A visit to the Shire

I am overwhelmed by the enormous support and encouragement I have received following the publication of the story of our big move to NZ. Thank you, dear readers!

Last week, we had the immense pleasure of visiting the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata. As a devoted fan of Tolkien, this excursion was at the top of my list, and I was not the only one who returned home elated that day. Read on…

Tranquility reigns in the Shire. A hushed spell blankets all visitors to the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata as they cross the green pastures on a bus that transports us to Middle Earth. To walk through the hobbit countryside is to slip, unnoticed, down a rabbit hole, only to find ourselves standing at the bottom of the hill, gazing past charming vegetable patches toward Bilbo — and later Frodo — Baggins’s house, the one with the emerald door left just ajar, a plump pumpkin near it, and a sign that almost shouts, “No admittance, except on party business.” The signs serves its purpose; the stairs leading up to the front entrance beckon forth and the open door lures me in to take a peek. Our tour guide assures us that there is nothing to see inside, but I refuse to believe him. In my mind’s eye, I’m already sprinting up the stairs, then gingerly pushing open the door to step into the warm wooden interior, calling out to Bilbo — or perhaps this is Frodo’s house at this point. Oh, wait a minute. I see, they have deserted their beloved abodes in favour of reluctant adventure.

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The neighbourhood is sleepy this morning. Perhaps the neighbours conspired to take their elevenses at the Green Dragon pub by the water, the ideal spot to sip some ale or cider while keeping a close eye on the spectacular hillside village and their humble and dizzyingly charming abodes. Meanwhile, the golden butterflies and bubbly buzzing bees are in charge. They circle the sensible hobbit-sized clothes drying on the washing line outside the homes, taking care not to fly quite too close. A few daredevils among them wait for a swift gust of wind before dashing in-between the legs of a pair of trousers. Do you hear their zesty laughter as they buzz past, filled with cheeky enthusiasm for having escaped danger? Before long, they reluctantly return to work, seeking pretty puffs of pollen.

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A monarch butterfly alights on a crimson daisy in Sam Gamgee’s tender garden, whereupon it eavesdropped on the conversations of the visitors with mobile phones and fancy cameras in hand.

‘”I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!”*’ quotes one man, and the others smile surreptitiously.

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I follow the sign toward The Green Dragon, past the waterwheel and across the bridge, guided by the cheerful sounds of folk music and — why yes, I can almost hear them — the barely audible rhythmic stomping of hobbit feet upon wooden tables as they dance the jig. Walking into the cosy pub, I almost expect to be greeted solemnly by Gandalf, seated by the toasty fireplace, sipping Sackville Cider in-between drags from his pipe that send lazy swirls into the air. The fire is much too warm and I step out into the noonday sun to enjoy my own drink while swatting away thirsty, annoying wasps. They should take lessons from the chummy bees that somehow figured out the right idea of work-life balance, having learned from the locals who will soon go off to enjoy a bit of siesta, feeling fortified following their tea that turned into a lunch.

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Following our tour guide back to the bus, feeling somewhat lightheaded, it occurs to me that perhaps I, too, require something more in my belly than a mug of beer. Yet, I do so wish that I could simply lie down in the grass, in the shade of the party tree, and continue to daydream of hobbits, dwarves, wizards, and elves until my eyelids should become heavy and the magic will continue to weave its tapestry. Wistfully, I walk away, making a silent promise to myself to continue to explore my fantasies, to re-read beloved books, and to make space for everyday magic in my life, even if the most exciting event of my day is hanging out the washing to the buzzing song of the bees in a nearby floriferous bush.

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* Quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King.

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April 29th: Family. Adventure. Discipline. Home.

After 11 days of sunshine, today is our first rainy day in NZ. I see this as an invitation to slow down the pace following our week-long sightseeing adventures, to stay close to home and take care of a few mundane but nonetheless important housekeeping duties. After all, adventure must be balanced with everyday discipline.

