Is there anything more miraculous than seeing something grow…? A child, a tree,
a cat, a vegetable, or a tiny plant?
You don’t need a garden to sow a seed and watch it turn to a plant. Already before
I got my own little private jungle (a.k.a. my garden) I found it exciting to put
seeds into soil, care for them with a lot of love – and patience – and watch them
turn into a plant. Of course, I wasn’t always successful (and still am not!), but
that doesn’t matter. Even if only one out of ten attempts are crowned with success
it’s worth it, because that ONE time is a real miracle!
Most of us have tried sowing seeds at school, perhaps with garden cress or something
similarly easy, but the seeds are not always that quick to start growing. Some may
take weeks, or even months, but then… Once something very small and tender starts
to pierce the surface you just gasp: this time, it worked! Life made its way and out
of a hard little seed a living organism is sprouting!
Even if it does not always work out that well, I love growing my own vegetables from
scratch (that is, not buying seedlings at the garden centre) and I find it enormously
rewarding. Kale, radishes, beans and carrots work out fine, and other kinds of veggies
will follow. Working with the trial & error method I get more and more experienced
with each year. However, for some reason sowing flowers fills me with even more joy,
perhaps because I am such a visual person, almost addicted to beauty. My favourite
“home-grown” flower is the morning glory, but nasturtium, hollyhock, cosmos, and
different varieties of poppies are also quite easy to grow up here.
Do you have difficulties in finding flower seeds (try Internet!), or find them too
expensive? Talk to garden owners in your surroundings! That’s what I did, and they
were happy to provide me with all kinds of interesting seeds from their own cultivation.
If you don’t have anybody nearby, let me know, and after the flowering season is over
you can have seeds from me! 😉
Is there anything more miraculous than seeing something grow…? A child, a tree,
As the season of daylong hikes has started, my backpack becomes one of the
most important parts of my experience. I need to pack things to keep me warm
and safe, I need food and water, a small emergency kit, and equipment for my
When packing your hiking backpack the difficulty is to limit yourself to the
strict necessities – who doesn’t hate carrying an overly heavy load for hours
and hours! It diminishes the whole experience, and it’s really not necessary.
Obviously, what’s essential for me might not be essential for you, but here
is my list:
• ID card & Cash – in Switzerland you can’t use your credit card everywhere
• Map – scale 1:25.000. Yes, even if I know my way: I might change plans…
• Cell phone – for photography and as a safety device – used in flight mode!
• Compact camera – for pictures where I need a zoom lens
• Binoculars –to take a closer look at birds and other wildlife
• Tiny DIY notebook & pen – for impressions, thoughts & ideas
• Food – a nourishing lunch, toasted nuts & almonds, and dried fruit
• Drink – 2 x 6 dl of water or herbal tea in Sigg bottles. No sweet stuff!
• Swiss Army Knife – the smallest version. For apples, cheese etc.
• Protection against sun – sun screen (eco-friendly & strong), hat, and sunglasses
• Toilet paper – always used sparsely and properly buried afterwards 😉
• Minimal Medical Kit – plaster, bandage, disinfectant
• Sealable plastic bag – for whatever edible plants I find along my path
What about the backpack itself? I like Deuter bags for their stability, but they’re a bit on the heavy side. Lately I discovered Osprey bags – very lightweight and with lots of well thought through separate compartments, and porous padding for good comfort and air circulation. They come in nice colours too, and for once there is a small bag available not only in pink or purple, but in green. ☺
Thus equipped with a good backpack that fits my body size and that is filled with
anything but the bare necessities, I have lots of amazing hiking experiences –
if only my backpack could speak he’d tell you!
When I was twelve, our old aunt Brita taught me how to knit. That was the
starting point of my knitting mania that, with peaks and valleys, has stayed
with me ever since. It has resulted in innumerable sweaters, cardigans, hats,
mittens, shawls, and potholders for myself, for family and friends.
After the initial exaltation knitting was put aside for a while, just to return in
full swing as I entered university. At that time it was booming and we were a
bunch of girls knitting fervently during lunches and lectures, wherever it was
allowed! 😉 The second peak was when my daughters were small. I so much
enjoyed making colourful sweaters for them, preferably with some little animal
motif. As a bonus they were small and quick to finish – unlike knitting huge
sweaters for their father…!
