Outdoor time in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug

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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.

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Good times with friends

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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!

The joy of letter writing

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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.

Winter walks in Putten

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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;)

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Spending more time together

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #159

Despite the festivities and family get-togethers, this has felt like a calm week, dedicated to slowing down.  I particularly enjoyed the fact that we were not online or watching television too much.  Instead, we have been playing board games, a simple way to spend time together, laugh a lot and connect. We also made our yearly dream-board collages and inspired each other with colourful images, activitst ideas, creative projects…  I’m happy to collect these good memories and inspiration for the next months when we will all go back to our day-to-day lives in different places.

Downtime before the festivities

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #158

I made it back to my hometown in France without too much trouble, despite the on-going strike. After a busy week trying to finalise things before the holidays and packing, I appreciate being able to simply take my time.

This morning I slept in and after breakfast I slipped back under the colourful duvet to read Flow magazine. I love the slow-paced articles accompanied by beautiful illustrations, that get me thinking and remind me about the important things in life. I am particularly grateful for this precious downtime to recharge my batteries before the xmas festivities begin.

Yearning for more calm

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #157

With the air being cold and crisp, as well as night falling around 4.30 pm, my body feels ready to go into full hibernation mode.  All I seem to want to do is curl up and rest deeply for a while, with no obligations and nowhere to rush to.

However life has other plans. Instead of winding down, the weeks leading up to xmas feel very full, despite a more simple approach to gift giving and my efforts to prioritise by consciously saying NO. Probably because of the holiday now being so close, I feel like I have no more energy to give.

So I am grateful for the privilege of having some proper time off over the xmas period.  While I’m in France, I’m really looking forward to the quiet days at home with my family.  I foresee lots of sleeping in, cooking and eating good food all together, watching movies under soft blankets and catching up over steaming mugs of tea.

Serendipity and writing opportunities

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #155

Recently during a meeting at work I mentioned to a colleague of mine that I do creative writing in my free time and it just so happened that she was looking for submissions for a project about Amsterdam.  As I’ve actively decided to seize the opportunities that come across my path and aim to do at least two submissions per month, I asked her for the guidelines and promised I’d send her a piece.

Even though working on this creative non-fiction piece really stretched me, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I am very grateful for this chance, as each concrete assignment helps me to practise working within certain guidelines and to improve my skills.

I also really appreciate the serendipity of hearing about this project just now that dare to call myself a writer in the presence of other people:-)  Here’s hoping that there will be lots of interesting coincidences and writing opportunities in the near future!

Human connection

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #154

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…

Taking time to just be

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #153

Last Sunday I kept an entire day free of plans, so that I could recharge my batteries.  I had some work to do on my writing assignment and plenty of other to-dos, but I decided to first take some time for myself.

I spent an hour meditating, sitting in silence and trying to focus only on my breathing (which in reality ended up being more like becoming aware of my incessant thoughts and letting them come and go).  It felt like a reset for my overstimulated brain, a welcome break from constant inputs.

Afterwards, since the sun made a welcome appearance after some very rainy days, I took the chance to go for a slow walk in the neighbourhood. I did my best to stay as much as possible on the sunny side of the street to soak up lots of vitamine D and watched people enjoying the good weather as I ambled along.

The autumn colours were beautiful, with colourful leaves holding tight to their branches and covering the pavement.  I also enjoyed observing the details of the last flowers remaining in people’s gardens, like this purple flower with its silky petals emerging from the strange black and green pod, and the petals around the remnants of this bordeaux-coloured flower.

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