JOYFUL GRATITUDE #208
Recently storm Darcy swept across the Netherlands leaving a layer of snow over the city and immobilising public transport. The first couple of days the clouds hung heavy and the wind was blistering cold, but that didn’t deter anyone from going out. The streets and parks were full of people dressed in full-on ski-suits and colourful hats and scarves.
Wrapped in my many layers, I also went to explore, enjoying the crunch of every step in the fine snow. It’s amazing how these paths, that I’ve been walking along so regularly during the last months to keep my sanity during lock-down, looked so new and exciting just thanks to a beautiful dusting of snow.
It was also fun to watching people on long-distance skis making laps around the park, children on fancy sleighs or simple constructions made from kids’ chairs cleverly tied together, snow-people and snow-forts being built on the side of the road…
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.
I’ve been in France for a month already and how these weeks have flown by. They were my last working weeks as I have left my job. I worked hard until the end and now I am excited take some real time off, time to reflect and think about what next. It feels like such a luxury now to not need to rush to get back to work or fret about work-related questions. I’ve really been appreciating spending time in the garden, a wonderful risk-free place to relax in the COVID times.
I’m taking time to sit on the bench in the garden and slowly write my Morning Pages while the sun warms my legs, surrounded by yellow flowers on thin stalks.
Time to watch bumble bees feasting on the lavender bush and different types of butterflies joyfully fluttering from other parts of the garden, keen to get their share too.
Time to look up at the eucalyptus tree, planted in memory of the time we spent living Down Under, its leaves different tones of green and even red swaying in the wind against the bright blue sky. Its thick bark peels off in strips, that crunch underfoot and its fragrant leaves bring me right back to memories of playing in the bush as a child…
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #186
I’ve been working remotely for the past week in a beautiful old house in Le Touquet. Living just a short stroll from the shore is wonderful. Everyday the beach and its surroundings look different, the weather varies a lot and it’s great to pop over and see what it’s like at different moments of the day.
I’ve been taking long after-work walks alone, savouring each step along the long white sand to the sound of the seagulls flying overhead, whipped by the wind, accompanied by the crashing of the waves as the tide comes up.
With my Mum, we’ve delighted in treating ourselves to delicious artisanal ice-cream, trying to combine swiftly eating the melting cones with chatting as we make our way in the sun along the esplanade.
I also explored the dunes, walking between the tufts of wild grasses blowing in the wind, taking deep breaths of fresh air and watching whispy clouds float quickly across the sky.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #173
Last weekend walking with a friend in the Amsterdamse Bos (with 1,5 meter safely between us!) we ended up in the cheery tree garden and found it was in full bloom! It was spectacular, but there were quite a few people around so I didn’t feel comfortable staying too long.
However the next day I felt drawn to return, so I went at the end of the afternoon hoping it would be quieter. Clouds appeared and an icy cold wind started blowing and soon there were even less people milling around. What I love about this garden is how much more beautiful in real life it is than on pictures. Looking up at the branches is enchanting.
The density of the white flowers, as well as the symmetry of the evenly spaced trees, the peace and quiet, a few ducks waddling here and there, you don’t know where to look to try to take in all the beauty.
I lay on my back on the grass in the last rays of sunshine and watched the branches swaying in the wind, the occasional black bumble bees flying up high among the blossoms. Each time there was a strong gust of wind the petals showered down on me like snow.
I agree with this sweet handwritten note found on one of the trees. So grateful for nature and how lucky I am to be able to take these lovely walks and witness spring in all its glory.
There’s nothing like cold, windy days for staying inside and pottering about the house while listening to some great podcasts. Here are a few of the ones I’ve been particularly enjoying lately:
- This beautiful episode about DELIGHT on This American Life and its reminders of how to find joy in all sorts of ways at any age.
- Really loving learning about all sorts of feminist topics while laughing out loud with The Guilty Feminist – super fun, amazing and inspiring stories!
- How to fail reframes failure in a lovely way. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially in vulnerable times, because it reminds me that everyone learns the most and grows by failing, it’s just part of being human.
What have you been listening to lately? Any recommendations?
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #167
Last year I decided to try and take a day off work every so often, just to recharge my batteries and make more space for myself. The first and last time I took such a random day off it felt wonderful and I’m surprised to see that it was almost a year ago already!
In late January, I planned to take another such day off, in the middle of February. It seemed like ages away at the time, but I’m so glad I blocked time for it in my agenda as it felt perfectly timed. So grateful to past-me for scheduling it;) I also enjoyed the special feeling of being free while most people are at work.
I planned absolutely nothing and spent the day taking it very easy. I thought about what I felt like doing in that moment and did it. I ended up watching a movie at home in the middle of the day (something I don’t do often enough!), cooked good food for myself, went for a long walk to clear my head and watched the rough wind ruffle through the grass, I took time to edit a fiction piece I am writing… It was just what I needed:)
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…
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!
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.