Category Archives: Life

Can one be suitably outraged, contented and peaceful all at once?

For a little while I have been thinking about blogging again. I miss it. The getting to know people through their stories. The new ideas, perspectives, the clarity it brings and the personal nature of it. I do wonder … does it even exist anymore, the blogosphere? Hello, is anybody out there? Or has it become something else, something I seek that used to exist. Is blogging simply a thing from the past that I pine for. Lately, I seem to pine for past things, past times. Times that can’t return. I can’t go back and yet I am unsure about which way is forward. So, I guess I will do what I do in these times, I will write.

It seems hard to feel excited about the future when the world is warming, fighting, trapped in an online vortex of some sort of bullshit alternate reality and it’s becoming so ridiculously expensive to live in, how can all of this be sustainable? And yet, everyday the world goes on and I do want to feel excited about that, and about life. I do want to have hope, adventure, fun times, laugher, good food, joy and sadness with my people and to live in my natural state of optimism. But … I don’t want to do that at the cost of living in denial about the world. How do we call bullshit on the bullshit and live peacefully, contentedly at the same time?

After being away from Australia for over 5 years I do feel the pull back. There are a lot of things I miss. I miss all things ‘Aussie’ish’. The things that are Aussie to me. My family, friends, the bush, the beach, the smashed avo and egg breakfasts, the humour, the language that shortens all words, the familiarity, the ease in which we are open, the 5 TV channels, all the things really and of course the warm weather. Maybe it’s belonging to something that’s a big part of me, of who I am that I crave. And for whatever reason I haven’t managed to create that sense of belonging to here – to where I am.

Yesterday, I said to a friend ‘I don’t think I have caught up to where I am in my life’. I am in such a different phase to the one we were in when we landed here. We arrived with young kids, a huge adventure on the horizon and now we have teens who are almost adults. When we left, I felt a world of possibility … and for a while there was this great sense of something new being built. The world seemed so big, anything, everything seemed possible. I felt on the cusp of something. What was that cusp though? And where did I climb down from walking towards it? What was it that stopped me in my tracks? Did I even stop in my tracks, or am I taking a longer route, an alternative route?

I am, of course, very much here and while a clear path back to Australia doesn’t seem to be looking at us right now there are lots of things I enjoy and love about this life. Train to Paris anyone? Take the bike kids! Oh I’ll be hiking a part of the Northern Camino for a bit, toodles. We have built something amazing, but still, something feels like it is missing. I should be able to find it here … right. The missing puzzle piece. I mean, I know the grass is never greener. Fact. And in the quiet when I think about what I miss the most about my ‘old’ life (aside from Aussie’ness) it is the doing of something that matters. I want to be someone who stands for something, for many things. For most of my life I have had a job where that’s been my day to day. From teaching kids at risk to supporting women in childbirth. Right now, I seem to be in an apathetic state. I don’t feel like I fit in here. I just don’t know how, or where to fight ‘the good fight’. What even is the good fight right now?

Some days I feel I am living in complete culture shock. I don’t understand the world. The big world and my smaller world. I know I’m not someone who wants to be super loud. I am no politician, and I am not striving for a leadership or big job. But I do want to do something that matters. Writing is this little thing I do, often in the quiet and and it does matter. It helps me to make sense of my world and sometimes it seems to also help others. Words can be magical like that. And when I’m lost in writing all the other not so important things, seem, well, just so not important.

In this post pandemic, post yearlong renovation, post kids growing faster than I have been able to keep up with time – I really need to find which way is North again. I think it’s changed for me and in this phase of my life, it isn’t so clear cut! The way forward really isn’t obvious. Decisions seem momentous with far reaching consequences. Where will the children end up, where will I grow old. And there is the simple fact that I am a lot less ‘cartwheely’ these days about the whole process of life and change. I can’t quite summon the energy for huge expectations and outrageously gung-ho plans. Which ironically and so not like me – I kind of like. This feels peaceful in its own way.

I did very simple things yesterday. I played music most of the day, I cooked a favorite meal for one of my loved from scratch, I started regrowing spring onions. I had some lovely conversation where there were no answers, but questions were asked. I started thinking about decisions without needing to make any. I think it is in these small things that the big things can unfold. And I was suitably outraged when I learnt that petrol is coming up through the sinks in a suburb south of Sydney. As well as the flooding. Climate change is happening in real time, I wasn’t wrong about that years ago when I left. Am I outraged by the fact that this is happening without consequence for those in power, or is it that I’m in a languishing, apathetic way that outrages me.

OMG I have reverted to being someone who apologises for taking up space. Have I become a bootlicker? What scared me? Who scared me? Last night in my outrage, I did send off a message to the universe (via the insta world 🤪) seeking a sign, willing myself to find some momentum and I did buy a sweater that said ‘if you’re not angry. you’re not taking notice’. So yeah, look, I’m pretty outraged at the world and myself for being a privileged ass.

