What’s an introvert to do?

Two conversations, 14 hours apart, have served as a reminder for me to a) stop overthinking everything, b) get out of my cosy, comfortable, safe shell, and c) drop the labels.

The first exchange was with a woman whom I met on Monday evening. Having lived in several places before settling in NZ, she discreetly snuck in a peace of advice for me to work harder at making friends with the locals, many of whom, in her opinion, are more reserved than North Americans. She must have sensed a whisper-thin trace of loneliness that rested, unspoken, between the lines. Immediately, a sarcastic voice somewhere at the back of my head jeered, “Oh, lovely news for an introvert like me, who has often dreaded the mere idea of having to make the first step toward meeting people.”

On Tuesday morning, as I walked back to my car after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, a friendly voice brought me to the present moment, dissipating thoughts of a not-so-distant past. I turned my head and was met with the beautiful smile of a fellow yoga mum who beamed warmly at me as she invited me to attend a class at her studio. More reserved, my foot, I smiled to myself.

I have often hid behind the ‘introvert’ label, using it as a shield from the outside world and as an excuse to stay at home with my books, living vicariously through literary characters and their adventures instead of creating my own. Classifying myself as an introvert is akin to making a sweeping generalisation about the characteristics of a certain group of people. Besides, even extroverts enjoy a cosy evening at home from time to time.

So, what is an introvert to do in a new town, in a new country? She shall be compassionate toward herself and others. She shall ever so gently nudge herself out of her comfy shell, reminding herself of her past triumphs and hiccups that have served as incredible lessons. She shall leave behind any previous labels that have been assigned to her before and which she had assigned to herself, that have served to educate her about herself and the world around her but which, at times, can feel divisive. She shall keep an open mind and an open heart. She shall brush aside traces of doubt before they threaten to disturb her peace. She shall give herself room for introspection, but remind herself that here, in this moment, is where the potential for magic dwells.

I suspect that these reminders might also be timely for others.

Thank you for reading and sharing this blog with a friend.

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*** Both photographs used in today’s story are courtesy of the incredible Christa Pauwels of Christichka Photography. ***

Favourites from around the web:

10 Literary Romances, Put to the Happily-Ever-After Test — The perfect amount of entertainment to accompany my mid-morning tea.

Making a Marriage Magically Tidy

Integrating Yoga into Daily Life — A great podcast with Canadian yoga teachers Natalie Rousseau and Melanie Phillips

How to Care Deeply without Burning Out

How to parent like a minimalist

Foreshadowing. Could a favourite children’s book have predicted the future?

Slinky Malinki was blacker than black

A stalking and lurking adventurous cat.

He had bright yellow eyes, a warbling wail

And a kink at the end of his very long tail.

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After Mr. Wanderlust and I started to announce that we were expecting our first baby, a couple of our friends very thoughtfully surprised us with three children’s books. One of those, Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd, would quickly become a favourite for the eldest Wanderlust Junior, later for the youngest, and also for us, the parents. We admired the quirky illustrations of adorable Slinky Malinki the cat, and the Wanderlust Juniors used to comment that he looked very much like our own late cat, Meeshu. It wasn’t long before our boys, learning to speak, started to complete the words at the end of each stanza. Without needing to try, we had memorized the funny rhyming story.

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Hello there, Slinky!

Shortly after arriving in NZ, we started to notice illustrations of a dog called Hairy Maclary in bookshops, the local library, and at the school, and we quickly deduced that the same illustrator also worked on Slinky Malinki. It turns out we were correct.

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I wasn’t able to capture Slinky lurking off to the right-hand side of the kerfuffle scene.

When we first visited the Tauranga waterfront playground, we delighted at a garden of sculptures of a group of dogs that chased a hissing, distressed cat up a pole. A second cat lurks nearby, obscured by a low wooden barrier just steps from the unsuspecting, distracted dogs. Yes, you would be correct to guess that the stalking and lurking kitty was our old friend Slinky. Our investigation concluded a minute later, after we read a nearby sign about Lynley Dodd, who is originally from Rotorua and is a resident of Tauranga. As has happened several times within the past seven weeks since our arrival in NZ, Mr. Wanderlust and I looked at each other with eyes wide in marvel, then laughed.

“The signs were there all along.”

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Leader of the pack and a new favourite literary character, Hairy Maclary
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Wonderful detail

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For over seven years, we read from a beloved book that, somehow, unbeknownst to us, would lead us to its place of origin in what has become our new home.

Do you believe in signs?

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Stalking and lurking, indeed.

The week in review: May 19th

It appears winter has arrived in NZ, announcing itself by way of rain, wind gusts, and crisp mornings. Inevitably, it’s all very different from winter in Ontario and we are curious about the months to come. I think of plans for July and immediately conjure images of hot and humid days, then remind myself that such weather doesn’t apply to this part of the world at that time of year.

There are also other fascinating discoveries. Two weeks ago, I noticed that the moon phases progress in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. As someone who follows the moon particularly closely, I was puzzled to see that the moon was waxing from the left to the right side. My delight at this so-called discovery might sound downright ridiculous to others for whom this information is likely common knowledge, but it fills me with inexplicable joy and curiosity. Please do leave a note in the comments below and tell me, did you know about this ‘mirror effect’ of the moon in the northern vs. the southern hemisphere?

