JOYFUL GRATITUDE #186
I’ve been working remotely for the past week in a beautiful old house in Le Touquet. Living just a short stroll from the shore is wonderful. Everyday the beach and its surroundings look different, the weather varies a lot and it’s great to pop over and see what it’s like at different moments of the day.
I’ve been taking long after-work walks alone, savouring each step along the long white sand to the sound of the seagulls flying overhead, whipped by the wind, accompanied by the crashing of the waves as the tide comes up.
With my Mum, we’ve delighted in treating ourselves to delicious artisanal ice-cream, trying to combine swiftly eating the melting cones with chatting as we make our way in the sun along the esplanade.
I also explored the dunes, walking between the tufts of wild grasses blowing in the wind, taking deep breaths of fresh air and watching whispy clouds float quickly across the sky.
I’ve been spending more time than ever in my home lately, what with working from home and social distancing, and though I’ve been tidying and decluttering, that does nothing to help when my thoughts are whirling around my mind like a washing machine. The best cure for that, I’ve learnt throughout the years, is taking a walk around the neighbourhood.
So between two rain-showers, I pulled on my shoes and strolled along, lost in thought, until I passed a beautiful yellow bush, that was buzzing. On closer look, I found that it was full of pollinators: flies, bees and especially many many bumble-bees. I was amazed by the diversity of the bumble-bees: they varied in size, had different combinations of yellow, white and black stripes and even distinct ‘hair-styles’. But they all went about their collection of nectar like bunch of hungry teenagers tearing into an all-you-can-eat buffet!
I was thrilled to watch the bumble-bees buzzing around and to see such diversity. It was great to be reminded that even in such a small space between the wall and the side-walk, this modest garden is bountiful for so many pollinators and supports real bio-diversity.
By the way, if anyone knows the name of this plant with yellow flowers, please let me know in the comments:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #180
In the nearly 14 years I’ve been living in Amsterdam, I’ve never seen such a long stretch of warm and sunny weather. Yesterday, as it was a public holiday, the city was bursting with people which meant maintaining a safe distance was a challenge, so it was the perfect opportunity for a mini-adventure around the polder in Nieuw-West. It was a relief to escape to escape the crowds and take refuge in a much quieter area.
I love the feeling of freedom when pedaling without haste, being self-propelled with the light breeze and the warm sun on my skin. It felt so good to get away from the constructed part of the city and closer to nature. We heard frogs croaking loudly among the reeds, passed large flocks of grey geese lounging in the grass by the canals and even saw a tiny baby Shetland pony.
We had a destination in mind, the beautiful Amsterdam Bee Park, but finding it out of bounds (for COVID-19 reasons) didn’t deter us from exploring the area. Instead, we strolled along the wooden pathways of the poetically named Fluisterbos (Whisper Woods), which turned out not to be as calm as its name might indicate. Then we found a quiet stretch of grass that we had practically to ourselves, where we could chill in shade and play Frisbee undisturbed:) A restorative bubble of calm before returning to the bustling city.
Since we have more opportunities to explore close by due to the COVID situation, I really recommend to visit this area if you are looking for a day trip by bike from Amsterdam, there’s loads to do! See more info here, and for more of my own adventures: Fruit picking in Fruittuin van West, Local fresh fruit and Amsterdam Bee Park.
Last Friday, I went for a long walk in the Amsterdamse Bos to enjoy the lovely afternoon sunshine and magic hour. I ambled without destination or time-pressure, taking time to breathe and looking closely at the plants along the way. Spring has done wonders since I took photos there on a cold windy day back in the early days of confinement in March.
The wild flowers and purple grasses are popping up everywhere, brightening the path with their delicate shapes and burst of colours. I took a break to write my ‘Late-Afternoon Pages’ on a bench by the water, accompanied by the clamorous song of countless birds perched in the trees all around.
There were plenty of new leaves showing off beautiful patterns and colour combinations. It felt so relaxing to wander without haste for several hours, enjoying the softening of the light, until my stomach started to rumble and I decided to make my way home, the sun low in the sky.
Greeting card action for charity is still on-going – find all the details here and don’t hesitate to reach out:)
Recently I picked up a copy of the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed in my local little free library and started re-reading the story of her epic hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. I thought these adventures would be exactly what I needed to get my mind off confinement, but instead I find myself getting increasingly itchy feet. As I sat down to write this, I realised that four years ago at this exact time of year I was hiking along the Camino del Norte. No wonder I’m doubly craving that incredible feeling of freedom.
I find myself fantasising about getting up at the break of dawn to pull on the same clothes as the day before, with no other plan than to put one foot in front of the other and follow the yellow arrows, open to whatever the day will bring.
