Showing up, quirks and all

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #84

I’ve been enjoying the longest days of the year to go on after-dinner walks and the neighbourhood is more and more beautiful with a multitude of different flowers blossoming all over the place.

I am grateful to the imperfect flowers who show up in all their splendour despite the fact that their petals are slightly wonky and uneven. These are the flowers I like best, they seem like a kind reminder to forget wondering ‘what will people think’ and just show yourself as the unique beauty you are.

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*****

More imperfect beauty from a mindful stroll and a winter walk.

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Solo cinema

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I like going to the cinema with other people and though that’s what I do most of the time, going by myself from time to time feels like a treat.

Firstly, it means that I can go see whatever film I want at exactly the moment that suits me, deciding at the last minute based on my mood (I’m lucky that in Amsterdam there are tens of movies on at anytime).  I love sitting quietly alone in the theater, waiting for the room to go dark and movie to start, watching the other movie-goers coming in or just lost in my thoughts.

Most of the time I choose those arthouse and coming-of-age movies that are beautifully shot and quite slow. At some point I often have tears rolling down my face and being alone I can unabashedly cry at the tough situations the characters are in, completely taken by the story, without worrying about whether anyone else is enjoying the film.

Afterwards, I can let the movie sink in and reflect on it without talking about it immediately with others and hearing their thoughts. The whole experience leaves me feeling recharged, like I’ve lived a sliver of another life for a couple of hours and opened to new horizons.

In celebration of free Fridays

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #83

I am deeply grateful for having every Friday off.  Today I am alone at home, the appartment is completely quiet, there is nowhere I need to be. I am enjoying a cup of coffee and I can slowly come back to myself and process the many experiences that string together to form every ordinary week.

Usually in the morning on my day off my thoughts are a-flurry, then little by little they calm down and new channels seem to open in mind, unrelated topics start to come together and ideas that hadn’t properly been worked through take on a new meaning.

Working 4 days in a busy office and then being off for 3 days is for me a much better balance and I can really feel the difference. I feel like I have much more time to recharge as an introvert and that gives me space to do things that are important to me, and in the end that is what life is all about!

*****

Fun things to do on a day off:

Photowalk: Amsterdam Oud-West

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This weekend with a friend we planned a photo-walk in the neighbourhood of Oud-West. It was like a scavenger hunt with loose rules, we chose some topics to search for and decided to see what we would come across. It was really fun and a great way to get out of my comfort zone, photographing different things than usual, whilst we were chatting and exploring the neighbourhood. Here are some of the highlights:

  • While strolling along throughout the afternoon, several locals started talking to us. Like the lady who told us about the beautiful mosaic hopscotch below and how she had made it with her daughter. She told us that kids often play on it, as well as adults and that it brings a lovely vibe to the sidewalk in front of her house. (In passing, I learnt the Dutch word for hopscotch: hinkelen!)

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  • It made me regain some faith in humankind. This is linked to the point above, people are friendly, eager to connect and busy with nice itiatives. For example, this little table with cherries and cool water was set up in the context of an ‘open gardens day’ by a lady who told us all about how she planted many flowers to beautify this little square which she takes care of herself.

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  • I was amazed by how many things I noticed.  Even though I had cycled down many of the streets before, walking allowed me to see the neighbourhood in a whole new light.  Also being on the lookout for interesting things to photograph made us more alert. We spotted new cafes and restaurants, shops and even this hairy caterpillar with its amazing yellow crests that was methodically chomping away at this leaf. 

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  • My curiosity was sparked by things we came across and I even learnt some new things. On seeing this mural, we pondered whether this gentleman was a mathematician…  as one of the topics we were hunting for was ‘mathematical object’. When I got home, I googled it and found out it is Huygens, who was indeed a mathematician, physicist and astronomer.
    I also looked up what type of butterfly would emerge from such a peculiar caterpillar and actually it is a moth – the Tussock moth. It turns out there are lots of different Tussock moth caterpillars, all rather hairy and in different colour palettes.

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Nature’s wisdom

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #82

I’m not much of a cut-flower girl, as I usually prefer potted plants which have a longer life. However lately we’ve had peonies around the house on several occasions and I have to admit those colourful flowers can brighten up a room! I’m loving that pink and the messiness of those gorgeous petals…

It seems like each peony has its own character.  When Paolo brought them home, they were all still in their tight buds, but some of them burst open in the space of a few hours, like they couldn’t wait one minute longer in the constricted space of the bud and wanted to show off their beauty.

