Last weekend I took a little walk near Amsterdam Zuid station. Despite the biting cold and a short rain-shower here and there, the plants seemed keen on showing off their fresh beauty as I made my way around. It was so bountiful, with dashes of unexpected colour calling out for my attention every few steps.
A tiny magnolia tree in front of a brick wall (the shape of its unopened flowers reminiscent of the claws that my cat Villanelle is so determined to sink into my flesh when she sits on my lap to cuddle.)
The rugged green petals of an intriguing tulip, ready to unfurl.
The pink exterior of a bud just about to reveal its fresh green leaves.
A flush orange bush with tiny popcorn puff flowers.
The deep shiny green of these leaves wrapped so beautifully around each other.
Recently storm Darcy swept across the Netherlands leaving a layer of snow over the city and immobilising public transport. The first couple of days the clouds hung heavy and the wind was blistering cold, but that didn’t deter anyone from going out. The streets and parks were full of people dressed in full-on ski-suits and colourful hats and scarves.
Wrapped in my many layers, I also went to explore, enjoying the crunch of every step in the fine snow. It’s amazing how these paths, that I’ve been walking along so regularly during the last months to keep my sanity during lock-down, looked so new and exciting just thanks to a beautiful dusting of snow.
It was also fun to watching people on long-distance skis making laps around the park, children on fancy sleighs or simple constructions made from kids’ chairs cleverly tied together, snow-people and snow-forts being built on the side of the road…
Here are some festive plants to celebrate 200 weeks of gratitude for the abundance of wonderful people, places, events and plants that brighten up my life:) 2020 with its unexpected challenges has highlighted more than ever how much I have to be grateful for, and the many big and small things that I must be wise not to take for granted.
When I started nearly 4 years ago, I had no idea what this series would turn out to look like. I’ve found there is something very powerful about taking time weekly to pin-point something I’m particularly grateful for (even if it is just the joy of an umpteenth walk in my neighbourhood, relaxing on a day off or the imperfections of a specific flower). It has become a practice I look forward to and plan to continue:)
I took a look through the archive and dug up seven of my favourite posts from the last 100 weeks. Reading these posts transported me right back to those days in different places or moods, plunging me directly into what was going on at the time, what season it was, how I felt…
Before I leave you with some flower confetti, I just wanted to say I’m also really grateful for people reading along and for your interesting comments and feedback, for sharing how things are in your part of the world (and for helping me identify plants I want to know more about;). THANK YOU!!
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.