Somebody thought the huge boulders in the forest needed decorating. The green moss is gorgeous on its own, but a little pink sure does spruce up any spruce forest.
(Christmas Boxing Day in southern Finland was stunningly snowless.)(Loviisa, Finland; December 2019)
Life is in a flux again, and how hard it was to just be present in silence for a long weekend in the Devon countryside. Instead I found myself thinking of the future, the past, or an alternative present. When work-hour sign-up was open I signed up for garden duty, to get outside. And when garden duty started I signed up to shovel compost, so I would be worn out by the time daily meditation sessions would begin.
The young man assigned to the same task quit after one day. So for an hour it was just me, a wheelbarrow, a spade, the compost, and a hungry robin fluttering around my wheelbarrow, taking good chances of being covered in muck before breakfast was done.
And then, then it was silence in sitting, and silence in walking. And some reflective words every night. And so much silent kindness, from fellow retreaters of all ages. It is what impresses on me most deeply each time I retreat into silence: an expression of kindness needs no words.￼(Devon, United Kingdom; December 2019)
Last time I was on the train to Cornwall it hit a tree (on the tracks, off the tracks, nobody knows). We had to continue the journey further by cab as the buses requested to pick us stranded passengers up were all busy doing school rides. A mother needing to breastfeed her baby wanted to hijack the cab we called because breastfeeding ”is a medical emergency”. Here’s to a less eventful journey this time around.
(London, United Kingdom; November 2019)
Another sunset, above some kind of continent or sea. I forget which one. After 8 busy years in business it is time to wind down – at least for a short while. This was not a luxury choice I made, but rather something I was forced to face due to changed work circumstances. Instead of having my headcount moved to London I was told, last-minute, that the transfer would not happen. Instead of stepping into a slightly tweaked role I was told I would need to find a new work-home.
The upside: my tri-weekly visits to London will not become weekly commutes. The downside: I have no idea what I will do after the summer.
But first, it’s time to take on a new and exciting 5-month pan-European assignment. And most immediately: it’s time to take 1.5 months off before beginning anything new.
In a sense this will be a luxury break. I will have time to get back to the drawing board and paint the picture of what the next 10 successful life-years should look like. Who do I want to be when I turn 50? Where do I want to be on my life journey, and where, geographically? What skills do I want to have acquired? What impact would I like to have made, on this planet and the people on it?
(Vejle, November 2019)
There is something soothing about focusing one’s attention on a single voice which calmly and contentedly goes on about unimportant but poetic details. Like fuzzy, friendly bumblebees visiting a strawberry planting, or a base guitarist in a rock band who discovered that flowers were his true calling and opened a flower shop. I discovered the Headspace Sleepcasts when they were launched and have loved them since.
Like someone said, I, too, would love to listen to the Night Town sleepcast lady read a phone book. Who is she? Also the narrator of Rainday Antiques and Slow Train seems to have friends. He does sound a little like Sir David Attenborough. Wish it was less of a mystery!
(Copenhagen, Denmark; February 2020)
I know I complained endlessly about the (endless) pintxos in San Sebastián earlier this year. But honestly, the other kind of Basque food is really quite delicious and staying strictly vegetarian is a challenge I never even attempt. Hence, the lovely squid in pepper and herbs ended up being perfect nourishment, along with a Provençal dry rosé and some fresh greens with vinaigrette.
The tables at the Biarritz casino beachfront restaurant are big enough for a laptop and some tea, I discovered. And nobody seemed to mind me clomping in every day in wet wellies and waterproof gear just to eat and write for hours on end.(Biarritz, France; November 2019)
Headspace. I swear it was one of my favorite words way before the eponymous app (which I also love). But boy does Biarritz in November give headspace. Possibly partly because I cannot think straight when the wind puffs up my windbreaker hood, blowing around my ears anyway.
In the middle of last-quarter work stress I took a long weekend, just for myself. Going from one regional airport to another out-of-season was half a day’s work: Billund to Paris CDG, bus to Paris Orly, and then plane hop to Biarritz airport. The return only involved a layover in Amsterdam, but a lot of walking. But as I peeked out of my hotel room balcony, past the church and out to sea I was happy to have made a journey to clear my head.
Three days in stormy Biarritz alone, a laptop to write on, and walks on the beach when a break is better is heaven to someone in her late thirties.(Biarritz, France; November 2019)
“Biarritz, I will be back. I will be back when the sea rages, the whales pass by, and the lighthouse beam sweeps over the foaming water. I will let the wind work my hair into a new style and then sneak in to Hotel du Palais, bury myself into the corner of a couch, and sip hot chocolate in silence with a good book. Until then, you have a tiny piece of my heart.”In July 2016 I made the acquaintance of lovely Biarritz. The days were either white-hot or moody. In November 2019 I returned, because I always keep my promises. There was a raging sea. The lighthouse beam swept over the foaming waters that even invaded the pavement. I hid my hair in my windbreaker – and forgot to look out for whales!
Hotel du Palais was in wraps. Alas, no liquid chocolate in a cup, toes buried into the furry carpet. But my cozy hotel served up a steaming pan of mussels in wine, and I did have a good book. Dear Biarritz, I do love it when you are mightily upset.(Biarritz, France; November 2019)
Lovely ones, something quite different for a change: my favorite yin yoga sequence. Why? Because yin yoga complements both daily stress as well as most types of workout, including ashtanga yoga. Yin poses first stretch the muscles open and then go to work on the connective tissue: the fascia, tendons, and ligaments. Not only are knotted muscles relieved, but blood flow into joints increases, as does overall flexibility.
The trick is to find a version of a pose that works for your body. One that is challenging but soft enough to allow you to stay in it for at least two minutes, preferably four or longer. Any stretches that make you grind your teeth and sweat within thirty seconds have no place in yin yoga.
I believe in a yin practice designed for each individual body and its issues, depending on how it is built and how it is exercised. Here is my routine, and why I love each pose. Links lead to photos, instructions, and summary of benefits.
- Spinal twist, first gently with both legs bent and perhaps one hand pushing the top knee down. For me this works more on the IT tendon and fascia on the outside of the thigh than it does on the spine.
- Spinal twist, the deep version with one leg straight along the spine line and the other bent, knee nearing the floor. Both twists are essential for the health of my back and I sometimes do these in bed, first thing in the morning.
- Broken (or open) wing pose. It was not easy to find a visual description of my version. To stretch my chest and shoulders I roll over the outstretched arm with a straight leg, placing the other leg on the outside of the straight one and supporting myself with my free hand. Great pose if you spend hours in front of the computer on a daily basis.
- Butterfly pose. This is not for hips or hamstrings, but for stretching the lower back. I place my forearms and elbows on the floor in front of my shins, hands facing forward. I stay for at least five minutes, beyond relaxing my lower back muscles, until I feel the ligaments loosen.
- Fire log pose. Stretches first the glutes and then the deep hip and piriformis. Hip opener for lotus pose. I usually lean over to one side, supporting my weight on my forearms and placing my forehead on the top foot.
- Half frog pose. Leads into frog pose but stretches different adductors for me, the ones that go tight from running.
- Frog pose. The idea is to ultimately have your shins, knees, and thighs on the floor, but I have never seen anyone able to do this. This pose is nearly unbearable for me at times of high stress or anxiety, because it stretches deep groin and hip muscles, where so much emotion resides. I also find this nearly unbearable during my period and tend to skip it at those times.
- Savasana, preferably as a heart-opener with a bolster or block under my spine to stretch my chest and shoulders.
(Copenhagen, Denmark; January 2020)