A few favourite moments from the past week:

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I was almost knocked off my feet by a wind gust while taking photos near the dunes. I’m at once terrified and fascinated by the ocean on stormy days.
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Beachside treasures that leave me in awe of the wonders of the universe.
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It’s easy to eat the rainbow when delicious vegetables are in abundance at the farmers’ market.
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I adore the whimsical nature gifts that the youngest Wanderlust Junior brings home almost daily. Some of them — ahem, pet bugs — are somewhat questionable, but others are sweet.

Favourites from around the web:

Modern Mrs. Darcy has released her list of 17 books everyone will be talking about this summer. I can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these. Which ones are you looking forward to reading?

A fascinating podcast: Accelerated Learning: Get Good at Anything in 20 hours

Beautiful, honest, and though-provoking. Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them. I have often looked at photos of my mother from her late teens and early 20s and wondered about the woman she was before I changed her world.

We spend plenty of time inside our heads. You Can’t Be Creative without Being in Your Body

Things have been busy on my end. It’s time to return to basics. Today I’ll Press Pause

Excellent advice for the writer. So you want to be a writer? Essential tips for aspiring novelists

Wishing you a beautiful weekend, regardless of the reigning season!

The week in review: May 12th

It’s a rainy and windy day, with a reminder of Autumn. We are spending the evening in hibernation, made more cosy with a few good books, a hearty chickpea stew, and freshly baked brownies for dessert.

A collection of favourite moments from the past week:

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Delicious kale from a local permaculture garden yielded these perfectly crispy chips.
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More fresh, organic goodies.
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Spectacular Piha Beach.
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Walking along the beach near Devonport, Auckland, I brought my gaze up from the seashell-sprinkled sand toward these beautiful giants.
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The perfect rainy day companions.

Favourites from around the web:

I’m fascinated by neuroplasticity and this article offers interesting insight. Could your thoughts make you age faster?

For the bibliophiles: Reading is Forgetting.

Getting stuff done with the pomodoro technique. Thoughts?

A different take on the Little Free Library. Thoughts?

Wherever your travels might take you this weekend, may it be beautiful in every way!

May 5th / 6th: Simplicity, and local exploration

Here is a small selection of favourite moments from the past week:

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A breezy Sunday afternoon on Leisure Island, with a view of Mount Maunganui.
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Cilantro (coriander in NZ) catching a few cosy rays on the windowsill.
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Posting mail to a few special recipients overseas.
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Joy is a new-to-me beach cruiser that feels like it’s always been mine.
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Simple and delicious.

Favourites from around the web:

We have been doing plenty of sightseeing, but we are also working to balance it with quiet time and simplicity. Why simplifying may protect our children’s mental health.

Quirky. How reading makes our lives better.

This resonates. How to make and keep friends as an adult.

Self-care. A YogaLand interview with Tiffany Cruikshank regarding self-care idea for spring’s transitions.

Here’s to a pleasant weekend!

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!

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!

Renewal

Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching. – Emily Carr

A few captures from the past week:

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As we welcome Spring in the northern hemisphere, we are invited to reflect on what, in our personal lives, is waiting to be reawakened. What has been dormant throughout a winter of hibernation and a lazy pace?

Last week was the annual spring break for the Wanderlust Juniors, though the weather made it feel more like mid-January with a windy, cold start to the week. We could be found at home, nursing ourselves to good health; I’m still waiting for my voice to return after a bout of laryngitis. In seeking comfort, we turned to the typical old-fashioned — or maybe the currently trendy hygge-esque — wool blankets and mugs of tea with honey, made forts, watched movies while munching popcorn, and crafted. Today, however, I feel ready to return to my routine and renew my intention to create magic.

I am renewing my commitment to sit in meditation for 10-15 minutes in the morning, following my physical practice. Although I love meditation for its soothing quality and as a disciplinary practice, my practice has lately become sporadic. I am ready to reignite the spark of inspiration.

Is there an intention that you are ready to renew? Please tell me about it in the commends below. 

Favourites from around the web:

I am made of equal parts wanderlust and homebody fibres, as is this writer.

Guided meditation from Tara Brach.

Inspiring podcasts.

More on decluttering.

Wisdom from Mary Oliver.

From the archives:

Feeling yoga.

What meditation is really like.

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“Hibernation.”

Wishing you a week of gentle awakenings and inspiration! Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Three relationships

treatfortI opened my email inbox this afternoon to find the Daily JOMO newsletter from Christina Crook. In today’s quest toward a slower, more mindful life, Christina invites us to focus on three important people and to dedicate some time to them. When I first heard of the idea of choosing merely three people toward whom to direct my attention, I felt limited, immediately retorting that I am fortunate to have more than three people in my life about whom I care deeply and whom I wish to honour. Yet, I don’t believe that we are meant to think of the invitation in absolute terms. The choice can be turned into a daily ritual of intention-setting. The people we choose might be different every day or might remain the same for a week at a time. It does not undermine our relationship with anyone else who is dear to us.

I considered my day today, at home with the Wanderlust Juniors, feeling tired due to the new adjustment to daylight saving time and having been awakened too early to tend to a boy with a — thankfully — mild case of food poisoning. My attention was required here, ready to assist with the construction of play forts; entertaining two little artists by sharing the pages of a colouring book; making raw chocolate treats; and slicing apples at snack time. Here were two relationships that demanded my undivided attention. The third person was my mum, who brought along treats for teatime and with whom I enjoyed a couple of lovely — albeit short — hours.

The three people often choose us. All that is required of us is to accept the invitation to remain present.

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