Here are a few of my favourite moments from the past week:

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Redwoods giants rising above us.
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Hobbit-sized clothes on a line.
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Fluffy clouds on four legs.
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A beautiful illustrated edition of a beloved book, and a comforting flat white. These are a couple of my favourite things.
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This boy and his delight at the sight, smell, sound, and feel of the ocean as it beckons.
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Autumn colours reflected in the tranquil water.

Favourites from around the internet:

Why we make things

For the fellow traveller: Simple ways to feel at home when you travel.

On a similar note to the above. Finding home wherever you are.

For those in the northern hemisphere, 20 ways to savor springtime.

Compelling. Why you should read books you hate. I’d love to read your opinions on this. Would you like to leave a comment below?

Magic and science mingle yet again. Meet the biologist who says trees have their own songs.

Celebrate who you are right now.

Favourite words:

I loved this advice from Helen Mirren on femininity, strength, and the freedom that comes with ageing.

Wishing you a weekend of adventure and/or focused discipline — you choose what you need, then seize it!

We sold our house, packed our suitcases, and moved to the other side of the world

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. ~ Anonymous

Those of you who follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook likely already know that the Wanderlust Family has moved from Canada to New Zealand. Many of you have been waiting to hear the full story of our move, and although it is comprised of many chapters that I will most definitely write over the next few months, today, I share with you the prologue.

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View of the coast from our hike to the summit of Mount Maunganui

In late September 2013, Mr. Wanderlust and I were on a weekend getaway to Goderich and Stratford, Ontario. Earlier in the afternoon, we had enjoyed a peaceful walk on the grounds surrounding the charming, quaint country inn in which we were staying. Following dinner, as we relaxed in our room, we had decided to turn on the television. We never watch TV at home, so this action in itself was highly unusual for us. We had flipped a few channels and settled on HGTV and a fantasy show on which a couple from our neighbourhood in the Toronto area was offered, purely hypothetically, a chance to sell their home and, with the money from the house, purchase a home in one of three different appealing locations in the world. One of the locations was Hawke’s Bay, NZ and simply looking at the shots of the location on TV, we started falling in love. Mr. Wanderlust expressed that he has always dreamed of visiting NZ. Yet, reality check! The couple from Ontario wasn’t actually about to sell their home. If they were to move to a different country, more than just the cost of the home would have to be taken into consideration. What about the cost of living, job prospects, etc.? We dismissed the show due to its fantastical nature, but the universe works in wondrous ways, storing information on some faraway shelves in our subconscious minds.

Several months later, on a -30°C day in Toronto, Mr. Wanderlust and I, in typical Canadian fashion, were commiserating about the frigid winter temperature when I sighed, “You know, people complain about the weather and wonder about why they are living in such a cold place. Well, why don’t we do something about it?” When Mr. Wanderlust asked me where I would want to move, I blurted out, “New Zealand.” Then I laughed, brushed aside the crazy idea, and prepared lunch for the youngest Wanderlust Junior, then put him down for a nap. Several hours later, Mr. Wanderlust approached me with a tentative proposal to move to NZ. He had spent some time researching the major cities in the country, job prospects, housing prices, and the cost of living. After several months of serious contemplation, we decided to put the idea into action.

Ultimately, the temperate climate of the north island was just one small deciding factor for us. Both Mr. Wanderlust and I spent our childhood in three different countries, emigrating twice with our parents. These international moves gifted us a lifelong love of travel, and we travelled extensively together, whenever possible. Perhaps, for that reason, the idea of uprooting our family did not seem intimidating to us. We feel at home anywhere in the world.

