Tag Archives: reflection

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.

Walking Through The Tuscan Hills.

 

Many years ago, perhaps 16 or so we traveled through Italy with our then six month old baby boy. He’s our nearly 16 yo delightful lad now! We stopped a few days in Tuscany during this Italy trip with the baby and stayed at an old villa with big Tuscan style rooms and a shared kitchen. In this shared kitchen we met walkers! Walkers of all ages who’d spent their days wandering the hills of Tuscany. Their nights were spent stopping along the way in these shared style accommodation guest houses eating and chattering.

Our villa is along the way of a walk called Via di Francesco. Also we’re right by the town of Poppi. This is funny to my family as pop is my childhood nickname. Pop is the Dutch for doll. My dad called me poppi! Dolly. You do know I like a coincidence. :)

Most days I walk to the right of my front door and head up the hill. I’m drawn to a good climb. On this day, however, I went left. Left in the fierce heat (with water and a visor) to see what I could see. In search of, and open to the treasure. There is always trasure.

Each step in the heat blissfully rewarded with wildflowers, farmland, nature and peace. The kind of peace walking allows you in its gentle rhythmic, meditative way. Yes I could feel those mozzie bites (all 500 of them), and yeah it was hot and sweaty, and yes a bit of hmm I wandering alone in a far away land, but also just the beauty of the trail and me.

‘Solvitur Ambulando – It Is Solved By Walking.’

Remember this one friends. It’s one of my favourites. And one I think can help us in these crazy times. Walking creates the space to wonder. Space to flip the circuit if we’re stuck in thoughts. It’s an invitation to notice the happenings of the season, the time. It’s a way for our minds to gently process on its own in the background, while we can be lost in the world of ‘doing the noticing’.

On this day I did realise how much I do love to walk these long walks across countries. I would like to make time for these when the time allows us again. A long camino is not in my life space/timing right now. But days, possibly a week here and there, yes. I would definitely love to do some walking across Tuscany.

I’d like to do it with a friend I’ve decided. I’ll be seeking the ‘hers’ who love to hike when I return. I’d like to be one of those walkers who arrives at a guest house after a day’s wandering and debriefing the fun, laughing at the challenges and eating the local food. When I find her, I’ll be asking ‘her’ if she’d like to go for some days of walking through hills. I think in these times we need to know our ‘hers’ ladies. And we do need to walk with ‘her’, so do ask her if you need a walk or talk.

#stillwriting

#beenadventuring

#beenexploring

#catchingup

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

The Good Busy.

 

‘Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than emperors.’ – Mary Cantwell

What’s in a day of pottering? Hmm where can this tale go I wonder? The truth is I spend the day in the garden with busy hands and a busy body. Lost in a hard day’s work without really thinking. My mind in the garden, the jobs and the possibilities of this tiny space. Intoxicated by the smell of these tomato plants and the the sun on my back. They smell like the the ones you buy on a vine. My poor tomato plants who were sitting in a holding zone, in pots too small for them, growing without a stake. They’re a little wonky, hopefully they’ve still a little resilience in store and I’ve re-potted them in time!

Perhaps a cup of tea and my tale will come I thought. Into the kitchen, tea pot on and a Barry’s Irish tea bag in my favourite cup. It’s proper black tea, big mug kinda night. In the window sill I see my orchards have also outgrown their pots. Can you see the new roots sprouting out into thin air?! And wouldn’t you know it, here is where a gardening tale arrived.  It’s a simple reminder that we grow out of things. Taking care of plants is not so different to taking care of ourselves.

I’ve mentioned before that it’s time to end my #runstreak because I want to train with more intention. I want to train for a half marathon. I can’t do that if I run everyday and ride a couple of times a week, it’s too much! I’ve grown into the fitness to run a half marathon and into my new cycling hobby and now I’m too big for the pot I’m in. I need to change it. Otherwise I’ll respond like the tomatoes and grow all wonky, or the orchards where there is no space for new roots to flourish.

We need to adjust our space just as we need fuel to grow. Oh did you notice the pizza oven was lit in the first photos. Tonight’s was a pretty heavenly one. Some leftover olive, feta and mint salsa from last night, artichokes, porcini mushroom, rocket and burrata cheese. I spent the whole day pruning, planting, sweeping, shifting pots, enjoying and dreaming dreams about our tiny garden space. We are growing together, my garden and I. And it’s hungry work giving yourself to the garden all day. Or does the garden give itself to you? Perhaps we meet in the middle. I think we do.

I used to find fairy houses and fairy doors in the garden from the daughter who now regularly calls me a hippie and gives me the eye rolls! Lol. Today I found her stash of moon water. There is also one that belongs to her best friend. The garden is truly full of magic, truth and enchantment. It’s a place for daydreams and the good busy. Tomorrow, I’ll replant the orchids and refresh the herb planter after I take my morning’s ride amongst the canals and the windmills. And tomorrow I won’t run. After 140 days, I’ve outgrown my runstreak. I’m repotting myself!

#writingstreak

#day19/31

#tiredofmeyet

#gardeningtales

 

Travel To Learn Some More. Stop. Process. Reflect. Grow. Repeat.

Travel To Learn Some More. Stop. Process. Reflect. Grow. Repeat.

I was talking to a friend recently about travel and how we hope for our children to experience it in this way. When I hiked the camino I was in awe of the young people who had decided to take the time to go for a long walk. Equally, I was in awe of the newly retired walkers who were walking. Both of them were walking to take the time before what comes next.

