JOYFUL GRATITUDE #198
In the past few years, I’ve been travelling regularly to the area of the Veluwe, in the east of the Netherlands, for the pleasure of easily accessing nature to take long walks in the forest and heaths. This week I’m grateful I got to spend three fun days with a friend there in a cosy wooden cottage.
Our preparations revolved mainly around what delicious food we wanted to bring, as well as which notebooks and art supplies to tuck into our backpacks. We had a great time and though there were regular down-pours, we managed to take some long walks in the forest and collect pocketfuls of chestnuts. In the evenings, we relaxed on the sofa and chatted by the wood-stove, to the sound of the rain landing heavy on the roof.
Even in the Veluwe, it’s not always easy to get far from the road and the sound of cars, but armed with some tasty snacks from the bakery, we walked deep into the woods. With no real direction, we simply followed the intriguing shapes we saw in the undergrowth like a scavenger hunt. My hiking boots sank into the soft soil, made from layers upon layers of fallen leaves and mosses as I breathed in the rich smell of the forest.
The main highlight were the mushrooms. I was struck by their diversity, multitudes clustered by the dozen in tight bunches on decaying tree stumps, minuscule funghi on dead branches to large chunky brown ones, white ones that looked like lace, colours ranging from pink to metallic grey and even bright yellow ones that seemed to belong on a corral reef…
As beautiful as it was to observe this abundance of species, I can’t help but mourn the fact that 85% of the biodiversity in the Netherlands has been lost, and we are not on track to meet the targets set up to stop this decline with the pressure of intensive farming and climate change. I can only dream of what this forest looked like twenty or a hundred years ago, and it’s vital that we safeguard what remains to make sure that in a not-too-far-away future the only trace that is left of these mushrooms is not just a few old photographs.
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.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #163
Last Saturday I went with two dear friends for a walk in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug national park as a belated experience-gift for my birthday. As we walked away from the station with its noisy traffic, and entered deeper into the woods, time seemed to slow down. It felt so good to breathe in the smells of the humid forest. I felt my legs getting more energised with each step on the path.
The landscape kept surprising us, changing from oak forest to pine trees, to sandy open spaces, to paths winding through mossy forest floors… Also we were graced with a wide range of different weather in just a few hours: sunshine, clouds, rain, rain and sunshine at the same time, and even hail, as we continued to put one foot in front of the other, without haste.
As always it felt really good to be away from the bustling city, not to mention the snacks and thermos full of boozy tea that we had along the way, which took the experience to another level;) But mostly it was our chats and laughs that made my day. I’m so grateful for sharing this calm afternoon, talking about what’s on our minds and catching up in such a relaxing setting.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #160
I am so glad that during the busy December days I took the time to plan a short trip away from the city with like-minded friends. Even though we were just a couple of hours from Amsterdam, it was nice to explore an area I’d never been to and recharge my batteries before going back to work.
Our long walks in the woods sparked all of our senses: breathing in the wintry forest smells, observing the mosses, lichens, fungi and other details, noting the undergrowth that had been upturned by boars (or so we think;), fingers getting cold as the sun dropped below the horizon, hearing the wild-geese flying by in the sky… We were lucky to have several days of sunny weather and the low winter light shining through the mist and the trees was magic.
I also particularly enjoyed our walks because they were fueled by real conversations, and also by deliciously rich brandy-fed Christmas cake and hot chocolate! The bar is now incredibly high for the coming walks in nature in 2020;)
On the Eastern side of the Hoge Veluwe sits its twin, the Deelerwoud, a very similar parc but with no entrance fee and much less people. It was recommended by our landlady, so we went to check it out on our last day in the Veluwe and found it’s a great alternative.
There too mushrooms were popping up all over the place in the undergrowth, showing off the details of their unique caps. We enjoyed a quiet walk, savoured having the path all to ourselves, meeting only one lady with her dog during the whole time.
It was sunny when we headed out and we chatted as we made our way, until all of a sudden when we stopped to take some pictures we realised huge grey clouds building up behind us and pretty soon after it started to rain.