As all other knitting maniacs know, a common problem is that you come up
with new ideas all the time. It is hard to not constantly start on new projects
without finishing off the old ones, and often you loose interest when it gets
too complicated or tedious. Such unfinished work tends to end up in a Huge
Knitting Basket – together with a bunch of other “procrastination projects”.
That is what I call the curse of the knitter: again and again you get inspired
by something you see, or you stumble upon irresistibly beautiful yarn, and even
if you’re already in the middle of knitting something else (and really don’t need
ANOTHER green sweater) you can’t resist, and so a new project is born.
Involuntarily I have been thrown off that vicious circle, since nice yarn is
expensive and I just can’t afford a lot of it anymore. Actually, I say “Thank
You, Fate!” because that has made me dig deep into my Huge Knitting Basket.
There I find lots of yarn, and if the unfinished item is not what I want to do
right now, I just unravel it and use the yarn for something else. Once I even
unraveled a whole sweater and used the yarn for – mittens! It feels good to (re-)
use what is already there and being satisfied with that, instead of always getting
For a long time I’ve wanted to start writing more. The cold season would have
been the perfect period to increase the number of hours I spend writing, but
last winter was a difficult period, and despite my best intentions it was mostly
spent with keeping my nose above water. Now, as things have calmed down, I
finally did it: I organised a little Writing Retreat at home, just for myself. The
goal was to get me going again, to show myself that I can write meaningful pieces
if I just sit down and DO it.
Doing a writing retreat requests some organisation, but not very much:
• Choose a date without any obligations, and tell family and friends
you’ll be out of touch for that entire day.
• Clean the house the day before, prepare some extra nice meals to keep
you going and some healthy snacks if needed (fruit, nuts etc.)
• Load your computer and turn your cell phone off. Yes, I felt that was
necessary to have peace of mind.
• Get enough writing material: a new writing book, a refill for your
fountain pen, sharp pencils.
• Prepare your schedule, at least a rough draft. Set your goal: X hours
By chance I had chosen the perfect day for my retreat: weather was really crappy:
foggy and rainy and temperature had dropped below being pleasant, so I could
calmly stay inside most of the day without missing a beautiful day outside. My
schedule involved one-hour slots of writing, sandwiched with brisk walks, eating
in a meditative way, a little gardening, and indoor exercises.
When I had finished the last one-hour writing slot, I revised my work. I had written
on prompts (randomly chosen single words or whole sentences, music, colours etc.),
and for my Monday newsletters I had written two new one pieces. A long letter to an old
friend was ready for the mailbox, and I had not only brainstormed subjects for my blog,
but also written outlines for three new posts and almost finished off one. Much of
this material was written by hand, as I normally do with personal letters and drafts,
but some of it could already be given the finishing touch on the computer.
This retreat day was a wonderful experience! It strengthened my self-confidence as
a “writer” and inspired me to increase my weekly writing schedule quite a bit. I know
how important it is to express myself (even if nobody reads it) and I know how much
better I feel when I let the words flow out of my pen for hours. It is as if a mirror
was held in front of me and I finally see who I am.
You might wonder why I didn’t call this post “The Writing Retreat”? Well, what
goes for writing also goes for any other creative process. If you want to get
going with yours, be it painting, photography, needlework or anything else, why
don’t you try setting aside a day like this for yourself? It works wonders!
And I would love to hear about your experience ☺
There is so much happiness inside me when I am out hiking – just the fact
of walking in Nature! Sometimes, however, this happiness turns into pure
bliss, and that is when I have an encounter with a wild animal.
I am not talking about a simple crossing of each other’s paths, which happens
quite often, but a proper encounter when both of us stop and really become
aware of each other. These moments may just last a few precious seconds,
but they feel truly magical.
Once I came around a bend in the deep forest, and there he stood: a big male
deer with majestic antlers. Perhaps our eyes only met for a split second before
he darted off among the trees, but I remained unmoving for quite a while,
stunned by almost having bumped into to this huge, elegant animal.
Squirrels seem to be a bit curious, so quite often they stop and watch me
approaching. At times they make funny squealing noises, and I don’t know
if they’re angry, afraid or just communicative.
Recently we had the enormous pleasure of discovering a colourful green lizard
on the side of our path. For once we didn’t just get a glimpse of this exotically
looking reptile, but he stayed put there for several minutes, just watching us.
