JOYFUL GRATITUDE #199
In the last few days, we’ve been blessed with some beautiful weather, and I’ve been trying to soak up warm rays of sun while it lasts. As the measures to curb COVID-19 get stricter again in the Netherlands, I realise how lucky I’ve been to be able to go on safely-distanced walks with my friends in the months since the start of the pandemic.
Though in the past my modus operandi was heading out my front door spontaneously and strolling through my neighbourhood by myself, since March I’ve had the joy of regularly meeting with different friends for a breath of fresh air in one or the other of Amsterdam’s lovely parks, instead of going to the cinema or sharing a meal.
The rhythmic motion of putting one foot in front of the other is so grounding and perfect for catching up, hatching plans and dreams, and speculating on how the next months will unfold.
We also discuss mundane things like latest tested recipes or series we are bingeing, watch goats hidden among high nettles or hunt for the corner of the park which catches the very last rays of sunlight… making these moments a real balm in moments of loneliness, difficult decision making and uncertainty about the future.
Sometimes our walks include an ice-cream, a good coffee or a ginger ale with a side of fries, but just the act of simply getting together and airing thoughts that have gotten stuck in a loop, and sharing a chat and some laughs is enough for me to feel human again.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #195
Sometimes all that’s needed for a full reset is spending an afternoon on the beach with a good friend, relentlessly whipped by the wind, hair flying in all directions, enjoying the sun when it appears from behind the clouds, until every ounce of stress has been blown away.
The beach is quite empty, with just a few kite-surfers performing impressive jumps and skids in the shallows. We sit watching the waves, talking peacefully and enjoying the snacks we brought along, carrots dipped in hummus, crunchy chickpea crisps, fresh figs…
We take tentative steps in the water, only to realise the sea is not that cold and so we walk along the shore, tiny waves lapping at our feet, sun on our cheeks, chatting as we go.
Fine white sand travels in mesmerising sweeps over the surface of the beach, piling onto our blanket and back-packs, grain by grain, until all our possessions are partially buried and every inch of our skin is covered in sand.
When I get home and I shake my belongings out on the balcony, I release sand from the folds of my towel, it comes pouring out of the side pockets of my back-pack, I brush it off my legs as best I can, and I realise I’ve brought home enough sand for a mini-beach of my own.
Only for a little while, as I go about cooking dinner, I leave just a few last grains of sand, safely tucked in between my toes, reluctant to fully let go off that beach feeling.
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.
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:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #169
Even if it has been a very mild winter, this week I clearly felt the sparks of joy linked to the first signs of spring. Like realising that I feel a tiny bit more energetic, and how lovely it feels to cycle through the city when it is still daylight on my way home from work, and feeling the sun’s rays a little sharper on my face during my lunch walk…
I am grateful for winter and its quieter days, but I am also glad that spring is on its way. I can’t wait not to have to wear two pairs of socks to keep my feet warm and to bundle myself in layers of clothes and scarves. I’m ready to watch nature waking up and bringing to the world its colourful buds and fresh green leaves, to hear bees buzzing among tiny flowers and watch ducklings by the canals. I look forward to the simple pleasure of sitting in the park to read in the sun.
What is it you most look forward to about spring?
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #107
The last few days have been definitely very rainy and grey. Somehow I am always surprised again at how dark this time of year is. The last of the autumn leaves are falling and in their place on the sidewalks Christmas tree stands are appearing. ‘Tis the season to hibernate and read books on the sofa snuggled under a warm blanket:)
In these days where I crave warmth and light, I’m grateful that I soaked up as much sunshine and vitamine D as possible during the lovely Indian summer we had. This is a photo from a walk a few weeks ago to this small artificial island just near my place where I come to often. On that very chilly afternoon, the low rays of sunshine over the water lit up the autumn leaves on this willow just beautifully against the blue sky.
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.