Others, which we have nick-named ‘the oppositive ones’, refuse to rush and stay in the bud much longer, taking their sweet time to emerge petal by petal when the time is right for them.  I’m seeing this as a kind reminder from nature that it doesn’t matter what your rhythm or speed is, you are worthy and beautiful anyway:)

Letting the flowers grow wild

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Some sunny days are for making an effort to take the train and go for a long walk outside the city, and others are for choosing simplicity and being outdoors close to home.

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Whenever I need a ‘bowl of fresh air’ (as we say in French), after a long day on the computer or when the sun finally appears from behind the clouds, I usually head to this spot in the Schinkelbuurt, just behind the Olympic Stadium.

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I love how the wild flowers and grasses have been left to grow freely, rather than being neatly mowed to the ground as they usually are. It makes for wonderfully messy spaces, bursting with all sorts of plants swaying in the breeze, the perfect playground for many insects and feeding ground for the moorhens, ducks, swans and other birds that abound.

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Though it’s not even 10 minutes from my flat, spending some time there always helps my mind to reset.  It’s a great place for people-watching and subtly eavesdropping on parts of conversations as the locals walk their dogs or cycle by, while the kids jump bravely into the water when it’s warm outside.

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*****

It’s a beautiful place in all seasons: winter, spring, summer, autumn

Word on the water

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #81

Bookstores are magical places for me. I get lost for hours, attracted by the colourful covers, picking up one book after another, feeling their weight, reading the back and thinking about all the wonderful stories I have yet to discover.

While in London, we stumbled across Word on the Water, a barge which houses an independent bookshop on Regent’s Canal, close to where we were staying.  As we passed several times over the course of the next days, we got a peek into the rhythms of this lovely bookshop.

First time we passed by it was not open yet and a dog snoozing blissfully in its own armchair in the entrance. Later that evening, there were musicians playing a concert on the roof of the barge.  As the music drifted to our ears, we explored the shelves full of new and second hand books, in the cosy interior, trying to find some treasures. Another day, some students were staging a photo-shoot in extravagant glittery costumes.  I am grateful for independent shops, which bring life and joy to local neighbourhoods.

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Life along Regent’s Canal

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Despite the fact that I am a rather slow traveller, sometimes on a city trip it’s tempting to try and squeeze as much as possible into those few days of freedom and end up overdoing it.  So I’m very glad that last weekend in London we decided to spend our last day simply strolling along Regent’s Canal, instead of catching public transport across the city to visit another museum and rushing back to take the train.

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I love walking along Regent’s canal because it takes you outside the city madness and into a quiet world of it’s own, close to the water where another slower rhythm seems to reign.  Passing close to Camden Town reminded me of that stint in the spring of my first year at university when I would go running along the canal in the mornings with some friends from my hall of residence. I remember enjoying the morning light and watching the ducks, even though I was very much out of breath.

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This particular walk last weekend was beautiful, despite a few clouds covering the sky.  I loved looking at the small houseboats, imagining what it would be like to live in them or to plan a slow trip along England’s canals, living a life paced by passing the locks and taking the time to moor in unassuming places along the way…

Sunny London

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #80

Last weekend Paolo and I spent 4 days in London, a trip sparked, not by the wish to witness the royal wedding close up, but by Paolo’s gift for my birthday last year: a workshop with one of my all time favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert. The workshop was amazing and I am still processing all the magic that happened that day… It was the best gift ever!!!

Next to that we were really lucky to explore the city under the sunshine and blue sky.  I’m amazed by how much we experienced even though we took our time.  It was so much fun to roam the streets of my university days around UCL, go hunting for Caravaggio paintings in the National Gallery, catch up with dear friends, try delicious food in trendy new spots in Kings Cross, browse lengthily in second-hand bookstores, seeing Hamlet at the Globe theater and much more.

Beautiful balconies and windowsills – 6

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Rome, Italy

When your balcony is so overgrown that you can’t even open the shutters to step out into the sunlight

To see the other posts of this series, click here 🙂