Yes, dear friends it is time to face myself and to go in search of something. In search of a tribe maybe, or of myself and most definitely of my strength and courage. ROAR. It’s time to catch up to where I am before yet another year passes. To be outraged with bullshitand to be peaceful and contented with where I am. I don’t know how to solve the climate change problem or all the world’s injustices and I am ok with that. What I’m not ok with is not trying. There was a time when I was was sooo here and so connected that when I walked in the woods I could feel the pain of Mother Earth. I felt she spoke to me one time, I even stopped to write a poem. I am not sure why I’ve put my woo woo self to sleep. Perhaps, there have been too many other voices and just too many people with a different kind of energy around me. It’s just become too crowded. I know I need to wake her up though. I am certain of that. I need the woo woo. It is the essence of who I am and when I am in that space, I can see the North star.

So unapologetically in I go …

The Tuscan lesson.

Ciao dear friends. We can use ciao between us because we are friends, you and I all of us who hang out here. At first I found it difficult in my Italian classes to get over the hurdle of an informal and a formal language, why two languages within one? Today I get it. I found a reason. Indulge me while I write up the last of our Tuscan time with the recent musings of my mind. It’s time to take myself out from this writing slump I’ve landed myself in and share the end of this Tuscan holiday diary with you. So once again I can write to you from where I am now.

On the last day of our Tuscan escape we decided to follow our love of the home cooked Italian meal, we followed it up and into a restaurant in the mountains. Ristorante I Faggi was its name. High up at 1296m on the pass between the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Toscana she stands. A family restaurant serving meals directly from the Madre’s kitchen.

It was misty and cool as we made our way up the winding roads. We weren’t prepared for the cool and arrived in our shorts and t’s! We were grateful a table was available inside for us. I’m not going to lie it felt odd in these corona times to eat indoors on a cool, misty day. I didn’t settle in as I normally would’ve. I was conscious we were abroad and these times are corona times. For the first time it felt like what we were doing carried a degree of risk, perhaps it is because we were inside.

However, we were here now, committed to the eating and supporting this small family restaurant. So we ordered and decided not to feel fearful. The restaurant was small yet ventilated, we had our own dining room and there were few tables and guests.

And then it happened …

The food and the first bite. We were in home cooked wonderland. Have you been there recently? Tell me about your last such meal. The writing isn’t the only slump here, our food could do with a bit of spark.

Many hikers passed through here while we ate. In the future, when planning hiking trips are something we can do – I will be back. It reminded me of walking the camino and campervanning around Mont Blanc. There are many hiking trails in Europe where stopping for a cooked meal and even camping a night are part of the experience. I long for this again. When I hiked the camino I remember thinking how I could wander like this without a return date … perhaps in retirement.

The taste is one thing but also there is this feeling of community. The family run restaurant, the camaraderie among the hikers, the un-fancy yet welcoming decor. We were in someone’s home. More than that we were home, where we sat, who we sat with, what we ate and with each-other. It’s like what community feels like to me. To be eating food that’s sustainably made and sourced, amongst like minded people, surrounded by kindness, warmth and without expectations.

Of course I know community is more than this but this is always where I feel so complete, so home in myself, so at peace. Eating good food, kind people, my people and nature close by. A little bit of wild on the doorstep. In an adventure. All that is right with the world right here in this moment. Yes corona was knocking on the door, but at this moment in time it seemed to have gone to sleep for the summer.

This was the perfect last Tuscan meal and I’m rather pleased to be writing it up now. We’ve been back from our Italian break for a couple of months now and it’s time to come back here and finish this holiday diary. I’ve found myself in a bit of a writing slump. But today I relised the Tuscan lesson, it’s about what’s home. So I’m home. Home here. Home to writing. Home to creating.

Sometimes, I feel like I live in a state of culture shock. Not because I live abroad (although there is that) but because I struggle with pressure, rush, competition and convenience. And at times in my world these are unavoidable, in this phase of my life it seems more so than in the past. And these past years I have found myself frustrated and angrier with the world and the values I encounter in the world. More so than I remember feeling before.

Tuscany and the time since taught me something.

Community matters. Community feels like home. Community is about the people who meet you with their values, whose actions are aligned with making your heart feel warm and safe, whose heart paints your spirit with kindness. Whose speak connects to your soul, whose interests inspire you, people who arrive in your life to make you laugh when you least expect it. Our community isn’t everyone who lives near us, or all the ones who share the same settings (work, school) as us, nor is it all the ones who live in our feeds. Community is smaller than that, community doesn’t overwhelm us it protects us.

The Italian language also taught me something.

