much of a cut-flower girl, as I usually prefer potted plants which have a longer life. However lately we’ve had peonies around the house on several occasions and I have to admit those colourful flowers can brighten up a room! I’m loving that pink and the messiness of those gorgeous petals…
It seems like each peony has its own character. When Paolo brought them home, they were all still in their tight buds, but some of them burst open in the space of a few hours, like they couldn’t wait one minute longer in the constricted space of the bud and wanted to show off their beauty.
Others, which we have nick-named ‘the oppositive ones’, refuse to rush and stay in the bud much longer, taking their sweet time to emerge petal by petal when the time is right for them. I’m seeing this as a kind reminder from nature that it doesn’t matter what your rhythm or speed is, you are worthy and beautiful anyway:)