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:)
Anyone who has spoken to me lately will know I am completely obsessed with my new weekly veggie box. The contents are all fresh and seasonal, grown just 10km away from my house, in the west of Amsterdam (on the polder I spoke about in my last post) before being brought to the center by electric bike.
The contents of the box vary every week and it’s been bringing lots of joy into my life lately, especially in these COVID-19 times. Having lots of fresh greens as well as carrots, radishes and spring onions ready for use, is perfect for whipping up a quick salad between two zoom meetings while I work from home. I also like the fact that most of the veggies I wouldn’t normally buy (or even find) in the supermarket. I’ve been enjoying getting out of my routine and experimenting with lots of new recipes.
Stinging nettles are my nemesis in the wild (somehow I am always brushing a little too close when I take photos of other plants), but I’ve been enjoying preparing dishes with them in the kitchen. I particularly like how mindful I need to be when cleaning the leaves. It’s possible to use gloves or a plastic bag around your hands, but I’ve found that simply using a fork to handle the nettles works fine, as long as I am concentrated. I enjoy carefully cutting the leaves from the stem and hearing the dry sound the leaves make as I drop them in the colander (it’s hard to describe, the leaves are not soft like spinach or salad, it sounds more like paper rubbing together…)
So far, I’ve made delicious linguine with nettles and sun-dried tomatoes, a nettle risotto, and otherwise just added remaining nettle leaves to my stir-fry. If you have other nettle recommendations, I’d love to hear them:)
As I start my fourth week of social distancing, I am trying to disconnect more. To let go of that tether that is the internet and its ever-updating news, and instead be more aware to things around me. I’ve worked from home to the best of my abilities, and had calls and creative session with loved ones. It’s also been a beautiful weekend of sunshine. I’m doing my best to be grounded in the present.
I’ve taken daily walks, mindfully keeping my distance from others, smiling at those I coming my way to ease the act of changing sidewalks. I’ve found a sunny bench to sit on and watch the world go by as I drink coffee and write my Morning Pages. In pots on the sidewalk, plants are showing off their beautiful colours and uncanny shapes.
One evening, I heard rustling under the sink, like plastic being moved around. When I opened the cupboard to see what was going on, a mouse popped out and paused for a moment on the edge of the bag that contains the recycling. We stared at each other for several seconds, motionless, before it disappeared behind the wall. I’ve not had mice before so it feels like this little creature came to keep me company in these days of isolation.
I’ve also enjoyed the feeling the sun warm my limbs as I read and moving around the living room to follow the sun rays making their way to land on my orange wall and bathe the whole space with glowing light late in the afternoon.
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:)
BEHIND THE SCENES #2
Often I find myself drawn to plants that are slightly past their prime or have suffered under heavy rains.
I really enjoy capturing the details of an rebellious cowlick petal, dried-out leaves, a slightly wonky flower or fragile frozen petals… In a world where beauty is often constricted by strict norms, symmetry and fitting neatly into boxes, I love how nature has its way of showing that beauty can take many shapes and has nothing to do with perfection.
Striving to ignore the messages of the media and being mindful of unrealistic expectations is a daily practice. The unexpected charm of these plants is a wonderful reminder for me to be more accepting of my perceived flaws and loving myself as I am is probably the best way to resist a system that is not doing us any good.
This is a theme that I keep coming back to. You can find previous musings on the topic here, here and here🙂
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:)
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“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”
This quote from Mary Oliver’s poem “Sometimes” is one that often get shared. I like its simplicity and straightforwardness considering the vastness of the scope (it would be hard to be so direct for something as small as how to install wifi on your phone). It works for me, I am repeating it to myself, trying to be mindful and to follow the instructions…
It’s my reminder to be in the moment, with a beginner’s mind that allows itself to be astonished at whatever catches its attention and to share it. For example, look at these flowers I saw at the Botanical Garden. Don’t they look a little like tall hats? And how gorgeous is the winding stem holding them together with its copper green tint? Just beautiful:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #136
Half of the year has flown by, summer is in full swing and I find myself looking back at what the last 6 months brough with them, delighted by how much of it I had no inkling when the first days of January rolled around.
I followed a 2 day workshop with Julia Cameron and kept a nearly daily Morning Pages practise since (which is a great support in getting my ideas clear:), I applied for a new position at work, got it and am somehow pulling it off for two months already, I followed two 8-week writing courses and had a lot of fun getting inspired and crafting 13 pieces of stories and poems for class, and I sold a whole bunch of (post)cards with my designs to family, friends, colleagues and friends of friends…
Also, I’ve been lucky to spend lovely afternoons in (botanic) gardens taking pictures of plants, I’ve kept up with boxing practise, I’ve travelled to Cologne, Paris and Sicily to spend time with family and friends, catching up, drinking tea, eating cakes and spent good times and seen cool movies with friends in Amsterdam too. For all of these things and all the other mundane and extraordinary moments, I am extremely grateful! I am also looking forward to what the next months will bring with them.