What a gift; I got plenty of time to take several close-ups of him- it was as
if he was posing! That meeting truly was the peak of an in all ways extraordinary hike.
In the case of the meeting with the lizard I could move very slowly without
him rushing off, but normally immobility is key during these meetings. Both
the animal and I freeze, and hold our breaths. At least I do 😉 If my counterpart
stands still for a bit longer I often try to slowly, slowly take out my camera, but
I hardly ever succeed before he or she rushes off.
Silly me! I should just enjoy that magical moment, without thinking of keeping
it. The preciousness of these meetings lies not in proving that they happened,
but in what I feel to be a wordless communication between two living creatures
that normally avoid each other. Right there and then they may realise that, in
fact, they’re equals.
The other day I read a very interesting paper by Daniel Chandler, “The
Phenomenology of Writing by Hand”. There, he divides writers into two groups:
Planners, who tend to think of writing primarily as a means of
recording or communicating ideas, which they already have clear in their
Discoverers, who tend to experience writing primarily as a way of
“discovering” what they want to say.
The Planners would be Thinking personalities and the Discoverers Feeling
personalities. I see myself as a Discoverer and this quote is my mantra:
“Don’t think and then write it down. Think on paper” (Harry Kemelman). When
I am stuck with a personal issue nothing helps me to find my way out as
much as just sitting down and writing about it.
These two different groups of writers also use different tools for writing:
Planners often prefer writing on a computer and Discoverers write mainly by
hand on paper.
As a Discoverer I find writing by hand essential, at least in the first stages
of my work. For me the act of writing by hand is, indeed, a symbiosis of
physical and intellectual processes: it is as if my thoughts are shaped by
my hands in a very direct, palpable way. Also, I remember things better when
I have written them down by hand; I am simply much more deeply connected to
what I write.
When using the computer, writing no longer is a true bodily act. Instead, there
is a separation of mind and body in a sterile way, and the text I see on the
screen no longer feels intimately mine. Just like a hand written letter feels
much more personal than an e-mail or a text message.
To a Discoverer, the process is at least as important as the product. It is
in the physical act of writing, re-writing and correcting that my text develops,
takes shape and finally expresses what I want to convey to the reader. The final
product, of course, has to enter the computerised world – how else would I reach
you? (I would love to send “blog letters” around the world, seeing my writings
flow out in a beautiful wave of ink, working with calligraphy on exquisite paper
in delicate colours…)
Now, it would be interesting to know what you are: a Planner or a Discoverer…?
Maybe you have any good ideas on how to get creativity flowing and become an even
PS You can find Chandler’s book “The Act of Writing” via this link
Living at the edge of a tiny village in the mountains and having the privilege
of spending several hours outdoors every day (hiking or gardening), I already
feel pretty close to nature. I go out in any kind of weather, follow the shifts
of the seasons and enjoy every facet of these constant changes.
However, sometimes I feel even closer to the nature that surrounds me, and that
is when it not only nourishes my soul, but also my body: when I cook my food
from what I find along my hikes or in my garden.
In spring I collect nettles for soup and herbal tea, wild spinach for a lovely
pasta dish, and broadleaf plantain for pesto, just to name some of the plants I
find along my trail. Now, as a complete layman when it comes to growing my own
vegetables I would not expect to find much to eat in my garden in spring, except for
wild garlic and lovage, but much to my surprise I noted that some kale plants had
started sprouting again and that there were some onions left that I could use. With
all these early herbs and vegetables I cooked a lovely garden soup, full of the
green energy of spring. It had the full, rich taste of herbs and fresh air and I
felt that it coloured my whole being in a tender green shade.
On that beautiful sunny day, when I had not only made a long hike, but also
worked in my garden until my back ached, it felt like a special gift from Mother
Nature being able to prepare a meal from what she had produced right next door. I
completed the garden soup with home made sour dough bread and a glass of red wine,
and enjoyed my meal in the evening sun under my balcony, next to my freshly
replanted common columbine.
With a view over snow capped mountains in the last warm rays of the sun and this
fresh and simple meal right from the garden on my plate I not only felt very close
to nature, but really being a part of it, sharing its overflow of life force
I am convinced that the general mood lift most of us experience during spring
and summer is, at least partly, due to the return of colours. In many regions
winters are prevailingly dull and grey and it is no wonder that people become
gloomy or outright depressed. They get neither enough light nor enough colours,
and their whole lives seem dull and grey.