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Having thoroughly researched NZ, we were attracted to its diverse landscapes and the various opportunities for activities that we love most — camping, hiking, and paddleboarding — and for new ones that we are looking forward to experiencing in the near future. We wanted to move to a smaller city but one in which we would have access to everything that we need and where we would be able to enjoy a slower way of life. For that reason, we chose Tauranga, currently the fifth largest city in NZ. It’s a large enough city that feels like a small town. Frankly, I loved the idea of Wellington, which reminds me of San Francisco, one of my favourite cities. However, as a person of mostly Vata constitution, I do not like the idea of living in a windy location, and Wellington is known for precisely that kind of weather; Toronto was already too windy for me on most days. But there I go talking about the weather again. We wanted to be in a relatively quiet and family-friendly city in which we would have an opportunity to spend plenty of time outdoors. And so, we chose to follow our dream.

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Celebrating the sale of our home with some bubbly.

We made a timeline for our move and followed through. We knew we wanted to relocate in late 2016 or early 2017 and submitted our initial visa application. We went through the immigration process, arranged everything for our move, sold our house north-east of Toronto, sold many of our furniture pieces and housewares, shipped some 100 boxes of personal belongings and furniture, packed our suitcases with clothes and other essential items that we require for the first three months in NZ (until our shipment arrives), and were on our way.

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Saying ‘goodbye for now’ to our books, Lego, and a few other valued possessions.

We have been in Tauranga for a week now and are settling into our new temporary home, exploring our new town and its neighbourhoods, and getting used to a new way of life. I will continue to write about our adventures in NZ, new discoveries, and lessons.

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On our way to the airport.

I will publish a second post on a weekly basis, on Saturdays (in NZ) / Fridays (in North America and Europe), featuring a photo journal of weekly highlights, as well as notable links from around the web, related to mindfulness/awareness, literature, travel, and other subjects of interest. There is so much to discover, but I remind myself daily to slow down and savour each new incredible experience.

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A spectacular sunset on the local beach.

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Until next time, wishing you a peaceful week!

Lessons from a Facebook photo challenge

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On a ferry from Tobermory to the whimsical Flowerpot Island.
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A tranquil afternoon stroll in Toronto’s High Park.
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Lunch in the clouds atop the Zugspitze.
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La vie en rose in Paris. A rose-coloured sunset with the Notre Dame in the foreground.
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A harvested lavender field outside the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, Gordes. We had just missed the harvest by a couple of weeks. Tant pis.
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The magic of Bretagne.
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A breathtaking view of Gordes. To me, this is a wonderful example of living in harmony with nature, building a life to fit into the environment.

I was invited by a friend to take part in a photo challenge on Facebook, the premise of which is to share one nature photograph per day, over a period of seven days. As a general rule, I ignore invitations to participate in challenges and play games on social media, mostly because it is one more task to add to my ‘to do’ list and requires that I visit my social media pages at least once per day to post an update. Yet, I chose to accept this invite. Today marks day 7 of the challenge, and although I will be glad to take a break from social media for the next few days, I gained a few interesting lessons from the experience:

1. Wanderlust reigns.

While searching the hard drive of my computer for nature photos to share, I noticed that my attention gravitated not toward recent photos of beautiful local hiking trails and beaches but older photos taken during my and Mr. Wanderlust’s travels in Germany, France, Austria, Arizona, and other spectacular destinations. I don’t need to analyze this pattern to understand that I long to travel again.

2. I love cities with green spaces, and seek nature even in the busiest locales.

While on a weekend trip to NYC a year and half ago, I longed to stroll through Central Park after visiting the Museum of Natural History. In Prague, I loved hiking up Petrin Hill. In Paris, I enjoyed the Jardin du Luxembourg. When we travelled to Las Vegas seven years ago, we spent a day in the busy city, then woke up early the following morning for a two-day road trip to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon. Last year, while visiting Florida, we interspersed visits to the Disney parks with day trips to the beach. That photo of the hummingbird above? Mr. Wanderlust snapped it on the street in San Francisco. It’s safe to say that although we love interesting urban locales, we always seek nature, whether it’s in a park, a forest, the desert, or the seaside. Even in the busiest city, the view of a breathtaking sunset behind the skyscrapers calms me, reminding me to breathe deeper and walk taller while firmly planting my feet on the paved sidewalk.