I know we can’t pick up and travel right now but I guess I like the idea of this time to travel into new ideas and to perhaps explore what we feel curious about, what grounds us, what takes us home inside, what sets off the fireworks under our skin. Granted we are on our summer break so I have this luxury of time. As much as I thought I could write during quarantine – no way. Home school took all my free energy! Well home schooling the 8 year old did.

The sequence though, I love the sequence. While my friend and I talked about it in relation to travel I think it’s life. And travel is something we do at home and afar. It is travelling further with our mind, expanding our horizons, hearing new opinions, connecting deeper, learning the ‘somethings’ that grow us.

When I look back to my time of quarantine I kept my fire going by running everyday. It was in this time that my learning happened. It was here I grew, here where my view of the world and myself began to change. The running wasn’t the teacher, it was the travel. The vehicle – the movement, the space, the reflection in the quiet stillness that allowed my mind to open combined with the releasing of the tension with each hard step.

Unless our minds are open it is difficult to learn, to reflect. And without the travel I would have sat in the same cycle I started quarantine in. I was a bit pissed off actually. Annoyed with some people and their attitudes and behaviours. And I was also scared of extending myself, of seeking the next phase of my learning and honestly I wasn’t sure how to or what to try next.

It isn’t comfortable to always have an open mind. Shit no. It’s far more comfortable to drink, scroll, eat, binge, try to control, lecture, buy new things, sit in guilt, judgement, pity, blame, whatever, you know basically numb your way through your own discomfort and fears. Who doesn’t need a bit of numbing sometimes. And all of these are cool things right!

We learn, get inspired by and catch up with others from the scrolling, binging and we enjoy the eating and the drinking and new things are nice. It’s also good down time! Who wants to think ALL the time. It’s only when these numb’ers become glutenous pursuits that they are dangerous. And yes for the record I believe travel can be one of the great glutenous pursuits. Just as I believe chasing wellness can be (stories for another post).

Now, guilt et al. they aren’t fun, down time things – they are creeps. Creeping in to hold us back. But  the numb’ers and the creepers in my experience they work together.  Deal with the numbers and you can face the creepers. Face the creeper and boom you can grow. Perhaps sometimes we just need the nothing, to travel the path with the unknown answer. Then when we’re not busy numbing we can face the blockers – the creeps.

I have my vices, my cycles, my preferred modes and creeps to keep me still and safe from discomfort. They’d love nothing more than to hold me back from honest reflection, from thinking about why things are pissing me off and of stepping into new things or trying harder with the stuff scares me.

Cruise cycles, we all find ourselves in them, aren’t we always in one cycle or another. They are normal. There is a time for stopping in cruise mode, for a while. Until it’s not. Until you’ve exhausted where you are, when you’re done in that place and you need to learn some more. To peek out wider and to grow a little. And this peeking, this travel doesn’t always have to mean getting on a plane. It’s just travelling somewhere different in life, it’s doing something differently.

This corona journey still continues for us in our different countries and in different phases. Of course what I write, my opinions and how I experience this time comes from my perspective and experience. I’m a middle aged, white woman in a healthy relationship with (generally)  happy kids. I have agency, choices and privilege. I like not being invited to things and I love nothing more than a free agenda. Our income hasn’t been affected and none of us have yet to experience illness from the virus (that we know of). We experienced quarantine with a great degree of freedom here in The Netherlands. I also love a bit of self growth, to understand where I’ve been and to continue to seek a gentler more meaningful way. All of these things give me a security which makes reframing this time easier. I understand that.

And so from my personal experience.

I like to think travelling this corona journey has made me a better person. That it has taught me to see and hear people not only from my perspective but from theirs. I hope I have become a little less judgemental, a little more appreciative, more understanding and that I’ve been reminded to be more empathetic, more sympathetic. I hope I will be better at putting myself in the shoes of others. Those in trickier situations and also those with whom I share my everyday life. I hope I am more forgiving. I think if I’m more forgiving I’ll be kinder. And kinder is something that matters.

I also hope I am courageous enough to try harder, to step up, to be myself without fear. I’ve learnt that not every battle is worthy of my energy. I don’t want to hide behind the numb’ers and the creepers that keep me small. Just you know when I need that time! The time to sit on the couch to eat chocolate and do nothing but watch a series.

Lol I know! But seriously, I hope I can be this person, my deepest, wildest self and I hope I can hold onto the better person bit while I’m going there. So when you ask where in the world do I want to travel. I’d say there, from here. Writing everyday is a step in that direction for me. It is also a combination of the process and reflection part of my learning from this corona journey. I think I am passed needing to stop. And already I’m travelling some more trying new things to learn new stuff.

We’ve all travelled through 2020 in an unexpected way, all of us on the trip, the tour bus to the great unknown. But none of us are experiencing it the same way. Who knows how this corona time will pan out, where it is going and when it will end. All we can to is travel it, learn from it and hopefully grow into what comes next. I hope you’re able to find a way to keep your fire going, to travel slow, to find the space you need to see a little light, enough to allow the sparks to flicker and guide you towards the learning, the laughter, the what it is you need from this time and the coping. And for those of us who have the privilege, the safety and the freedom to feel life in a joyful way let’s be kinder together. Because it’s all in the BEING really isn’t it.

 

#writingstreak

#day8/31

#writingthroughimpostersyndrome

#justkeepwriting

#causeitgivesmethefirecrackerexcitement

#doneisgoodenough