Spring does not only bring the return of light and life, but also of colours –
no wonder our spirits get higher! There is a colour splash with the tender green
of grass and leaves, the dreamy blue hue of the sky, and all the flowers in all
their rainbow colours: first out are the radiant yellow ones, like dandelions
and daffodils One theory to why is that pollinators would be able to “see” yellow
better at this time of year, with its shorter hours of light and more clouds.
We humans also tend to become more colourful during the brighter seasons. The
dominance of black, as elegant as it is, is broken by lighter shades of beige or grey,
or even more cheerful colours. How come that we feel the wish for these changes in
our wardrobe? Why do we dress in darker shades in winter, when there already is a
lack of light and colours? It seems that dark colours absorb more heat, and that
they have the tendency not to allow the warmth of the body to pass through. Well,
I myself have consciously left the Black League to bring more colours into my winter
outfits as well because colours make me happy!
Many scientists claim that colour therapy, or chromotherapy, is a “pseudo-science”,
but already the ancient Indian Ayurveda medicine acknowledged the effect of colours
on humans. Chromotherapy works basically with the traditional spectral colours that
are evoked by a single wavelength of light, i.e. red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and
violet. It claims that the different coloured rays have various therapeutic effects
on organisms. By knowing the action of the different colours upon organs and systems
of the body, one can apply the correct colour that will tend to balance the action
of these organs and systems. You may believe in this idea or not, but I find it very
interesting (read more here), and I do notice that colours influence the way I feel.
Don’t you sometimes feel drawn to certain colours, and want to surround yourself
with them? Right now I want to bathe in and surround myself with – yellow!
Up in the mountains, the end of winter is always a bit difficult for hikers.
There is not enough snow left to really enjoy snowshoeing, but still too much
to walk without them higher up – you get wet feet and/or slip on the
Now is the time to hike below the village, to head towards the bottom of the
valley, but like most of the people living here I always hesitate. Not because
it’s not nice – it is beautiful down there: lots of nice winding paths, flowers,
butterflies and variegated views. The thing is, when you hike downwards, the
ascent is at the end, when you’re already tired…! As with so many other things
I hesitate to do, this is mainly a “head problem”, a question of adjusting my
approach. I just need to save my forces, adapt my pace on the way up, and not
be stingy with pauses.
The other day I decided to head downwards, left my mittens and scarf at home and
packed a bottle of water instead of the thermos with tea. It’s amazing how much
warmer it is further down and how much more spring has advanced! The difference
is said to be 0,8C per 100 altimeters, so where I went it was almost
4 degrees warmer.
In the arid slopes heading south lots of butterflies fluttered around; both peacocks,
small tortoiseshells and orange tips. Fruit trees in bloom everywhere and heaps of
tender stinging nettles to pick. All through the winter I’ve been longing for my
spring favourite, the nettle soup, so a real treat awaited me that evening.
And guess what? The ascent back home turned into a lovely mindfulness practice,
where I dropped my goal orientation and just enjoyed nature’s beauty, my muscles
working, and my breath compensating the effort. As I passed an open field halfway
up I lay down in the dry grass, closed my eyes and felt the sun heated ground wrap
me with tender arms. Taking my time to feel nature that way always restores
happiness and energy and lifts me up where I belong.
In times of inner and/or outer turmoil I need a fixed point – a center of peace to
return to and to rest my mind in. When I feel my heart racing or my head swelling
of unwanted thoughts or emotions I do meditation in its simplest and most direct
form: I stop, close my eyes, turn my face to the sky, and breathe. I am still in
there somewhere, I just have to relax and return to my center. Storms rage, but I
am standing tall. It might take time to get through this, but I can do it, step
by step. Breath by breath.
There are also longer meditations that help in restless times. You can find guided
meditations on the Internet, like “The Lake meditation”, but you have to be comfortable
with the voice and the way of speaking of the person guiding you. Personally, I prefer
listening to such meditation instructions a couple of times before, and then guiding
myself when doing them.
For a “head person” like me the risk of getting stuck in a whirlwind of ever-circling
thoughts is big in times like these, and I constantly need to remind myself of my
physical existence. I need to return to being alive right here and now, return to
my inner center of peace, again and again. Breath by breath.