Soon it was pouring so hard, we had to cut short our exploration and head back to our bikes. We were lucky to come across a little hut at the entrace of the parc to take shelter in, while we waited for the downpour to calm down. It was a cute place, all made of wood, where you can self-serve coffee and tea and have a snack. There was even locally-made ice-cream in the freezer, but soaked as I was it’s one of the rare times I turned down ice-cream. No problem though, that just means we will have to go back – both for a longer walk and to try the local ice-cream;)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #150
In the past few weeks, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying mushroom season, not so much for eating them as for observing them. I am blown away by the sheer number of different types I had the chance of coming across, from the typical red ones with white spots that you see in cartoons to the sponge mushrooms, from clusters of tiny mushrooms on a mossy tree stump to orange ones pushing up from the ground, from ones that look to me like bread buns straight out of the oven (like these two photos from a lovely walk this week the Amsterdamse Bos) to wise mushrooms that stand mindfully, unphased by what goes on around them. I’m very grateful of the diversity of nature that keeps on surprising me and especially for having had some quality time lately to be outdoors and wander, without being in a rush, eyes peeled for these astonishing shapes.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #112
During my recent walk in the forest near my home town, at one stage I came across lots of ferns that had been cut down by the side of the path. I was mesmerised by their colours and shapes, which formed these wonderful dense and intricate patterns.
Ferns are one of my photographic nemeses, I love how they look (from shy, bright green ferns in the forest undergrowth to massive native Australian ferns that are more like trees) but always struggle so much to capture them in a way that does justice to their splendour…
I’m grateful to have had a chance to observe the beauty of these ferns and their patterns before they shriveled up and became part of the forest floor, it was the perfect opportunity to practice photographing them:)
Just a five minute drive from the house where I grew up, there is a forest where I love to take walks. There are several options: you can take the tarmac path straight into the heart of the forest, you can explore muddy side paths or you can walk right at the foot of the trees, your shoes sinking with each step into the deep layers of fallen leaves.
Today I mostly ignored the paths and spent the morning deep in the humid undergrowth, guided by every splash of colour or unusual shape, looking at the tiniest details to see what I could find. I was welcomed by trees, mushrooms, mosses and lichens of all types, as well as slugs patiently gliding along and snacking on mushrooms.
On my treasure hunt for beauty, there was just the sound of birds calling to each other. I felt perfectly in the moment, taking in all the beautiful colours and textures. I experimented with photographing what I came across, until my jeans were dirty and humid from kneeling down to get close to the forest floor.
Forest bathing is so healing. Looking at myself in the mirror when I got home I was glowing like I’d just had a long nap or a restorative massage, my body kindly reminding me, yet again, that I should surround myself with nature more often:)
In September, I had the pleasure to spend a few days in nature in the Veluwe to disconnect. One of the things I noticed was how as I walked in the forest with no rush, all sorts of delightful details were reaching my senses. It was like a treasure hunt for autumn beauty.
Apart from the impressive sponge mushroom, I came across quite a few other types of funghi but none as cute as this one with a gorgeous orange stem, illuminated by a ray of sunlight in the undergrowth.
The pattern created by the shadows of these leaves on the tree trunk are so delicate and reminded me of the elegant patterns on a kimono. So simple and beautiful!
All along my walks, I also encountered lots of these common beetles with their iridescent blue-black shells, which were progressing with incredible speed and determination compared to my laid-back pace. As I sat quietly at the foot of a tree to take a break, I could even hear the soft sound as the beetles made their way through the dry leaves on the ground.
I’m just back from a blissful weekend visiting my family in France. Three days of intense chatting and laughing over cups of tea, baking (and then devouring) cakes shamelessly full of butter and sugar, celebrating milestones over delicious Lebanese food and sipping champagne, and generally just enjoying spending precious time together:)
I snuck out for a few hours on Saturday for a walk in the forest by myself. The colours of the trees were soooo beautiful (these pictures taken with my phone don’t do justice to their splendour at all), it was breathtaking! As I walked, it was like my senses were waking up from indoor life… I enjoyed seeing little birds flying from one branch to another and singing nearby, treading along on the muddy path and the smell the fallen leaves slowly decomposing at the feet of gorgeous trees was wonderful. It was the perfect environment for some quiet time to process my thoughts:)