Perhaps, I need to know the two languages. The one I speak when I’m in my head, when I’m with the ones in my community and when I write. The informal one. The dreamy one. The one where I’m most at home. Where community means connection, noticing, hearing, reflecting, sharing and feeling. Where life is about attaching meaning to how we live and the choices we make. Where I am unafraid because I’m safe and among friends. I’m working at embracing and speaking this language more.

And the formal one. The one where when I’m in culture shock, where I need to step back or step away. Away from the allowing it to penetrate me because this is not the language that deserves my intimacy. This is not where I’m with friends, not where I’ll feel community. It’s not me. It’s not where I’ll be able to create anything because formality isn’t about dreamy. Giving myself here isn’t always aligned with my values. I’m investing less when I find myself here. Less in order to create more space for dreamy and for community.

And with this friends, the Tuscan escape ends!

What an amazing time. What a weird time to be away in the world. I’m glad we took the opportunity while we could. And I’m glad to have finally made some sense of the disarray this incredible experience threw me into upon my return. It’s not always easy to return to ‘as you were before’ when you’ve been moved by an experience! Impossible actually.

As a wise friend recently said to me ‘… sometimes you just have to sit it out for a bit’.

And with the the writing slump also ends. Ph-ew because I have so much to share with you. SO much.

A visit to the Tuscan Heart, Florence

Another day and another trip away from the Tuscan villa a.k.a. the bolthole. Today it was into the beating heart of Tuscany and the birthplace of the renaissance, Florence. Also the home of Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ and da Vinci’s ‘Annunciation’. I may need to get this out early in case I disappoint you. We went to Florence on this day and we didn’t visit any of these! No. Nessuna. Nienta.  But don’t worry I’ve seen them before … twice. On this day we simply wandered, ate and breathed in Florence.

You may see a theme evolving in our Italian trip. Food. And gelato. And contented smiles. Italians have worked it out you see. They know that pleasure and happiness is tied to enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Convivial times and food that comes from close to home and is cooked traditionally, simply and with heart. And of course they are fortunate in that everywhere they wander there is art in all its forms. From the architecture to the vineyards, Italy is purely romantic poetry for the soul. It is hard not to be in love with every second in Italy.

The Pizza Della Signoria, the Florence Cathedral and Ponte Vecchio all relatively empty. I have never experienced Florence in this way. Florence is so mind blowing of course it doesn’t matter who you share it with, but on this quiet day I took some very long, very deep breaths. I also ran into an Aussie friend on the Ponte Vecchio. Right now the world doesn’t feel small but in this magical brief moment of coincidence the world again felt small.

I danced with love today in Florence. For those of you who know us and me you will know Italy lives in our hearts and home. (Complete with the pizza oven.) Even writing here now I feel my heart flutter with a yearning. Perhaps it is curiosity. If I was 20 I’d take a year in Italy. I didn’t know of the possibilities then. I don’t want to lose this feeling. I’m nervous about when I return. Home to Holland where the food can’t be compared, where the cities, language, culture and landscape don’t captivate my spirit in this way! Where I’ll again be confronted with the realities of the current state of the world.

‘As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you.’ – Anthony Bourdain.

I feel the familiar stirrings of change. Of considering what needs to stay and what needs to be let go. Of missing what’s familiar and still craving what’s exciting. Of knowing I still have many chapters to write in this story of my life. That there is some stagnation inside that needs to be broken down so the flow of creativity and curiosity (the life blood) can be free. The marks of travel – the reminders, the peeling back.

Florence lives in us now. And also on one of our dining room walls. In the form of a little piece of Tuscan inspired art, bought on the street from an artist. After this day in Florence my eight year old declared ‘this is my favourite city in the world’. His siblings agreed. My job is done ;) Perhaps I won’t take them to Florence again. It seems a nice way to leave it for them to remember. I will of course come back. Maybe I’ll hike in one day. I’d particularly like to see the Botticelli again and breath in the Florence air. Dreaming is of course my air, my lungs are full. Full of Florence magic.

Tuscan Wandering.

Every window and every door of this traditional Tuscan villa offers a glimpse of postcard Tuscan wonder. This vista the view from the bathroom. When the end of the work week arrived last night, rather than a knock off drink the husband and I took ourselves off on a knock off hike! A wander out the front door and up into the Tuscan wonder.

I’ve given up my running schedule while I’m here to hike this trail each day. It is spectacular. And it’s simply Tuscany. The colours, the rolling hills and valleys, olive groves, vineyards, bountiful fruit trees, earthy brick and concrete buildings as far as the eyes can see, wildflowers at ground level and expansive skies above. The buzzing of the flies during the day and the mozzies at night remind us there’s always some discomfort! However, dips in the pool, a fan to sleep near and Italian gastronomy more than compensate for this.

