Creative energy

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #178

Yesterday I was discussing with a friend how difficult we find it to sit down and write lately.  I alternate between times of acceptance and others where I despair about wasting this  ‘ideal period’ where I supposedly have plenty of time to write.  Interestingly the result is the same whether I beat myself up about my lack of writing or not, so I’m trying to remember that and take the pressure off.

Thinking about it some more today, I realised that actually that creative energy is being channeled in a very different manner lately.  It’s most likely serving me as much as usual, but being used to find inventive ways of navigating these tricky COVID-19 times.

Like devising new routes around the neighbourhood for my daily walk, trying to anticipate where there may be less people to avoid and on the way picking wild flowers  to brighten up the house.

Like finding various ways to recharge, be it a 3 hour nap on the sofa or treating myself to a taiwanese pancake take-away so I don’t have to cook dinner after a long day.

Like keeping in touch in ways that don’t involve a computer or a phone, such as writing a short card to be sent by snail mail, uncertain of when it will land in the recipient’s mailbox.

Like attempting to imagine what life might look like on the other side of this pandemic and journaling to keep track learnings I want to be sure I remember, of new habits I’d like to keep, optimistic plans I’d like to focus on…

I’d love to know, what are you imagining for after confinement?

How quickly we adapt

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #171

In trying times, it becomes even more obvious how much there is to be grateful for.  Here are some thoughts on my seventh day of social distancing.  I am so thankful for the fact that I am safe and healthy, and so is my family.  Also, I can work from home quite easily and I am lucky that I don’t have to juggle work and taking care of children like many people do.

I’m impressed by how fast we can adapt to a new reality, however unexpected.  The initial ‘hamstering’ of pasta and toilet paper now seems to have slowed down.  Seeing so many neighbours come to their windows at 8pm, to clap for the medical staff and others performing vital jobs, is heartwarming.  When I watch series, I catch myself feeling surprised when I see characters shaking hands or hugging each other, because I am so aware of the need for physical distance.

This week has been a remarkably social one. I’ve had increased digital contact with family and friends, near and far, from all over the world. I’ve connected with friends online to catch up over a glass of wine, I’ve seen pictures of my colleagues’ home-offices and pets (one has a bat who nests in his house!), as well as received and passed on an inordinate amount of memes.

So far, in Amsterdam we are not in lock-down, so I am also taking lots of walks while I can. I’m deeply grateful each time for the freedom to leave the flat and witness spring unfolding.  Those walks are definitely helping to keep me grounded and I’m sharing these photos for those who don’t have the possibility to go outside as they wish at the moment.

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Good times with friends

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #162

I am grateful for the good times with my friends based here in the Netherlands.  As I don’t live in the same country as my close family,  I appreciate how vital it is to be surrounded by people who I can really connect with and be myself around:)  I hope these first weeks of 2020 set the tone for the rest of the decade.

We’ve had the chance to spend quality time exploring the Veluwe, inspiring each other, chatting about our hopes and intentions for the new year and making collage dream boards, having good laughs, watching a great documentary and sharing our thoughts about it afterwards until we got kicked out of the room, motivating one another to go for lunch walks together to refresh our minds amidst busy work meetings… I feel blessed to have such wonderful people by my side to make the days a little sweeter!

Seaside bliss

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Just back from holidays. The kind of holidays that are basically just sleeping in, reading, eating good food, taking naps without setting an alarm clock. The kind of holidays that I actually come home rested and recharged from, having watched the tide come in high and retreat over hundreds of meters, having spent fun moments with my family, having breathed in the salty air of the sea, having been cleansed by strong winds whipping fine sand onto my calves, having strolled slowly back and forth along the shoreline my bare feet sinking into the wet sand, processing my thoughts and searching for colourful seashells…

Relaxing walk

IMG_3454JOYFUL GRATITUDE #41

The great thing about working from home once in a while, is that on those days I don’t need to cycle back through the bustling city and instead as soon as I finish work I can take a relaxing walk around the neighbourhood to get some fresh air.

I’m grateful for a lovely stroll with Paolo, along our usual route (a.k.a. la via Fannigena) that is bathed in sunlight in the early evening.  As we walk and chat, we have our tiny habits like stopping to look if there are any treasures in the free little library, people-watching and checking on the tiny fruit garden by the canal. It’s always such a nice way to reconnect after a busy day:)

Beautiful hikes close to Amsterdam

Recently I was asked for some tips of good places to go walking in nature near Amsterdam. Going hiking in the Netherlands may not seem quite as exciting as say exploring the Scottish highlands or climbing the volcanic peaks of Madeira… however I still believe it’s better to get outside and regularly enjoy nature close by, than waiting until the next big trip.

In the last few years with Paolo we’ve been exploring places close to Amsterdam on the weekends: just taking the train in the morning, walking a few hours and being home before night falls, whatever the season. We always take along a tasty picnic to enjoy on the way, which makes for a great low budget excursion.

Here are my favorite places to go hiking that are accessible by train and less than an hour from Amsterdam, making them perfect for a day trip.

Kennemerduinen

There are slight slopes up and down the dunes, pine trees, you can easily follow the paths and indications in the Kennemerduinen. We usually walk to the sea and back, always ending up taking slightly different paths. You will probably spot some beautiful highland cows (aka ‘hairy coos’).

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Train stations: Overveen, then a 15mn walk to the visitors center at the entrance of the park (where you can enjoy a hot drink)  or Santpoort-Noord

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Castricum

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Walking through the sandy dunes of the Noordhollands Duinreservaat is very relaxing. Here also we make our way to the coast, enjoy the sea front and walk back. There are forest parts and open dune landscapes.

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Train station: Castricum
You can have a coffee and cake at the very cute Hof van Kijk Uit cafe, which is in not far from the entrance of the park.

(This was a one off, but once in summer we came across a small shelf by the path where a local farmer had placed organic strawberries, a sign encouraging passers-by to buy them and a small box to collect the corresponding money.  I love these types of trust-based initiatives and the strawberries were delicious!!)

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Waterleidingduinen

The many dunes of the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen are not only useful to filter rainwater which is then turned into drinking water for the city of Amsterdam, it’s also a magical place for a stroll. You’ll come across deer grazing peacefully all around and if you’re lucky you may even see a fox.

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Also, the plants are beautiful and diverse (including many mushrooms), and even in the winter months there are surprising colours, as you can see below.

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Train station: Heemsteede Aerdenhout, then about 15mn walk to the park
Day entrance is 1,50EUR. No bikes are allowed.

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For more ideas of walks from one train station to another on NS information – you can filter per region, length and even type of the walk (forest, dunes etc).