Imagine what could happen

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Image: Wilma den Hartigh

 

 

A powerful and thought-provoking poem by Chilean poet-diplomat and politician, Pablo Neruda. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature – 1971.

“You start dying slowly

if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice.”

This girl listens to trees

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Wherever I go, I always notice trees. I think they are nature’s greatest wonders and we can learn so much about life just by observing trees and their seasonal transformation.
I have discovered some beautiful spots in and around Haarlem where I can go to spend time with trees.
Sometimes I am not alone (often I have my son with me) or I appreciate a beautiful tree through a window while I am indoors. However, I really treasure the moments when I am alone with them.
This ritual has become an important self care activity. Some people go for facials and manicures, I head for the trees.
In this environment I often find it easier to seek inner wisdom about life’s difficult questions and my inner struggles. It is an opportunity to connect with the earth and myself again. I don’t need to engage in articulate conversation. All I have to do is sit quietly, observe the beauty around me and listen to my heart. Trees teach stillness so well.

I think life is like a tyre’s tread. When a tyre hits a few bumps in the road it needs realignment to run smoothly again and prevent damage to the tyre. This also happens to people. When I feel that my soul is restless and things just don’t seem right I like to spend time in nature to find realignment and new perspectives.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. – Hermann Hesse

One of the most significant lessons I’ve learnt from trees is their ability to let go. Have you ever noticed how gracefully trees change colour and lose their leaves? They seem so at ease with embracing change.
Learning to welcome change – whether it is positive, negative or a bit of both – has improved my quality of life. I’ve realized that the universe always brings the change when I am ready for it and need it. Moving to another country is the biggest decision I’ve ever made. Uprooting 17 years of adult life in one place wasn’t easy but it also wasn’t difficult because the time was right to see what else the universe has planned for me.

There is great freedom in letting go. It could be a person, a relationship, a job, a career path, a home country or material possessions – all of these have applied to me at some point in my life. Letting go gives me so much freedom to discover new places, different ways of thinking, new people and ultimately a new life.

If you want to read some of my previous posts on trees, freedom and new beginnings, click on these links:

Dutch food – these are a few of my favourite things

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I love going to supermarkets and spending time walking down every aisle. I never thought I’d say this because I’ve never enjoyed shopping. However, I’ve realised that it’s a great way to make a new country feel like home.

Food is a universal connection point between people and an important aspect of every country’s culture. That’s why I think it’s important to know what people eat here and how it is prepared or presented.

Fortunately not everything has been foreign and eating Dutch food and treats brings back many beautiful memories from my childhood. I grew up in a Dutch home (my father was born and raised in South Holland before moving to South Africa in his early twenties) and my parents took great care to introduce my sister and I to Dutch food from a young age.

When I go to a store I always take a tas or tasje (This seems to be the word people use around here for a shopping bag). I like this part of the experience because I’ve built up an awesome collection of bags. I have my favourite cloth bags but most of them are made from waterproof material (these come in really handy in this climate).

My collection of shopping bags

It’s been great fun to introduce my husband and son to some of the yummiest Dutch food.

Hagelslag chocolate sprinkles. This can be enjoyed on buttered bread at any time of the day. I’ve also discovered that the sprinkles can be used to jazz up a home-baked banana loaf or mixed into plain greek yoghurt.

Stroopwafels. A syrup waffle is one of the best things that will ever pass your lips. They are sold in packets of 10 or so and it is impossible to only have one at a time. My husband and I enjoy having them with coffee or red wine. The filling consists of syrup, caramel, brown sugar and cinnamon. Apparently the stroopwafel was first made in Gouda during the late 18th century or early 19th century by a baker using leftovers from the bakery such as breadcrumbs, which were sweetened with syrup.

Speculaas biscuits. These are spiced shortcrust biscuits. They always have an image such as a windmill or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) on the front side. People tell me that they are supposed to be eaten at christmas time but I am quite happy to have them all year round. They are just perfect with a cup of tea.

