Showing up, quirks and all

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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.

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More imperfect beauty from a mindful stroll and a winter walk.

Nature’s wisdom

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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:)

Letting the flowers grow wild

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Some sunny days are for making an effort to take the train and go for a long walk outside the city, and others are for choosing simplicity and being outdoors close to home.

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Whenever I need a ‘bowl of fresh air’ (as we say in French), after a long day on the computer or when the sun finally appears from behind the clouds, I usually head to this spot in the Schinkelbuurt, just behind the Olympic Stadium.

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I love how the wild flowers and grasses have been left to grow freely, rather than being neatly mowed to the ground as they usually are. It makes for wonderfully messy spaces, bursting with all sorts of plants swaying in the breeze, the perfect playground for many insects and feeding ground for the moorhens, ducks, swans and other birds that abound.

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Though it’s not even 10 minutes from my flat, spending some time there always helps my mind to reset.  It’s a great place for people-watching and subtly eavesdropping on parts of conversations as the locals walk their dogs or cycle by, while the kids jump bravely into the water when it’s warm outside.

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*****

It’s a beautiful place in all seasons: winter, spring, summer, autumn

Forest bathing

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Being in my hometown means I have the luxury of being in walking distance of the forest.  Yesterday I made the most of a rain-free afternoon to go for a walk. Though the trees have no leaves yet, the branches carry tiny buds and white flowers are growing on the forest floor, a glimmer of hope that spring is finally on its way.  The path is a little muddy, winding up and down the slopes and along old rock walls.  At some stage, we are deep enough in the forest to no longer hear the road, the sound of cars is replaced by the birds singing and the crack of the branches under our feet.

I love the feeling when my body gets into the rhythm after walking a while and my feet just carry me along, step after step with no particular goal, as I take in the beauty of the forest.  I could walk for hours like this, until my body is tired and my mind is clear.  In Japan they acknowledge the healing benefits of spending time in the forest and call it forest bathing (what a perfect name!), it’s even part of the national public health program. Imagine what the world would be like if every country did that?

Beautiful imperfections

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When was the last time you really looked closely at what is around you? Most of the time I am completely on auto-pilot, rushing to and from work, completely stuck in my head thinking about all the things I need to do or annoyed at the rain pouring down…

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On Saturday morning, I took the opportunity of a ray of sunshine to go for a walk in the neighbourhood and consciously really looked at buildings, bikes, dogs, plants as I passed them. I started to notice tiny details. As autumn comes to an end, some plants are valiantly holding on to their last threads of life.

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I was so happy to observe the plants on my way and focus on the beauty in their imperfections: slightly bruised and fading petals, leaves drying into brilliant reds, gorgeous lace-like patterns…  It is the perfect trick for getting out of my whirling thoughts and truly being in the moment:)

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Something to keep in mind

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This weekend I walked down a road that happened to be blocked and I had to go back the way I came and make a detour to get to my destination. As I retraced my steps, I spotted these lovely small pink flowers growing tightly at the foot of a tree. They made my day!

They were a wise reminder that sometimes in life it seems like you are not going anywhere or you may reach a dead-end and need to back-track, however there is surely something wonderful to be found on the way:) I’ll be looking out for it!

Summer plants

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During the holidays, I spent lovely afternoons walks exploring the tiny alleys of the village of Capraia, looking at the carefully tended plants in people’s gardens or in front of their houses and I’ll share more about that soon.

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But I especially fell for the wild plants growing in the hills or on the edges of the cliffs on our way down to the sea.  Those plants really represent the island for me.

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I love how their branches and spikes lightly scratched my legs as I walked by, reminding me of their presence, as if urging me to look down and observe them.

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What the photos unfortunately can’t show is how the strong smell of the aromatic plants (like wild rosemary, erba gatta and elicriso) rose up in the air under the hot sun, titillating the senses as we walked by.

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Depending on the hour of the day, the light would show up the colours against the backdrop of the sky in different ways, what a lovely sight.

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The prickly pear cactus is one of the plants that is synonymous to me of hot summer days in Italy. When I see one I am immediately mentally transported to wonderful moments spent by the sea, feeling warm rays of sunshine drying the salt water on my skin and the joyful sensation of being on holidays and free:)

Plant spotting in Thailand

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #35

One of the wonderful things of exploring Thailand was the quantity of plants everywhere. On many street corners, balconies, house fronts there were lovely plants. There were all sorts of frangipanis (which are one of my all time favorites since I lived in Australia) but the gorgeous colours on these ones shown above defy anything I’d seen yet.

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This lovely lotus shot after a small rainshower is magical. Nature really knows how to combine colours.

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How could I resist making a close-up of such a tiny furry leaf… it’s pure perfection!

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There were also plenty of lovely flowers as decoration around the temples.

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In Surat Thani as I was walking by the river, I came across this plant vendor’s shop on wheels. I admired the collection of luscious green pot plants for every taste, expertly squeezed onto every square centimeter of the cart.

Come sit with me

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If I had half an hour with you on this beautiful bench this is most probably what I would talk about…

How I had a lovely relaxed weekend, enjoying some precious down time in the sunny city and  strolling through the flowery streets of Amsterdam Zuid to try and capture the heavy rose blooms and the atmosphere with my camera…

How I had fun concocting creative plans with a friend over a delicious hazelnut iced coffee served with a sustainable metal straw (@Slowth Brunch: you guys rock!!!).

How it was a weekend of pizza making with Paolo (not even this heat will deter us from cranking the oven up to 240 degrees so we can eat some tasty homemade pizza;).

Nature just around the corner

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #25

I am deeply grateful for living in a part of the city that also has nature close by. It looks like I’m deep in a forest, but this picture was taken just five minutes from my flat.

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After a day sitting at my desk, it feels so good to go for a walk and stretch my legs, and feel the sun on my skin.

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Today I was accompanied by bird song from the trees, and when I listened carefully even the buzzing of some bees and other insects.

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Just taking the time observe these plants and look at their details is like a meditation for me.