My legs hurt in new places. I tricked them with these hills and the hiking. They were so used to running across flat Holland. This is the hiking I love. Wild wonder. Adventurous trails with surprises along the way. It’s good to change it up, do something different with your legs and for your mind don’t you think? I feel a familiar sense of myself on these trails. Hiking through and across countries. The solitude of simply walking.

It’s a weird time in the word to be travelling. The familiarity of being here, the slowness of the days, the long nights and the unfurling of this unplanned time away doesn’t feel like travel. It feels like living. Living within a community, quietly up on the hill and in the local wildness. This is slow travel, this is home for now, this time here behind the Tuscan windows.

#underthetuscansun

#writingstreak

#somewherenewwithlife

 

 

 

 

Another Tuscan Day. Another Tuscan Door.

Another Tuscan day, another Tuscan door. This one into the kitchen. Sometimes we don’t know what it is we need until we go on a treasure hunt. In one door or out another. And there are many, many ways to hunt for treasure.

Yesterday I hiked in the bush and up the hill. There was treasure there. I felt the deep joy a hike brings me. Not the flat Dutch walk kind hike, but the gritty, rocky path, up hills, down hills kind of hike. So many good thoughts, ideas and vibes out there on the trail. I miss it. I need to find ways to do more of it.

This month I wrote every day. There was treasure there. All the little daily sprinkles of gold and of course the solid nugget. I’ve graduated from writing here every day to writing 1,667 words (a chapter) a day of my camino story.

I ran every day for 140 days. There was treasure there. I ran through the beginning of and then the quarantine period of a global pandemic. It kept me moving forward. It guaranteed the circulation of the hormones I would need to get through this time and arrive sturdily at the other end.

On a whim I decided to cook a book. This one. Rome. Centuries In An Italian Kitchen. (This photo is my home kitchen not the Tuscan kitchen I’m currently in.) There is treasure in following whims. Would I have been as drawn to Tuscany if I hadn’t begun project The Italian Kitchen at my house? Would I realise the doorway into the kitchen would  be the door I needed to walk into to find a familiar friend. Simplicity. Food has felt heavy for me for a while. I’m not always kind to myself with food. I needed to find a simpler way, a lighter way.

Breakfast was melon with prosciutto. Oh my, this is a spectacular flavour balance. And so easy. Every mouthful heaven. We don’t need to cook like a masterchef contestant to create beautiful food. We can do that too by keeping things simple.

(Sorry for this one Sue).

A belief in something. There’s treasure there. We all have different ways in which we make sense of the world and create our meaning. I look for the coincidences. The synchronous happenings and I do like to wonder what the animals who arrive on my path mean.

I was stung by a wasp a few days ago. I sat on it. Oh la la that’s a painful experience, and then it’s a really bloody itchy one. And I was stung not once! But twice. The second as I shoo it from my stinging with pain butt cheek. I was a bit lacking in direction and motivation this afternoon I went in search of what the arrival of a wasp might mean.

“Wasp symbolism is reminding you that merely thinking about your dreams will not make them a reality as quickly as going out and doing it. In other words, this spirit animal insists that you make a plan. Then you must keep working towards it and let nothing get in your way. Similar to the Snail, the Wasp meaning says that goals require perseverance, desire, and action. Thus you must apply your passion to the reality you wish to achieve!

Wasp symbolism is letting you know that resistance to change by definition, is self-sabotage. Therefore it’s time to allow yourself the notion that all things are possible and that you deserve to have all your dreams come true. The Wasp meaning asks you to be the best you can be!” Spirit Animals.

Now friends I’m a bit tired after a few nights of reduced sleep. It’s rather hot here (36 degrees) for one from the Nth. I know! I’ve gone soft since leaving Australia. And I’m tempted to do nothing. Which is of course completely fine. I already skipped a training run this week. But I had to take note of the wasp symbolism!

Like someone who needs AA I need my streaks. Do nothing about my creative dreams when it’s challenging and it’s a slippery slope. I need to keep the fire burning. If I don’t I fear it will all simply fall away. I need to be accountable. The streak has proven in this phase of my life to be the key for me. It takes me beyond simply thinking about the dream.

So I fired up the keyboard. Snapped a photo of the kitchen door and popped in here to write. From here I know I will continue moving in the right direction because the writing is part of the plan, it’s the work I need to do to realise the dream.

Also I’ve been undecided about ending this streak because I still need it. I need the rhythm, the process, the courage it takes to try, the risk (to find my limits) and of course the treasure.

In writing here today the simple answer (the treasure) appears. I will simply do either or. Write here or write a chapter. I need both doors to remain open. One where I write a story from the past and one where I write a myself into the story of my future.

Thanks for being here. Silently and sometimes with comments. Both are fine. Both are appreciated. You are appreciated. There are never expectations. I hope my whimsy today reminds you to go digging for treasure if you’re in need of some magic.

#writingstreak