JOYFUL GRATITUDE #199
In the last few days, we’ve been blessed with some beautiful weather, and I’ve been trying to soak up warm rays of sun while it lasts. As the measures to curb COVID-19 get stricter again in the Netherlands, I realise how lucky I’ve been to be able to go on safely-distanced walks with my friends in the months since the start of the pandemic.
Though in the past my modus operandi was heading out my front door spontaneously and strolling through my neighbourhood by myself, since March I’ve had the joy of regularly meeting with different friends for a breath of fresh air in one or the other of Amsterdam’s lovely parks, instead of going to the cinema or sharing a meal.
The rhythmic motion of putting one foot in front of the other is so grounding and perfect for catching up, hatching plans and dreams, and speculating on how the next months will unfold.
We also discuss mundane things like latest tested recipes or series we are bingeing, watch goats hidden among high nettles or hunt for the corner of the park which catches the very last rays of sunlight… making these moments a real balm in moments of loneliness, difficult decision making and uncertainty about the future.
Sometimes our walks include an ice-cream, a good coffee or a ginger ale with a side of fries, but just the act of simply getting together and airing thoughts that have gotten stuck in a loop, and sharing a chat and some laughs is enough for me to feel human again.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #195
Sometimes all that’s needed for a full reset is spending an afternoon on the beach with a good friend, relentlessly whipped by the wind, hair flying in all directions, enjoying the sun when it appears from behind the clouds, until every ounce of stress has been blown away.
The beach is quite empty, with just a few kite-surfers performing impressive jumps and skids in the shallows. We sit watching the waves, talking peacefully and enjoying the snacks we brought along, carrots dipped in hummus, crunchy chickpea crisps, fresh figs…
We take tentative steps in the water, only to realise the sea is not that cold and so we walk along the shore, tiny waves lapping at our feet, sun on our cheeks, chatting as we go.
Fine white sand travels in mesmerising sweeps over the surface of the beach, piling onto our blanket and back-packs, grain by grain, until all our possessions are partially buried and every inch of our skin is covered in sand.
When I get home and I shake my belongings out on the balcony, I release sand from the folds of my towel, it comes pouring out of the side pockets of my back-pack, I brush it off my legs as best I can, and I realise I’ve brought home enough sand for a mini-beach of my own.
Only for a little while, as I go about cooking dinner, I leave just a few last grains of sand, safely tucked in between my toes, reluctant to fully let go off that beach feeling.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #190
Armed with our swimmers and a picnic containing an unreasonable amount of brioche and cake, my friend Eva and I took a long walk through the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen headed to the coast.
We sauntered through the woods and dunes, stopping here and there to lay out our picnic blanket in the shade for a snack and a peaceful chat. It was very calm, finally far away from the sound of traffic, and since it was a Thursday there were few people and many animals, undisturbed by our presence. We even had the pleasure of quietly observing some kingfishers, flying speedily back and forth over the canal giving us glimpses alternatively of their bright blue wings and orange chest, and diving at lightning speed from a branch into the water to catch fish.
The highlight of the day was dipping into the sea when we made it to the beach in the late afternoon sun. After walking for several hours, a swim was exactly what my body craved. It was divine to enter the water, feeling the sand and shells in between my toes, small waves lapping at my calves. When we got deep enough and were ready, we finally surrendered our entire bodies to the cool water. Mine wasn’t what you’d call an active swim, no, it was a glorious release of every muscle into total relaxation, a blissful soak, the joy of floating along with my toes peeping up on the surface, carried by the sea.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #168
I am grateful for meeting up early with a friend, on my Friday morning off, to take a walk in the Vondelpark. It was a lovely way to start the day, feeling the wintry air on my face, walking along the paths trying to avoid getting too muddy, watching energetic dogs playing together, as we chatted about how our week had been and all sorts of things… As someone who usually takes a while to get out of the house when I don’t need to go to the office, it felt like a great way to kick-start to the day by moving and connecting with my body. I must remind myself to do it more often, either by myself or with the added bonus of going with a friend:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #162
I am grateful for the good times with my friends based here in the Netherlands. As I don’t live in the same country as my close family, I appreciate how vital it is to be surrounded by people who I can really connect with and be myself around:) I hope these first weeks of 2020 set the tone for the rest of the decade.
We’ve had the chance to spend quality time exploring the Veluwe, inspiring each other, chatting about our hopes and intentions for the new year and making collage dream boards, having good laughs, watching a great documentary and sharing our thoughts about it afterwards until we got kicked out of the room, motivating one another to go for lunch walks together to refresh our minds amidst busy work meetings… I feel blessed to have such wonderful people by my side to make the days a little sweeter!
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #161
Yesterday evening I sat down to write a letter. Though I do regularly send postcards, taking the time to write a proper letter made me realise how rarely I do so. I was writing in response to a letter from a dear friend, written a couple of months ago. Her familiar hand-writing covering several pages of lined paper, bringing me her thoughts and fragments of her life from the other side of the globe. A physical letter that I have pulled out, unfolded and re-read since I received it, thinking of my friend, taking the time to contemplate what I’d like to answer and tell her about, the questions I want to ask her…
So yesterday alone in the quiet of my flat, I finally took out some recycled paper and my favorite pen, and got writing. About banal things, how the holidays had been, what I’ve been up to recently and what is on my mind of late… The pages filled up quickly, thoughts flowing and getting more personal as I scribbled them down. I ended up with a neat pile of numbered pages, slipped tightly into an envelope which will make its way across the world.
I love that letters don’t demand an immediate reading or a fast answer. They can stray in the limbo of the postal system. By the time my words arrive, a couple of weeks will have passed, new events will have unfolded, thoughts will have evolved. The snippets of my life contained in the letter will be about an earlier-me, and penning the thoughts helped me to figure out what they meant to me at the time.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #130
Some days all you really need is to hang out with a friend, unrushed, just catching up while taking a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood and supporting a small business (and enjoying delicious vegan cakes in the process;).
Then taking a further stroll through the park even if the weather is grey, watching the birds and marveling at the fresh green of spring leaves, while having inspiring talks about upcoming creative plans and ideas for the next months, and plotting how to keep each other accountable…