Croquettes. A croquette is a small breadcrumbed fried roll containing mashed potatoes or ground meat, cheese or vegetables mixed with brown sauce. The best time to eat one (or two) is while exploring the streets of Amsterdam, at Keukenhof among the tulips, at a street festival or on a canal cruise. Croquettes go well with a serving of friet (french fries) and mayonnaise. You aren’t going to win healthy eating awards for this fast food combo but go ahead and try it. You won’t regret it.

Cheese. Dutch people eat a lot of cheese and I can understand why. It is simply delicious! Every Saturday morning we buy cheese at the Haarlem Market on the Grote Markt Square. We try out a different flavour every week. The supermarkets also stock a fantastic cheese selection. At the moment the Boerenkaas is my favourite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time to start something new

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Just over a month ago I boarded a flight to The Netherlands. The land of cheese, tulips, windmills and bicycles was my new home. I left South Africa on a hot and humid day in March (not unusual for South Africa) and arrived in a cloudy and rainy Amsterdam (also not uncharacteristic for this part of the world).

While I was pushing our trolley of suitcases through the airport and going through customs I wondered if I had lost my mind. I’ve done some strange things in my life but moving about 10 000km to another hemisphere probably tops the list of crazy stuff I’ve done.

But actually, this move is one of the most responsible things I’ve ever done. It wasn’t an impulsive move but a decision to seek a lifestyle that’s a better fit for my family and I.

Albert Einstein said it well: “A ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it’s built for.”

We were ready for new adventures and unfamiliar places. We were ready to feel alive again and have fun.

Now I’m enjoying establishing new rituals. Early morning bicycle commuting through the mist. That fresh smell of cold morning air. Coffee in the medieval part of town. Cycling along canals and rivers is becoming routine.

The temporary discomfort of new surroundings is also good for the soul. Being confused about how things work – this is an opportunity to talk to someone and make new friends. Getting lost – as frustrating as it is this is when I’ve discovered the most beautiful spots.

 

These things make me feel vibrant and alive again.

Don’t be afraid of new beginnings. Don’t shy away from new people, new energy, new surroundings. Embrace new chances at happiness. – Billy Chapata

Things you learn on this journey called life

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In the past four and a bit years I’ve learnt so much about life. You might wonder why four? Well, four years ago my son was born.

I went from being a relatively carefree 29-year-old to become an instant mom in about 45 minutes. Matthew has been my greatest teacher in life – he’s showed me how to love and how to feel emotion again.

Mango juice in a jar.

A photo posted by Wilma den Hartigh (@painted_heart_diaries) on Jun 13, 2015 at 12:52am PDT

But there are also a few other truths I’ve picked up along the way:

  1. Do what you love and follow your heart. Always.
  2. Don’t let the noise of the world drown out your inner voice.
  3. Listen to your inner voice. It is always right.
  4. Trust your journey. People might not get it, but that’s okay. It’s not theirs.
  5. Be happy with less. There is freedom in simplicity.
  6. When things get rough, remember how far you’ve come.
  7. Stay close to the things that make you feel alive.
  8. There is unbelievable freedom in not caring what people think about you.
  9. Be badass. Don’t wear boring clothes. Surround yourself with people who get you.

My favourite age is now

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Today is my birthday and this year it is a really special one. This year I’m celebrating the gift of life I have – another 365 days of opportunity to love, laugh, learn, enjoy life, dream and be happy. I read something that says “do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” So today I’m celebrating with a grateful heart.

“I love getting older. My understanding deepens. I can see what connects. I can weave stories of experience and apply them. I can integrate the lessons. Things simply become more and more fascinating. Beauty reveals itself in thousands of forms.” – Victoria Erickson.

 

 

Happy Spring Day!

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Happy Spring Day! My beautiful friend Robyn sent this thought to me this morning (my friends are going to stop telling me/sending me stuff…a lot of it ends up on my blog!).

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

By Ernest Hemingway, reminding you to indulge in the start of the season with those who make you truly happy. Or else with nobody at all.

I love Spring. It is a time of new beginnings, renewal, colour and an opportunity to appreciate everything that’s beautiful. Being truly alive is quite wonderful and a privilege that many people never get to experience. I have so much to be thankful for this Spring. I didn’t think I would live to see another Spring…and now here I am. I am grateful for my life and all the people who make life worth living. ❤