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 #207
Lately I am trying to walk at least ten thousands steps a day in an effort to move just a bit more. Even when the weather is grey and cold, I lace up my boots, pull on several jumpers, wrap myself in my warm scarf and beanie and head out, motivating myself to wander a bit further than I may otherwise.
Today when I reached the forest I left the paved road and focused on just one task, trying not to slip on the muddy path. It was the perfect way to connect with each step and be in the moment. On a drier part of the path, I spotted a multitude of yellow catkins, flashes of colour in the bare undergrowth. They swayed lightly in the chilly wind, my fingers getting more and more frozen as I did my best to look for a pleasing composition.
On the way back, I was captivated by how the light shone through this mushroom, playing with the intriguing shapes. I experimented for a while, trying to capture those translucent effects despite the luminosity. By the time I got home, even if my fingers ached with cold in my gloves, my feet were warm and I felt energised.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #207
On the last day of 2020, I took a long solo walk in the Amsterdamse Bos. It was a calm sunny morning and I wanted to be outside and feel the cold air on my cheeks as I reflected about the crazy year that was coming to an end. The path I chose to walk down was a bit muddy at the start which I guess discouraged other walkers and so I was alone nearly the whole time, accompanied just by birds singing and fluttering from branch to branch. As I strolled along slowly, it turned out to be a treasure trove of gorgeous winter details. I especially fell in love with this beautiful purple colour – also to be found on the photo on my last post. I will never tire of the unexpected colourful details to be found in the forest and the joy of observing nature as it moves through the seasons.
It’s that time again, those winter days when I reflect on the past 12 months and carefully choose what word(s) will guide me for the year ahead. Words that I will keep in mind and can turn to when I need a little nudge in the right direction.
Some years the choice comes to me quickly. But as 2020 ended and 2021 came around I was still scribbling suggestions in my journal, turning words over in my mind as I walked or while in the shower, trying to find out what it was I really wanted to emphasise in 2021. In the end I selected the words EXPLORE WITH EASE.
What I am inviting in my life this year is having energy to explore new activities or topics with a sense of ease. Often when I try new things, the overachiever voice in my mind tends to insist loudly that whatever I decide to do must make absolute sense and be done as efficiently and perfectly as possible. This doesn’t leave me much wiggle room for experimenting or making mistakes. All this pressure can feel quite paralysing, turning anything new into a big deal and frankly putting me off trying at all if I cannot be assured that I will succeed with flying colours. That’s why I want to add EASE to the equation.
By doing so, I feel like I can let go of the worry of pushing myself too hard, berating myself if I ‘do it wrong’ and feeling drained. I will do my part to identify what I am curious to explore and I will look out for ways in which I can bring ease along for the ride. I already have a bunch of ideas to delve into: doing more freelance work, experimenting more with photography, reading books that are outside my comfort zone, improving my writing, finding a new part-time job, exploring new destinations by train and meeting like-minded people (when we can travel and gather safely again)… I trust that by being mindful, I can identify ways to lower the bar, allow the possibility of making mistakes and keep the process light and fun!
Have you chosen a word for 2021? I’d love to hear what it is and why!
In case you are curious, these are the words that I chose to guide me in the last years:
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?
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 #164
In January, I’ve been lucky to borrow several unputdownable books from the library. I am grateful to live in Amsterdam, a city with such a well-stocked public library, which means all these amazing books are easily accessible.
Winter is perfect for going to bed early and having the luxury of reading in peace after a busy day. I love the feeling of being in the middle of a great book and not being able to wait to dive back into it and find out what happens. I relish being drawn into new experiences and seeing the world through different characters’ eyes for a while. As a novice writer, I am in awe of the authors’ craft and hope to soak up their expert story-telling techniques and absorb their beautiful way with words.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #160
I am so glad that during the busy December days I took the time to plan a short trip away from the city with like-minded friends. Even though we were just a couple of hours from Amsterdam, it was nice to explore an area I’d never been to and recharge my batteries before going back to work.
Our long walks in the woods sparked all of our senses: breathing in the wintry forest smells, observing the mosses, lichens, fungi and other details, noting the undergrowth that had been upturned by boars (or so we think;), fingers getting cold as the sun dropped below the horizon, hearing the wild-geese flying by in the sky… We were lucky to have several days of sunny weather and the low winter light shining through the mist and the trees was magic.
I also particularly enjoyed our walks because they were fueled by real conversations, and also by deliciously rich brandy-fed Christmas cake and hot chocolate! The bar is now incredibly high for the coming walks in nature in 2020;)
Over the Christmas holidays, one afternoon I felt the irresistible need for some fresh air, my body craving to make the most of the little sunlight of the short winter days. So I grabbed my camera and went out, with no other plan than to walk along the streets close to home, open to capturing whatever inspired me. The light was beautiful, though I was clearly working against the clock to actually take some photos before darkness fell.
This simple window caught my eye, the colour and texture of the shutters with their half-moon crescents and the stack of mixed-and-matched plates drying in the rack. In my imaginary it brings up a feeling of home, cosyness, like everyone was off having a nap after tidying the kitchen together and in a few hours preparation for the next family meal will start…
I walked further, along the old walls of the village. A few families were out and about, several generations together walking dogs or most probably taking a digestive stroll in the chilly air. The last rays of sunshine lit up these bare trees, so it seemed like they were in the spotlight.
As the sun disappeared, I loved the sight of these pretty lanterns lining the street against the last colours of the sky.
My last find was this incredible mansion with its tower, the wooden beams in different tones of blue, perfectly colour-coordinated. It’ s a private house so I could only peer semi-discreetly from behind the wall, but I can imagine settling there to write a book, a steaming coffee by my side on an old wooden desk by tower window, overlooking the garden while birds flit in and out of the trees…
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #111
During the holidays my Mum suggested a mini road-trip to a pretty village called Chavenay, that she had driven through by coincidence, not far from our home town. It’s funny how it always seems more exciting to go further afield, than to explore places closer to home. In this case, we enjoyed some fresh air and had a lovely time exploring, simply by jumping into the car after breakfast on a beautifully sunny morning and we were home in time for lunch:)
It was a cold and wintery, with frost on the grass and a misty haze spreading over the plain. The light was soft, gently casting long shadows already around noon.
I was captivated by the small clumps of moss along the frozen walls, which was half green where the sun was slowly melting the ice away.
We took a short stroll through the streets of Chavenay and headed to the outskirts to see the horses, grazing peacefully on the side of the hill overlooking houses and old barns. We had a lovely chat as we walked along the road, taking in the view and the beautiful surroundings.