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:)
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.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #170
In these strange COVID-19 times, I feel thankful for the fact that some preventive measures have been put into place and it means life is slowing down in an unprecedented way. I know this crisis is negatively impacting thousands of people, and that many health professionals will be working overtime in extremely difficult conditions. So I appreciate that this feeling of gratitude comes from a place of privilege (I am not in the most at-risk group; I have a safe place where I can keep my distance and that is also the case for my family; I can easily work from home and keep receiving my salary etc).
Only time will tell how the next weeks and months will turn out. In order not to get too anxious, I’m trying instead to focus on the upsides of seeing what life is like when dialing back from the frenetic pace we are used to. For now, I’d like to embrace this slowing down as an opportunity to rest and reflect. I may use some of that down time at home to simply declutter the apartment, do some writing and work my way through the pile of books waiting to be read on my nightstand…
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.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #161
Yesterday evening I sat down to write a letter. Though I do regularly send postcards, taking the time to write a proper letter made me realise how rarely I do so. I was writing in response to a letter from a dear friend, written a couple of months ago. Her familiar hand-writing covering several pages of lined paper, bringing me her thoughts and fragments of her life from the other side of the globe. A physical letter that I have pulled out, unfolded and re-read since I received it, thinking of my friend, taking the time to contemplate what I’d like to answer and tell her about, the questions I want to ask her…
So yesterday alone in the quiet of my flat, I finally took out some recycled paper and my favorite pen, and got writing. About banal things, how the holidays had been, what I’ve been up to recently and what is on my mind of late… The pages filled up quickly, thoughts flowing and getting more personal as I scribbled them down. I ended up with a neat pile of numbered pages, slipped tightly into an envelope which will make its way across the world.
I love that letters don’t demand an immediate reading or a fast answer. They can stray in the limbo of the postal system. By the time my words arrive, a couple of weeks will have passed, new events will have unfolded, thoughts will have evolved. The snippets of my life contained in the letter will be about an earlier-me, and penning the thoughts helped me to figure out what they meant to me at the time.
I’m enjoying these quiet days with my family, baking cakes, chatting, eating delicious meals and of course napping. This afternoon, I decided to get some fresh air before nightfall. I wandered with no particular destination in mind, turning into random streets in the neighbourhood, open to whatever I may come across. When I set out, it always takes a little while for me to start noticing details. At first, everything seems uniform, I just see houses, walls, gates, sidewalks…
However when I start to look more carefully, interesting colours and textures appear. Hanging from long vines, these beautiful dry flowers caught my eye, so in the last light of this overcast day, I played around trying to capture the simple delicacy of their unruly petals, while they were blowing lightly in the wind.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #132
Last Monday with some friends we did a walking meditation, 20 minutes of very slow walking in a small park in the city, focussing carefully on each step, lifting my foot, moving it forward, the shifting my balance, placing it down, trying to feel every part of the movement.
It had just rained, the air was fresh. After a while it became like a trance, sometimes managing to block out the noise of traffic around. I became more aware of everything around me. The wet grass at my feet, the drops of water on a seesaw, beautiful roses of different colours and the way tiny caterpillars were roaming on their petals. The goal of the exercise was not to focus on the caterpillars but they were very cool, bobbing their little heads up and down.
I felt so calm when we were finished. It reminded me of how often I am caught up in a rush to get from A to B, and how much there is to feel and see when we are in first gear instead of at full speed. I am grateful for these lovely mindfulness sessions and deep connection with a bunch of kind and open friends. It was amazing to share this experience together and get back in touch with my meditation practise.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #126
By the time this is posted, I will be in Cologne spending a few days visiting my sister for the long Easter weekend. I cannot wait to explore the city together, organising our adventures around nice places for drinks and food:) We’ll be catching up over amazing veggie meals, open to discovery and chilling in the park while chatting about everything and nothing!
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?!
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #102
Last weekend we spent a lovely, slow-paced weekend with my Mum and her partner who were on a visit to Amsterdam. I must admit, for many years I wondered why my Mum would systematically come to visit at the end of October, when the wind is icy, the rain always ready to tumble from grey clouds and the days are getting shorter. But I think I’ve finally understood:)
It’s because with this weather no excuse whatsoever is needed to walk just 200 meters before feeling justified about going into the next cafe and indulging in some delicious cake, and staying cosily indoors while we catch up with each other and discuss possible travel plans for next year. Also, spending two afternoons in the dark of the cinema, being transported to other worlds through movies, is a totally acceptable pastime and way to keep warm. It offered the perfect occasion to discover a talented young pianist in the small room of the Concertgebouw and be moved by her stories and music, shielded from the cold outside. So grateful for these fun moments spent together!