3. Stepping outside is the quickest, most effective way to recharge.

I enjoy a quiet morning walk on my way home after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school. Although the mornings are crisp and some days can feel cold, that is my opportunity to engage in a moving meditation, setting one foot in front of the other with awareness. I return home feeling recharged and ready to clean the kitchen after breakfast, then plan my work for the day ahead. There is no need to go far to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

4. Social media sometimes has its merits.

I have become disenchanted with a lack of true connection on social media. It is easy to mechanically click ‘like’ on a photo or an update and I do not consider this to be a manner of engagement. Yet, some days, I am pleasantly surprised and delighted when someone takes a few seconds to type a comment, and this is something that I strive to practise, taking time to genuinely engage with others via the online world. This challenge has also served as a valuable opportunity for me to reevaluate the content I share on my social media pages. I am not one to post frequent photos of myself and selfies are not my cup of tea. In the future, I will dedicate my social media accounts to sharing more inspiring content related to beautiful natural landscapes and breathtaking city views, books and words in their many forms, art in its many expressions, and of course, yoga and meditation.

Do you enjoy sharing photos on social media of beautiful places in nature? Do you, perhaps, have an Instagram page dedicated to such art work? If so, I’m curious to take a peek. Please tell me about it in the comments below.

Favourites from around the web:

Now that you have read my thoughts on the ubiquitous ‘like’ button, here is more on that topic.

Using clickbait to recruit interest among young readers? I think it just might work.

This beautiful article on simplicity has gone viral over the past week. The word ‘mediocre’ is, of course, used strategically, so please take the time to read beyond the headline.

Minimalists are the quintessential connoisseurs of life.

From the archives:

Project: House Detox

I learned something about stress

Here’s to a week infused with inspiration!

In the bleak midwinter, I shall bake muffins

The Wanderlust Juniors and I spent the first week of the new year with my parents in cottage country, where we slept in, enjoyed plenty of time outdoors in the fresh winter air, taking walks and playing in fluffy snow — almost knee-deep for me, and even deeper for them. It’s truly a pleasure to grant ourselves a vacation from the everyday bustle, to start the year on a quiet note, with a retreat from the city, immersed in silence.

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Through the wardrobe… Winter is magical.

It would be dishonest of me to say that I do not care about weather changes. Although I do enjoy winter weather, the limited exposure to sunlight does affect me, as it does many others. Yet, staying indoors for an entire day when it’s cold outside also doesn’t help to elevate my mood. That is why I do my best, whenever possible, to bundle up, pull on my big faux-fur winter boots, and head outside for a walk or to play with Wanderlust Juniors. Even 15 minutes outdoors make a tremendous difference, reminding me that the world continually changes, that nothing is ever static, and that we must grant ourselves the opportunity to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and reconnect to the greater world. Perhaps, we just might find that the midwinter is not all that bleak.

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Playtime! Snow angels in the winter sunshine.

After the outing, we go back inside for a large mug of steaming tea for me, and muffins for the boys. Here is my ‘go to’ muffin recipe:

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Banana, Blueberry, and Lavender Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

a pinch of fine sea salt

1-2 tsp culinary lavender (In Toronto, I purchase culinary lavender from Weir’s Lane Lavender & Apiary)

2 ripe bananas

1 egg

1 cup milk of your choice

1/3 cup vegetable oil, grape seed oil, or melted coconut oil

2/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lavender. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mash the bananas, then add the egg and whisk lightly. Add the oil and milk and continue to whisk until the mixture is uniform.
  4. Carefully pour the wet ingredients into a well in the centre of the bowl containing the dry ingredients. Gently fold in the blueberries, stirring carefully until the batter is just combined.
  5. Using a tablespoon, pour the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups.
  6. Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the muffin baking pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Notes: I sometimes substitute chocolate chips for the blueberries, if you wish. Lavender reminds me of summer in the midst of the cold months; however, if you do not enjoy lavender, you may omit it entirely. The Wanderlust Juniors also love these muffins as a school snack.

