JOYFUL GRATITUDE #184
As we approach the longest day of the year, I love how the days stretch out, providing extra hours for my first alfresco boxing class since confinement has eased, or quiet after-dinner walks around the block when not many people are around. The soft light and beautiful skies are a daily wonder.
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;)
With Paolo we’ve been joking recently about how many random things I can get done when I am procrastinating from doing my writing assignments. I’ve been found baking spontaneous apple pies for instance, cleaning the bathroom or sorting out and tidying the attic (something that was on my to-do list for at least 6 months).
When I’m feeling blocked and just can’t seem to find the way to start writing, I try and remember that taking a walk, while it does not contribute to getting words on the page, is generally a good cure for break my mental resistance. In the worst of cases, I tell myself that even if I still don’t write afterwards, I’ll have at least stretched my legs and gotten some fresh air. In the best cases, I come back with a sliver of a new idea to work on.
Saturday afternoon was one of those days, so after sitting frustrated for a while and uselessly distracting myself by reading other people’s writing, I decided to go out and catch the last of the afternoon light. I set myself the challenge to attempt to capture the colour contrasts in that lovely low autumn light. So with my ISO set high, I looked around for bursts of colour to photograph while trying to hold my camera as still as I could.
When the light faded and the cold got to me, I headed home, clear-headed. I even saw a beautiful pink sunset that I would most likely have missed were I staring at my computer screen. My inner-critic probably also got a bit frozen, because it left me enough space to sit down and start typing when I got back.
One thing I love about photographing plants is that there is just such a profusion of possibility to explore and play with. With the seasons passing, the plants and their textures evolve so much. There are new buds appearing and fresh shiny leaves, perhaps flowers, rough bark, apparent roots, unusual seeds and pods, rugged surfaces, uncanny spikes, odd stems, gorgeous color combinations as the light evolves and changes the aspect of the backdrop…
I am astounded that even without wandering far there is always more beauty and unusual details to be found, an infinite amount of inspiration. Look at these star-shaped pods that I came across in the Amsterdam Hortus a few weeks ago, aren’t they delightful?!
Over the Christmas holidays, one afternoon I felt the irresistible need for some fresh air, my body craving to make the most of the little sunlight of the short winter days. So I grabbed my camera and went out, with no other plan than to walk along the streets close to home, open to capturing whatever inspired me. The light was beautiful, though I was clearly working against the clock to actually take some photos before darkness fell.
This simple window caught my eye, the colour and texture of the shutters with their half-moon crescents and the stack of mixed-and-matched plates drying in the rack. In my imaginary it brings up a feeling of home, cosyness, like everyone was off having a nap after tidying the kitchen together and in a few hours preparation for the next family meal will start…
I walked further, along the old walls of the village. A few families were out and about, several generations together walking dogs or most probably taking a digestive stroll in the chilly air. The last rays of sunshine lit up these bare trees, so it seemed like they were in the spotlight.
As the sun disappeared, I loved the sight of these pretty lanterns lining the street against the last colours of the sky.
My last find was this incredible mansion with its tower, the wooden beams in different tones of blue, perfectly colour-coordinated. It’ s a private house so I could only peer semi-discreetly from behind the wall, but I can imagine settling there to write a book, a steaming coffee by my side on an old wooden desk by tower window, overlooking the garden while birds flit in and out of the trees…
Lately the days are getting shorter and shorter, and even during normal daylight hours the clouds are so low that I sometimes need to switch on the light to see properly inside the flat.
Yesterday was one of those dark days, but after sitting indoors half of the afternoon, I decided to go for a walk, more because I knew that it would do me good than because I really felt like it. I took my camera along just in case.
The light was definitely not on my side, I had to crank up the ISO and hold as still as I could with slow shutter speeds, but it was a good exercise in spotting beauty in the remnants of plants and experimenting.
These tiny fruit that remind me of gorgeous fairy lights caught my eye and I got chatting with a lady, who was harvesting them into a small bowl. She told me they are goji berries… you know that super food that is so fashionable these days?? Turns out they grow easily in our climate and as you can see this one still has fruits in December! Perfect for pepping up your muesli:)
A few more pictures from that morning when we went to see the sunrise at the beach. I want to remind myself of the luxury feeling of having the empty beach stretched out before us as we walked along with no destination, nowhere we needed to be at a specific time, just the freedom to stop and watch the waves crashing over and over again, or to examine the amazing patterns on huge jellyfish or the multitude of tiny stones and shells washed up on the shore. I want to bring more and more of this peace into my daily life, without having to go far to find it.
For ages I’ve been meaning to get up early to enjoy watching the sun rise. Though sometimes I witness gorgeous sunrises as I cycle to work in the winter, it’s not like I really take the time to enjoy them to their full extent. When we’re on holidays, Paolo and I do our best to see the sunrise, somehow it’s easier to get up at an ungodly hour when you know you can indulge in a leisurely nap in the afternoon. However lately I’ve been feeling I want to experiment with weaving more of the fun things we give ourselves space to do in the holidays into daily life.
So I decided to simply set the alarm at 5:30am on my free Friday, and after some inevitable snoozing, I got up and headed outside to enjoy the morning light as it appeared. When I told a friend about it afterwards, she immediately asked ‘Where did you go?’. Actually this time I kept the bar low and just went out the front door and into the neighbourhood, nothing fancy but it was perfect!
I love being up and about before other people wake up, and it felt like I had the streets to myself. It was very quiet, with barely any cars or people, just lots of birds singing loudly to each other. As I explored, I decided to be mindful and focus specifically on the light as its slanted rays started to shine on the peaceful world around me. I took my time and noticed what my eyes were drawn to.
The most magical detail was the dew, one perfectly round drop hanging onto the tip of every single strand of grass, glistening in the sun. I’d never noticed that was what dew looked like up close, it was mezmerising! It is such a pleasurable way to start the day, I definitely want to do this again soon.
Those moments around dawn and dusk, when the light is soft and a magic glow shines on everything, are my favorite times of the day.
While we were in Capraia Paolo and I made a point to be outside and enjoy them often (even if it meant getting up at 5am to see the sunrise).
We have our own favorite ways of being in the moment: I like to take pictures and capture the gorgeous light, while for Paolo it is the best time for fishing. Over the years, I’ve taken tons of pictures of Paolo on different coasts, patiently casting his line against stunning backdrops of changing skies.
Dawn is particularly magical because it is so quiet, and as the fiery sun makes its majestic appearance, it feels like nature is putting on this show just for you.