Small jungles

IMG_4903

Exploring a botanic garden is a great way to travel without needing to go too far. It’s the possibility of stepping into totally different worlds just a short bike ride away.

IMG_4893

These days we are slowly entering spring but it is still chilly outside, I particularly enjoy ducking into the warm green-houses, small jungles with a different climate to explore in all safety.  Hundreds of species inhabiting the very tight space, the plants so densely packed together and overflowing on the path that they brush you as you enter their world, the air is saturated with humidity, drops falling from the ceiling and settling delicately into the creases of the leaves. So much exotic beauty brought to our doorstep.

IMG_4907

Advertisements

Succulent inspiration

 

IMG_4904
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #74

Nothing like a quiet Friday afternoon in the Botanic Garden to slow down and bring my attention fully back to the present moment. I am grateful that my dear friend Eva joined me today (we have a history of visiting other botanic gardens together, spending hours exploring the Hortus which is just around the corner of her house in Leiden and also on a trip to Glasgow:).

We had a great time in the warm green-houses, observing the succulents, cacti and other plants, pointing out to each other many amazing details from the wide collection and getting inspired by the colours and patterns.

What we do when the sun comes out

20180407_184528

It seems that Winter finally got the message and handed over to Spring. Tiny little green leaves are making their appearance all around and we enjoyed some lovely warm weather in the last days.  Perfect for a weekend without fixed plans, allowing for a long improvised wander along the canals with my sister as we admired the city whilst chatting (and searching for ice-cream:)  It felt great not having my shoulders bunched up close to my ears permanently tensed against the cold, as we sat on a bench soaking up much-needed vitamin D and reading our books undisturbed while the sun slowly made its way across the sky.

Family time

IMG_4791

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #73

I am grateful for having had the luxury of a long weekend at home in France to recharge my batteries.  It was a pleasure to catch up with my family, chatting and laughing while enjoying delicious meals, a fusion of slow cooked French traditional dishes alongside Lebanese delicacies.  Cakes were abundant as always, as well as Easter treats in many forms (including an unexpected chocolate clam!).

Not everything revolved around food though, we also soothed our mind with some lovely spontaneous meditation sessions, lying side by side on our mats, our heads supported by lavender filled cushions as we did our best to focus on the guided body scan. It was particularly fun to debrief afterwards and compare our experiences:)

Forest bathing

IMG_4804[1]
Being in my hometown means I have the luxury of being in walking distance of the forest.  Yesterday I made the most of a rain-free afternoon to go for a walk. Though the trees have no leaves yet, the branches carry tiny buds and white flowers are growing on the forest floor, a glimmer of hope that spring is finally on its way.  The path is a little muddy, winding up and down the slopes and along old rock walls.  At some stage, we are deep enough in the forest to no longer hear the road, the sound of cars is replaced by the birds singing and the crack of the branches under our feet.

I love the feeling when my body gets into the rhythm after walking a while and my feet just carry me along, step after step with no particular goal, as I take in the beauty of the forest.  I could walk for hours like this, until my body is tired and my mind is clear.  In Japan they acknowledge the healing benefits of spending time in the forest and call it forest bathing (what a perfect name!), it’s even part of the national public health program. Imagine what the world would be like if every country did that?

Cooking together

IMG_4330

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #72

So glad to start the long Easter weekend early.  In the few hours since I arrived home in France a rhubarb crumble has been baked by my mum (filling the kitchen with the delicious smell of butter) and a huge pot of vegetarian bolognese sauce is now simmering away on the stove (the result of a team effort of mindful vegetable washing and chopping, whilst chatting away, laughing and catching up on each others lives in the past weeks:)

The view aligned with my mind

20180326_081554

This was the view of the canal at the end of the street, on my way to work this morning.  The dark atmosphere and the naked trees reflecting on the water were the perfect backdrop for how grim I felt waking up today in the new timezone of daylight savings, really missing that one hour of sleep.

I was about to call this post ‘misty morning’ but I just googled the difference between mist and fog for the sake of accuracy, and if I am not mistaken this is fog which is more dense than mist (glad to learn something new every day:)

 

Mindful commute

20180321_081250

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #71

This week in our meditation course, we made a list of our daily routine activities and were asked to indicate which ones we find depleting and which ones nourishing. A very interesting exercise, especially because many of those activities turned out to be depleting on one day or nourishing on another, depending on circumstances or state of mind.

An example for me is cycling to work. Being within cycling distance of work is part of the life choices I’ve made, and I am so grateful to be able to do so.  I particularly love the 10 minutes of the ride through Vondelpark.   As I cycle through the park, I find myself tuning in to admire the frost on the grass, focus on how the slanted rays of sunshine come through the trees, spot the storks that have come back to nest and feeling the fresh air on my face as I pedal along.

However some days I am less in tune to the nourishing side of my commute than others. When it is extremely cold, raining cats and dogs or simply still dark, I often find it hard to enjoy the ride and focus mainly on getting to my destination. Also, part of my commute involves riding through the city center with lots of traffic, not to mention the major road works that have been going on outside our office for 6 months. I experience that part as loud and stressful, and very depleting. My challenge is to be more mindful in this part of the ride and to accept being in that moment, instead of wishing it was different. Let’s see how that goes!

Time to move on

IMG_4659

Dear Winter,

Thank you for your request to prolong your contract.  We regret to inform you that, although you have performed remakably, we already have a replacement lined up.

For the last months, we were glad to use your cold days as an excuse to bundle up in blankets on the sofa to read for hours and watch movies, only going out when strictly necessary.  The snow you offered us occasionally was also much appreciated (as well as that one day when the ice was thick enough to skate on the Amsterdam canals).  Your crisp air and blue skies are stunning, however at the moment we are in need of something slightly different.

We are asking Spring to step in for a while. She comes with a strong experience in longer daylight hours and improving the weather. She will encourage sap to flow through trees, bushes to grow new leaves and flowers to show their brightest colours. Thanks to her contribution, it will soon be possible to leave hats and gloves at home, to enjoy after-work drinks outdoors and go for long sunny hikes in the dunes on the weekends.

Please rest assured that we value your efforts and look forward to collaborating again in 8 months or so.  In the meantime, we are glad to write a reference if you need it for the Southern Hemisphere. Enjoy being Down Under!

Kind regards,
[illegible scribble]

 

Repair in the time of planned obsolescence

IMG_5328
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #70

While I was in Brighton my camera stopped working.  I’ve grown attached to this camera as I’ve learnt to use it better over the last 6 years and it has travelled with me on adventures near and far.  In this age of planned obsolescence, I was worried I’d have to invest in a new one, when ideally I want to keep it for as long as possible, until it really can’t be fixed.

Thanks to Paolo, I discovered there is a shop 5 minutes from our place that repairs cameras.  They were professional and instead of encouraging me to spend money on a new camera body, they took my request for repair seriously and fixed it for me at a really good price. I am really grateful to have my dear camera back and hopefully it will accompany me on my neighbourhood walks and my travels afar for many more years:)