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Please leave a comment below to share your tips for staying healthy and joyful throughout the winter months. Also, I would love to read about your favourite type of muffins. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

My goal for 2017: Create Magic

Last year, I set out to focus on being Present in 2016. This year, my intention continues to build on the themes of presence, awareness, and mindfulness, to pay close attention to and seek out the magic that surrounds us every day. I also acknowledge that often, magic is in a spark that lurks just beneath the surface, waiting to be reawakened by our inspiration to live a life that is more robust, reaching beyond the bleak, dust-covered exterior, allowing ourselves to mine deeper with our own curiosity toward a greater potential.

And so, my goal — or mantra, if you will — for 2017 is to create magic.

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I will make more time and space:

  • to read
  • to write
  • to sit in silence
  • to meet a friend for tea and heart-to heart conversation
  • to laugh with my loved ones
  • to enjoy family hikes
  • to practise yoga, moving with ease
  • to make music
  • to dance
  • to play with fun recipes in the kitchen
  • to make cosy, pretty pieces using luxurious yarn

When we make self-care a priority and consciously clear space for what matters most, we create magic.

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What I do not want is to rush, to feel scattered, and to waste time. To me, those actions are the antithesis of magic. They dull creativity instead of stoking its precious embers.

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Do you have a goal, mantra, or word for 2017? To help you fine-tune your focus, you may wish to reflect on the following:

What practices worked for me last year? 

What actions and/or habits did not serve me last year? 

What do I want more of in the new year? 

Spend some time journaling, then read your responses and look for key words that show up on the page. Use those words to create your goal statement or mantra, or choose one or more words on which to focus this year.

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If you would like to share your word / goal / mantra with me, please leave a comment below. Here’s to a creative 2017!

Wrap-up: Top 11 posts of 2016

Depending on where in the world you reside, you might already be well into your festivities. I wish you a warm and cosy week of celebrations with your dear ones. I also want to thank you for your support over the past 12 months. Mindful Daydreamer is forever evolving as I continue to learn and mature in my writing and exploration of ideas. I’m grateful to have this platform to share my thoughts and for the support of my loyal readers. I bow to you in deep gratitude.

Happy holidays! I am taking a mini retreat from blogging and social media, but will write again in the early days of 2017. Until then, may we all bask in the quiet peace of these final days of the year before welcoming the new one. Enjoy every moment! 


If during the holiday week you have a few minutes to relax with a cup of tea and would like to catch up on some reading you might have missed, or re-read a few favourite posts, allow me to share with you the 11 most popular Mindful Daydreamer posts of 2016:

1.  Mindfulness for the introvert business traveller, published on February 22nd

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2.  Transformation through discomfort, published on February 24th

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3.  Our mindful Disney vacation, published on March 4th

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4. The best version of myself, published on April 21st

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5. Deciding to simplify, published on June 10th

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6. A story of commitment, dedication, and love, published on June 17th

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7. Anniversary, published on July 22nd

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8. Milestones and memories, published on August 4th

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9. On Friendship, published on November 10th

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10. Festive season yoga time-out, published on December 15th

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11. The top 11 books I read in 2016, published on December 22nd

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Kindest wishes,

Katia (Mindful Daydreamer)

In search of stillness

 

In the midst of chaos, may we remember to return to the source, to continue to seek stillness. When the ground beneath our feet feels unstable and an ache pulses in our chests, may we remember to look to Nature for the greater lessons. May we continue to tend to our gardens and hearths, to smile at our children and marvel at the special fleeting moments of grace.

May we find comfort in uncertainty and trust that love will prevail.

I invite you to read and listen to this wonderful, timely poem by Wendell Berry, shared with me by Kristin Espinasse of French-Word-A-Day.
Wishing you peace.

