JOYFUL GRATITUDE #207
On the last day of 2020, I took a long solo walk in the Amsterdamse Bos. It was a calm sunny morning and I wanted to be outside and feel the cold air on my cheeks as I reflected about the crazy year that was coming to an end. The path I chose to walk down was a bit muddy at the start which I guess discouraged other walkers and so I was alone nearly the whole time, accompanied just by birds singing and fluttering from branch to branch. As I strolled along slowly, it turned out to be a treasure trove of gorgeous winter details. I especially fell in love with this beautiful purple colour – also to be found on the photo on my last post. I will never tire of the unexpected colourful details to be found in the forest and the joy of observing nature as it moves through the seasons.
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 #165
I’m grateful for the blue sky and winter sun, perfect weather for sitting peacefully by the water, without haste. A flock of white geese paddle by, as the sun warms my face. The willow branches sway in the wind. Two moorhens putter about by the shore, before diving into the water repeatedly and snacking with gusto on their catch. When a large boat passes by, the water brushes up on the rocks in small waves. It’s so grounding to be focused on these simple scenes that often escape my attention.
Today I’m sharing another photo from a lovely walk a few weeks ago in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. I love how this tree sticks out of the heather and rises up to the sky with its branches. Just looking at this picture reminds me of how good it felt to be outdoors, to be brushed by the elements, to feel the temperature shift as the clouds came and went, to be drawn to the amazing details of plants and lichens, to pay attention to the myriad of surprising shapes and textures…
I guess I’m spending a bit too much time at the computer, what with work and writing assignments/submissions, so I’m craving being nature and to slow down, undisturbed by traffic, notifications and other distractions. I think this weekend I’ll try to make some time for a little forest bathing:)
A year ago, on a cold January weekend, I attended an Artist’s Way workshop with Julia Cameron. I can’t believe one year has flown by already. At the time I was so low on energy that I hesitated to go at all. But I’m so glad I did. Those 2 days were a whirlwind of interactive exercises and small group discussions. Julia was intense, inspiring and very funny. I connected with amazing people from all walks of life. I laughed a lot, cried a little, and was reminded over and over again how we humans are all so alike and struggle with the same things. Since then I’ve been writing morning pages practically daily (which adds up to over 1000 pages of long-hand writing in lots of lovely journals!).
It took a while but I have now incorporated this practice into my routine, and I miss it if I don’t have time. I write my Morning Pages, mostly on the sofa before leaving the house or on my way to work in the tram, but I also scribble them while sitting in trains, cafés or waiting rooms, a couple of times I’ve written them in the silent room at the office, and sometimes I do them in the evening if I didn’t get around to them in the day.
I’m intentionally making time to do Morning Pages because I see that they are key to my mental health and have been crucial to recovering from burn-out. It really helps me to dump my thoughts on the page. I can better observe what is bothering me and find alternative solutions faster. Taking time to reflect also helps me process what’s going on around me and capture my learnings. Also, I find inspiration for creative projects bubbling up, and when I write about plans I have, they seem to happen quicker.
I’d love to hear if any readers are doing Morning Pages or forms of journaling, and what effect these practices have had on you.
When I was in Cologne visiting my sister recently, we spent a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon exploring the Botanical Garden. I was particularly excited by the many fern varieties on display, each one more intriguing than the one before.
I’ve mentionned before both how much I love ferns and how they are my photographic nemesis, so it was great to have some practice in trying to capture their beauty.
While I knelt down here and there in this fern paradise, my sister patiently wandered by my side and was a perfect assistant, placing herself in such a way that no direct sunlight fell on the plants if needed and looking up the species’ names on the ‘plant shazam’ app.
I really love the tightly wound extremities, like tentacles, ready to unfold and stretch out into the world, as well as the different textures and colours.
Sunday as I cycled home from the bookclub, I noticed some bushes covered in what looked from a distance like small yellow tassles, against the blue sky. After picking up my camera at home, I took a short walk back through my neighbourhood until I reached the square, located between four roads, where spring is starting to show in the nurtured flower beds.
I took a closer look at those branches to find them covered in what looks like cheerleaders’ pompoms made with crepe paper, encouraging ravenous pollinators to come visit them.
Though the purple crocusses popping up through the grass are more striking, I love the colour combination on these ones, perfectly suited for a 70s kitchen.
On branches that were bare just a few days ago, tiny leaves are sprouting, deep lines etched into their surface like the grooves on your fingertips after lying for too long in the bath, and clusters of tiny yellow flowers spread their pistils like antennas searching for signals in the warm spring air.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #115
January has come and gone, with its short days and a bit of snow sprinkled here and there. It turned out to be a month for getting more grounded, with indoor activities like making mood boards, journaling, reading and writing. It feels like ‘maintenance’ on myself to recharge and set a good basis for the months to come.
A recurring theme has been creativity. I am grateful for Paolo and my friends’ encouragement as I take steps outside my comfort zone. I’m glad to be stretching myself and trying new things which I believe will help me to grow in unexpected ways.
Lately I’ve noticed how when I give creativity some more attention, it starts to infuse everything. Taking the tram to the office becomes a chance to observe people and become aware of how the city is changing, rather than just a boring commute. Sitting in meetings at work is like watching improv theater, unscripted human interaction in an ecosystem complete with its unwritten rules and often incongruous behaviours. Cleaning the bathroom becomes a quiet time to search for memories hidden deep in my brain as inspiration for my next writing assignment. I can’t wait to see where these creative paths will lead me…
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #112
During my recent walk in the forest near my home town, at one stage I came across lots of ferns that had been cut down by the side of the path. I was mesmerised by their colours and shapes, which formed these wonderful dense and intricate patterns.
Ferns are one of my photographic nemeses, I love how they look (from shy, bright green ferns in the forest undergrowth to massive native Australian ferns that are more like trees) but always struggle so much to capture them in a way that does justice to their splendour…
I’m grateful to have had a chance to observe the beauty of these ferns and their patterns before they shriveled up and became part of the forest floor, it was the perfect opportunity to practice photographing them:)
As the city of Amsterdam gets more and more full of tourists, one place I love to escape to for fresh air and a quiet afternoon is the Botanic garden in Zuidas. Surrounded by modern buildings, it’s a lovely oasis of calm hidden within the bustling heart of the business district.
I really appreciate that the entrance is free of charge, making it accessible for anyone to come and discover their incredible collection of plants. While I was there last I also saw several patients in wheelchairs coming from the nearby hospital for a change of scenery.
There is an incredible diversity of plants making each visit a new experience as the seasons change. Last time thanks to the Indian summer, there were still a multitude of flowers blooming in October.
It’s always a pleasure to slowly walk around, spot new plants and take in the details of the various species. The splashes of colour bring me so much joy.
It’s a real celebration for the senses with all the different colours, intriguing textures and unusual shapes. The perfect way to be in the moment and feel grounded.