Spring in the Amsterdam Hortus

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Spring time in the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam is enchanting! The garden is coming back to life with buds and blossoms everywhere you turn, from the sprawling beds on the ground to the trees, peering out from in between rocks and on flush bushes.

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I love how the changes with the seasons means every visit is really different. This time we took a tour, led by a guide who shared her knowledge and fun facts about different plants around the garden.

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But my favorite part was afterwards, walking along the winding paths with my camera, unrushed, spotting colours and textures of the new bursts of life, emerging under the sunshine, reaching towards the light.

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When, despite the sunshine, it got a bit chilly, I went to my favorite spot in the greenhouse to warm up and admire the captivating cacti… but I’ll write more about that soon;)

Signs of Spring

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fern patterns

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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:)

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A step back to reflect

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #104

Today marks 2 years of writing weekly about JOYFUL GRATITUDE, so like last year I am taking a step back to reflect a little on this practice. 

Writing the weekly post has the benefit of bringing me joy by re-living the moment and exploring what it was exactly that delighted me. Recognising those special moments helps to consciously create more of them in the busy day to day rush.  

I’d like to bring up one point however. It may seem when reading the weekly posts like everything is always rosy, as I focus on the good times, creating something  that may seem like a mismatch between real life and my tone here. In reality, I am struggling like everyone. Though I realise I am very privileged, I must still work hard to find mental balance and peace.

This weekly practice is an exercise in training my mind to zoom in on the positive, big and small things that bring me gratitude. Like everyone I struggle with bad moods, fear and doubt, but there is also a wise voice in me, like in all of us, and I trust that by writing regularly here, this voice is somehow guiding me step by step. I am deeply grateful for this voice tapping into a deep pool of wisdom somewhere beneath the surface:)

When having a quick look at the main themes that came up over the last year, there were no surprises. The top 3 can be categorised like this:
     1. Nature / Outdoors / Plants
     2. Quiet time / Reflection
     3. Mindfulness / Self-care

So that’s where I’ll continue to focus on the coming months:) Tell me, what will your focus be?

Mushroom wisdom

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #103

As I write this, the rain is pouring down outside. I am indoors, warm and watching rain drops slide down the windows, with a delicious cup of coffee by my side.  Like every week, I’m wondering what I want to write about.  I have a lot I am grateful for, so it is never a problem to come up with some ideas, but sometimes inspiration brings strange ideas with it.

Today I am grateful for this mushroom, spotted in a local vegetable garden on one of my afternoon walks, to get out of my head and into the fresh air while looking for some interesting details to photograph.  I felt so drawn to this beautiful mushroom and I believe it has wisdom to share with me. What is so special to me about this mushroom, you may wonder…

It stands tall and dignified, not wondering if it is sticking out or whether it looks funny.  It does it’s mushroomy thing, confident and unencumbered by the way other mushrooms look and behave. It is not questioning whether it is doing things right or well enough, and does not care what the leaves around it might say.  It is centered and grounded, fully in the present moment, unafraid of the rabbit that may come and nibble on it in the future.  I want to be more like this mushroom. These are the precious lessons that I am tucking away in the folds of my mind this week, to bring up again when the inner critic raises its head.

Healing walks in the Amsterdamse Bos

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #99

The Indian summer we are enjoying in Amsterdam at the moment is amazing.  I’ve been taking long healing walks through the Amsterdamse Bos, just listening to the breeze rustling through the leaves of the majestic trees which are turning all shades of orange and yellow, quietly observing the ducks, moorhens, herons and other birds go about their business undisturbed on the water, journalling as the sun warms my skin.  I am so grateful to have what feels like an unexpected extra shot of summer to charge up on fresh air and invigorating sunshine.

Conversation around a sponge mushroom

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Recently on my trip in the Veluwe, I was walking in the forest, enjoying having time to observe the details of the mosses, plants and funghi of all sorts. A man of about 65 or so overtook me on the path and said hello in the polite way people do in the forest, I greeted him back before going on with taking a close-up picture of whatever moss I was busy with.

A while later, as I made my way up a small hill, surrounded by ferns, I saw the same man come back along the path towards me with a smile on his face making a gesture of success. He told me he was glad to have found me as he had spotted a big mushroom that I could photograph. I was a bit wary, but I followed him, and sure enough he pointed to a strange mushroom on the side of the path that looked like coral.  I asked what type it was and he told me it was a ‘sponszwam’ (a sponge mushroom) and explained they can grow much bigger than this one.

While I took some pictures we had a little chat, each question unravelling something new. He reminisced about his childhood spent in Australia, in a small miner’s town in the 60s. He told me about taking his elderly mother back to Australia years later to visit their town and friends.  He spoke about his family and about the grief at losing family members and we talked about the healing power of nature and how he loves the Veluwe and drives all the way from Amsterdam just to be able to hike there. He showed me pictures of other mushrooms on his phone and explained that because he had Parkinsons he had trouble taking photos and needed to consciously breathe and try to steady his hands.  After chatting for a while, he simply said goodbye and went off on his way.

I was left standing in the quiet forest, next to the sponge mushroom, feeling positively surprised and grateful that this stranger had come specially to get me to show me this peculiar mushroom and that it had led to him sharing parts of his story with me.  I was struck by the similarities with my own childhood in Australia and the incredible nature there, and the conversation reminded how fortunate I am to be in good health and to keep turning to nature for healing.

Quiet time

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #94

Sometimes it’s necessary to break away from daily routine and take a step back to rest, reflect and let the busy-ness subside. I am deeply grateful to have that time and be able to escape for a few days and connect again with myself in the beautiful nature of the Veluwe.

Quiet moments at the beach

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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.

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Local fresh fruit

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In a country where there it can be tricky to buy organic fruit that hasn’t been flown half-way across the world, there is so much joy in picking our own fruit:)  We cycled to Fruittuin van West over the weekend and picked about 10kg of organic apples and pears, and a kilo of red-currants.

Did we overdo it? Maybe just a little…  I know we’ll have no trouble finishing them, slowly but surely, and I’m looking forward to our menu for the next weeks: oven-baked apples, red-currants with yoghurt, apple cake and more as inspiration comes to us

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