The Camino is nowhere near as difficult or wild as the Pacific Crest Trail, but I recognise that feeling of intense relief when putting down your backpack that Cheryl mentions and those descriptions of gobbling down all the food you can get because you are so hungry after a day of hiking. I will never forget how every apple tasted delicious, every tortilla sandwich was utter heaven:)
I loved being alone with my thoughts for hours, hearing just my feet crunching on the path and seeing the landscape evolving with every new kilometer covered. The quiet of the moments of solitude overlooking beautiful landscapes were incredible, as well as the fun times shared with other pilgrims of all walks of life met along the way. I think I may need to plan another long hike when it’s possible to travel safely again.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #177
I am grateful for people who plant flowers in public places for all passers-by to enjoy. Yesterday during my evening walk I came across scores of these purple and white flowers, billowing out from improvised pots in front of a corrugated iron warehouse. They’ve been pummeled by the recent rain we’ve been having and are in different stages of withering which to me adds to their beauty.
I was particularly drawn to the flower pictured below, which looks like an accurate illustration of how I feel in these days of confinement, half-up half-down. Both optimistic and overwhelmed, hopeful and afraid, full of good intentions and struggling to get started, aware of my privilege and self-centered, happy to simply get through the day and thinking I should be ‘doing more’, glad to connect with people and fatigued by video calls… I’m doing my best to remember that all these contrasting feelings are allowed co-exist and making space for them by being kind to myself rather than judgemental.
Every day lately I’ve been walking past the trees covered in stunning blossoms just around the corner from my apartment. Each time I make a mental note to take a closer look at their beauty before they all fall down to form a colourful carpet at the foot of the trees.
Today after dinner I went for a digestive walk and finally remembered to bring my camera with me. I caught the very last rays of sunshine before it dipped behind the buildings on the other side of the canal. The sheer number of them is breathtaking and I enjoyed watching them sway in the wind. I also love how the petals are a darker pink on the outside compared to the lighter coloured inside.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #173
Last weekend walking with a friend in the Amsterdamse Bos (with 1,5 meter safely between us!) we ended up in the cheery tree garden and found it was in full bloom! It was spectacular, but there were quite a few people around so I didn’t feel comfortable staying too long.
However the next day I felt drawn to return, so I went at the end of the afternoon hoping it would be quieter. Clouds appeared and an icy cold wind started blowing and soon there were even less people milling around. What I love about this garden is how much more beautiful in real life it is than on pictures. Looking up at the branches is enchanting.
The density of the white flowers, as well as the symmetry of the evenly spaced trees, the peace and quiet, a few ducks waddling here and there, you don’t know where to look to try to take in all the beauty.
I lay on my back on the grass in the last rays of sunshine and watched the branches swaying in the wind, the occasional black bumble bees flying up high among the blossoms. Each time there was a strong gust of wind the petals showered down on me like snow.
I agree with this sweet handwritten note found on one of the trees. So grateful for nature and how lucky I am to be able to take these lovely walks and witness spring in all its glory.
If you are cooped up indoors and can only go to the supermarket and back with a self-written permission slip, this post is dedicated to you. You may be wondering what spring looks like out there, well let me tell you it is magnificent!
In between the flurry of zoom meetings and skype calls, I’ve been taking walks in the parks around my neighbourhood. On Friday, the sky was overcast and it was cold and windy, but I went deep into the Amsterdamse Bos and walked for a couple of hours in no particular direction, letting myself be guided simply by interesting-looking branches with budding leaves.
From afar there was not much to see, but when taking a closer look, the textures and colours were amazing. Soon the trees will be green again, and I am so glad to have the possibility to witness the transition of the seasons and observe these wonderful details.
After spending too much time reading the news on Saturday, I decided to go for a walk to get some fresh air, as it is unclear how long we will still be free to do so. I took my camera along and did what is best when my mind gets overworked, which is to enjoy forest bathing and focus on details.
So far in Amsterdam we are still allowed walk outdoors freely, as long as we keep our distances from others. There was a cold wind blowing, but the sky was bright blue with wispy clouds floating by. Spring is progressing undeterred by what is going on for us humans.
It felt really good to be among trees that are coming back to life after winter, with tender leaves budding and catkins of all sorts. I liked how the sun shone through the leaf above, creating a tiny scene with the shadows. As I was walking quietly, a male pheasant crossed the path and disappeared into the undergrowth, leaving me just enough time to admire its bright colours.
I was also captivated by this surreal-looking fungus which looks like very delicate skin. A quick google search leads me to think it might be a Wood Ear Mushroom – but I’m not sure and would love to know more about it if there are any experts reading this:)