The in-between month

 

November. Living in Ontario, I acknowledge solemnly that this typically grey month is my least favourite time of the year. I call it the in-between phase when the trees stand bare, having been disrobed of their fiery leaves, awaiting the coming snow. This year, however, I’m choosing to acquiesce to the changes. Instead of resisting the transitions of nature, I welcome them. I retreat into the cosy comfort of the interior of my home, with its warm blankets on the sofa, the aroma of chicken broth steaming on the stove, bottomless mugs of tea and thick books, and laughter-infused living room dance parties with Wanderlust Juniors before the quiet of story time snuggles in the ‘big bed.’ I choose to delight in the in-between time as the sun continues to wane, remembering that soon enough, it will reawaken again and a new cycle of its year-long journey will begin just before Christmas. That idea in itself is heartwarming for me.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, how do you feel about November? Do you have a strategy for making the most of this time of the year?

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Seeking enchantment

Humming songs about Thumbelina while skipping toward the patch where wild strawberries smirk as they play hide-and-seek.

Running along the rustling golden path laid carefully with delicate cascading leaves.  

Stopping to twirl now and then, silver bells of laughter playing with the gossamer leaves of the surrounding trees.

Seeking demure mushrooms that lurk behind the robes of gnomes disguised as tree stumps. 

Constructing cosy moss houses for the faeries on the floor of the lush green forest.

Wandering off the path to explore, sometimes discovering surprises both pleasant and fascinatingly spooky.

“Mama, does a witch live in the little cottage in that clearing over there? Do you suppose she’s lonely? The squirrels and birds must keep her company.”

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The memories of my childhood days of playing in the pine and maple forests remain strong with me to this day. I seek solace on the winding paths, allowing myself to be guided. I thirst to hear the whisper of the trees, the rustle of the leaves, to dance with the breeze and swaying willows and to stand rooted, attentive to the murmurs of the mysterious life that surrounds me. It always made perfect sense to me that the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien chose to set many of their stories in the forest. The setting has always been enchanting and continues to enthrall. 

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Several years ago, while visiting Fussen, Bavaria with Mr. Wanderlust, we chose to walk up the misty mountains toward the quietly bewitching Neuschwanstein Castle. The visit brought my fairy tales to life before me, overwhelming my fantasies as I sought to absorb the visit with great gulps, urging the colours, textures, and smells of the castle to remain in my memory without ever fading. The building lured me within and hypnotized me. My affinity toward it is that strong. I listened attentively to the strange stories of King Ludwig II, recounted by our tour guide. Prior to visiting the impeccable castle, I had read the fascinating story behind the Fairy Tale King’s idealistic vision for the perfect dwelling, and his story spoke to me, from one lover of magical storytelling to another. Standing in the lavish rooms of the castle and admiring every carefully planned refined detail, I felt I understood the king’s passion, and I whispered as much to the walls that were silently watching the processions of tourist groups. Those walls tell wonderful Medieval stories with their murals, yet I imagined the secrets they keep to themselves, with all that they have seen and heard over more than the past century.

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After Mr. Wanderlust and I reluctantly left the castle, we took a walk in the darkening Black Forest beneath an overcast autumn sky and the heavy canopy of trees to marvel at the beauty of the swan castle from different angles. I read about the Black Forest in my favourite fairy tale books, and its significance was heightened for me at that moment. I saw what Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty saw on their own walks through the woods to collect mushrooms and berries. Shhh, don’t tell me they are fictional characters. If you have ever walked through those woods, I’m sure you were awed into stillness, allowing magic to weave its way around you, silencing your logical mind, if only for a few moments.

I continue to seek that magic every time I step onto a forest path. I wish to reawaken the enchantment, to bring back to life the fascinating stories of my childhood… If only for a few moments.

Have you ever felt such magic? Tell me about it, perhaps by leaving a comment below. 

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.