I rarely buy cut flowers because their social and environmental impact makes me cringe. Usually I am content with my many potted plants or, if I really crave a burst of colour, a small bouquet of wild flowers picked on the fly.
However last week I treated myself to a large bouquet with a clean conscience at Lokale Bloemetjes, a self-pick farm next to the CSA where I get my veggies from in the West of Amsterdam. It was wonderful to stroll through row upon row of different flowers, grown without chemicals, taking the time to observe each one before deciding whether or not to add it to my bouquet, all the while knowing this supports a local business contributing to increase biodiversity.
Once back home, I sorted the flowers by similar colours and popped them inexpertly into glass tomato-sauce jars that I had lying around and they’ve been doing an amazing job at brightening up several corners of my flat on these first rainy autumn days.
Lying on my bed in the middle of the afternoon, feeling the breeze come through the open door to the balcony and reading uninterrupted for several hours.
Not setting an alarm and being woken up by the sound of a grumpy and insistent jay.
Having a spontaneous skype call with a friend in the middle of the day.
Taking a calm evening walk lost in thought as grey clouds slowly fill the sky and being cooled by the thick raindrops falling lazily down on my way home.
Walking through rows of trees laden with apples and pears, carefully choosing the fruit that look ripe and unspoilt, then turning them gently upside down until they break off neatly into my hand. Filling my tote bags full of them, as the smell of rotting fruit wafts up from the grass, black and orange butterflies and wasps happily gorging themselves at my feet.
Reserving a time-slot and popping on my face-mask to go see a photography exhibition and being able to linger in front of the snapshots I like best.
Exploring the Beatrixpark at night and searching for the perfect spot, away from the light pollution, to watch lightning majestically rip through the sky.
For today’s post I am thrilled to have collaborated with the illustrator Eva Polakovicova (Eva Pola Illustration & Design). She created these lovely illustrations to accompany my words, working by hand combining her stencil technique and colour inks. She did a wonderful job of capturing the joy of these small pleasures, and I am in love with this gorgeous colour palette♥
You can find out more about Eva’s inspiration and this technique in the interview we did back in January.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #182
Watching little groups of sparrows come to drink water on my balcony
The sound and smell of white wine evaporating from risotto rice
Lying down at the end of the day and relaxing into my pillow, knowing there is still time to read a good book
Opening the mailbox and finding a postcard or an envelope from someone I hold dear
Having no plans and letting myself fall asleep in the sofa in the afternoon without setting an alarm
Cooking with radish leaves and carrot tops and feeling like there is twice as much food and no waste
The smell of rain on the garden after a long dry spell
The lovely feeling of fatigue after several hours of walking or cycling in nature
The Artist’s Way is a book I dive into regularly because of Julia Cameron’s deep wisdom (and humour!). Recently I pulled it off the shelf and opened it at a random chapter as I often do, knowing it would provide me just the nugget of guidance I need. This time I landed on the chapter about ABUNDANCE, which made me laugh because I’ve also been pulling that word lately from my tiny pack of Angel cards… Clearly this is something for me to focus on at the moment;)
Interestingly some of the exercises from the chapter are about getting rid of things around the house. I always need to get over that little voice in my head that whispers that I may need it later, the one that is scared I won’t have ENOUGH. It seems counter-intuitive at first to give away things to feel abundance. But there’s a reason why I’m not wearing the t-shirt or why my heart is telling me it’s fine to let go of some object I have lying around for years that I didn’t even choose myself.
Seeing the happy look on the face of someone who comes over to pick-up a second-hand purchase is always a pleasure. I can tell they will appreciate the object so much more than I do and it avoids one new item being put out into the world. Also, after depositing several back-pack loads of books at the little free library, my bookshelves are lighter and more ‘me’.
Parting with all these objects has highlighted that I have more than enough, and as an added bonus, this clearing has created space for a few new things, chosen with care. This week I treated myself to new washi tapes, finally replenishing my collection which had dwindled to with quasi-finished rolls and dark colours. I splashed out on the good quality ones with beautiful patterns and bright colours like neon pink, enough to decorate my journal and my snail mail for a long time ahead and I felt like I was spoiling myself in the best of ways:)
I went for a long walk this afternoon to stretch my legs and clear my head. As I watched a small sailing boat on the water, I breathed in, deeply enjoying the comforting warmth of the sun on my black jeans.
Bordering the path, lots of delicate wild flowers, white, yellow, blue and pink danced in the wind. I carefully picked a stem here and a piece of grass there, risking the tingle of a nettle sting on my pinky, and came home with a small bouquet to brighten up my kitchen table. An unruly and joyful explosion of colour to keep me company as I eat my meals over the next days:)
Even if it has been a very mild winter, this week I clearly felt the sparks of joy linked to the first signs of spring. Like realising that I feel a tiny bit more energetic, and how lovely it feels to cycle through the city when it is still daylight on my way home from work, and feeling the sun’s rays a little sharper on my face during my lunch walk…
I am grateful for winter and its quieter days, but I am also glad that spring is on its way. I can’t wait not to have to wear two pairs of socks to keep my feet warm and to bundle myself in layers of clothes and scarves. I’m ready to watch nature waking up and bringing to the world its colourful buds and fresh green leaves, to hear bees buzzing among tiny flowers and watch ducklings by the canals. I look forward to the simple pleasure of sitting in the park to read in the sun.
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!
Late this autumn, I planted some mixed seeds into the soil of the empty looking pots on my balcony, and to my surprise some these lovely orange flowers came up. I can see them every day, through the glass of the balcony door when I sit at the kitchen table. Their hardiness and bright colour have been giving me so much joy in past weeks.
Normally the petals reach straight outwards from the center, but recently, maybe because of the cold, they started curling slightly, making the flower even more beautiful. One morning last week I decided it was ok to miss the usual tram I take to work, to spend a few quiet moments to photograph its fleeting charm in the first rays of daylight. So glad I did!
Three years ago I decided to write weekly about what I was grateful for. The idea was to focus more on what I was lucky to have, rather than what I may feel I was missing. These weekly posts have turned into a journal of sorts, a way to record what I’ve been up to while paying closer attention.
I enjoy regularly taking a moment to stop and reflect on the past week and stood out, be they big or small things, taking walks, people I get to share moments with, travelling, spending time in nature…
To celebrate, I looked back through the list and chose some of my favourites from the last 3 years:)
Writing these posts about what I am grateful for has turned out to be a very grounding and joyful practice for me. They are a way to be both more present as I go through my days and to re-live the sensations as I pen a few short paragraphs about what I experienced.
I’d love to know, what are you are grateful for today?
I want to savour this week, which was rich in interactions of all sorts, in person, on paper and online, big and small, that made me feel I belong and warmed my heart. I’m privileged to be surrounded by such wonderful human beings. With their humour, questions, intelligence, struggles, ideas and imperfections, they help me to be as true a version of myself as I can be.
A chat with a colleague by the coffee machine about hair-styling and therapy; talking with my Mum on the phone about a very interesting course she attended and ideas it gave her; a semi-spontaneous catch-up after work with a dear friend over cake and tea; discussing work decisions at 3 a.m. under our duvet; celebrating the birth of a new baby and exchanging about sustainability with my boxing-class mates after our workout; connecting with my cousin with whats’app messages; taking a walk to do the plastic recycling from the office letting the cold air revitalise us for the afternoon; reading a long awaited letter all the way from Western Australia; chatting over naan bread and delicious vegetable korma before watching a great play…