I can be quite a hermit at times. I have always been able to easily entertain myself for days without interacting with other people. Last week I stayed in a house in the woods at the Veluwe and most of my social activities were with animals haha! A conscious decision! So nice to be fully in touch with nature. Waking up at 5am when the sun rises, with the sounds of the dawn chorus, long walks in the national park, cycles, horse riding, swimming, deer spotting. All of it just out in nature, no city visits etcetera. It reminded me of the feeling I had when living in Ireland and that I sometimes miss here. To really be away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I find it very relaxing and it helps me grounding and focussing on my own goals again.
Even though I love the dunes and the beach it’s impossible in The Hague to go for walks without seeing any other people. Have you ever had that experience of being alone in nature for a longer period of time? What feeling or which insights did it give you? I hope you’re enjoying the spring weather this Pentecost and your inner fires will be resparked aswell!
Chatting with some friends in a café yesterday brought us to the topic of bands and musicians we adored in our teens…And it turned out we still got the butterfly feeling when speaking about some of them ha! It got me thinking about fandom and what it means to me as a musician. I was a big fan of some bands in my teens and I have been so lucky to finally meet some of them backstage at festivals in real life: From Paddy Kelly (Kelly Family) to Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and everything in between: Josh Ritter, Rufus Wainwright, Beth Hart and many many more…
As a kid I spent all my pocket money collecting CD’s and VHS videos, to go to concerts and festivals all over the country, spent hours and hours in queues before concert halls and at backstage entrances of stadiums. It brought me to many many places and it was always a good reason for travelling in The Netherlands and abroad. My parents allowed me to travel to a concert at the other side of the country by train on my own at the age of 15!! An exciting first solo journey! I met so many friends through this hobby.
Also it served as a purpose for travelling. I don’t like random travels so much. I prefer to visit places with a special meaning: historically, genealogically, movie set scenes (Star Wars!) or places with a link to music. It gives a whole new dimension to visiting a place. Looking up to idols always inspired me in the music I make myself. I had never imagined I would actually end up meeting some of these people in real life or even sharing the stage or the festival bill with some of them!
Do you guys have certain bands, movies or inspirations that you would travel the world for or that inspire you in your career or otherwise? What does it mean to you? And do you still get as excited about them these days?
When I was a student one of my many acoustic music projects was singing harmonies with some friends. We sometimes jokingly called this ‘music therapy’. I don’t know what happens exactly in terms of sound frequencies, but singing harmonies certainly has an amazing healing effect on body and mind.
Over the past years I have been lucky to sing some live duets with several music colleagues. You will find several recordings on YouTube. In some cases it had the exact same effect: listening, grasping those lines from somewhere in the universe and just singing them. It can be a very spiritual experience. Everything feels whole then. I am so happy I had the same experience this week again singing with a dear musical friend. I will hopefully be able to share some recordings soon!
When I teach singing lessons I sometimes get back from students that they find singing more relaxing than yoga! Well breathing out deeply from the belly during singing certainly calms down high breathing, hyperventilation and anxiety, so it has great effects, giving confidence and strength.
Do you have any similar experiences singing duets or in a choir? Let me know if you find singing so healing aswell! Or join in with me for a vocal workshop! By the way, have you seen the Swedish movie As it is in Heaven? A great movie about the effects of harmonizing and the immense freeing power of singing your own voice out loud!
I have to admit I am a big Star Wars fan. I love the whole philosophy and view on society and spirituality behind it: the ideas of the light side and the dark side of the Force. With Christmas and the winter solstice coming up we all – religious or not – celebrate the return of the light in the darkness. Something you sometimes have to search for when you are having shitty weeks or the world seems to work against you. And I had a few pretty hectic weeks on all fronts myself!
Thankfully yesterday – while playing a lovely concert for a nice audience (picture below) – working together with a deeply appreciated colleague musician, I felt able to connect back to my inner Force again and I was wondering what it is exactly that does that. I think for me it’s love and inspiration and really feeling to the core of your being who you are and what you love doing. And connecting with people who have faith in you and inspire you on your own route.
I am so thankful to have travelled together on my own path with some musicians who I really admire for what they do. People who took risks to do what they love and who live very authentically. I cherish them with all my heart for that, as they have given me a lot of life force just by being who they are, and they still do!
I hope you will all have a lovely Christmas. Surround yourself with the right people. And may the Force be with you!
Since a few weeks the shallow Dutch coastal waters near The Hague have a new visitor: a large humpback whale. A new Facebook group was started with many reported sightings, but I hadn’t been lucky enough to see him, even though I Iive right on the beach.
Suddenly everybody walking the beach or the harbour heads would share one common goal: to catch a glimp of this big mammal. It created a whole new social atmosphere between the usually distant beach walkers: everybody chatting to each other, helping each other, exchanging numbers, binoculars and photo’s and a general feeling of shared excitement.
FINALLY I was in luck yesterday and I suddenly caught the whale making a big jump right in front of the place where I was standing. Impressive!
Seeing this big whale also made me aware of something. Living in a big city I noticed people are usually busy looking after their individual career and family goals. The government is responsible for the common goals so why bother thinking about them.
When I lived in a house in the Irish countryside a 10 minutes drive away from a village of 600 inhabitants (quite in the middle of nowhere) I noticed people would look after the challenges of their community very well. When there were problems with electricity people would share gas tanks for heating. People would point each other mountain wells for drinking water when the private water scheme quality wasn’t sufficient.
I think this social awareness is absolutely necessary to face any of the current climate problems and take up responsibility for these, instead of waiting for the government to come with solutions. Plus it creates a nicer social atmosphere over all!
Maybe that’s why it was so special to meet our whale friend: as a gentle reminder that there are even bigger things than us. I hope you will get to see him too!
Cycling to work everyday in my work suit in busy The Hague traffic at 8 am, meeting the same civil servants at the same traffic lights every morning, very much like the Groundhog Day movie, I thought I wanted a change. Well it wasn’t only a thought, it was also my body screaming for a break. Stress can really get into one’s system, especially if you experience sensory impulses intensely. I think no money is ever worth endangering one’s health.
Anyway, so here I was in the middle of nowhere in the North West of Ireland, with only a wooden stove to heat the house, no tap drinking water, electricity that often went when there were power cuts. And a lot of silence…. Just a house, nature, birds and wild deer in the garden. The quietness was so omnipresent that it felt I was in a different world, and that the real world with the traffic jams didn’t even really exist and certainly couldn’t be important if it did! What wás important here was to collect firewood and water from a well higherup in the mountains. There was a bus once a week to a nearby town in 20 minutes distance. And I actually met one of my best friends on it.
I started focussing on baking breads every morning, pizza’s, cakes, doing the household, volunteering in an animal sanctuary, making music with the locals, meeting some very talented people in the area. All of this felt so grounding and healing. There was plenty of time in a day, no rush to do anything, no appointments in my agenda. Not even internet in the house, so I had to walk down the road to receive messages.
And I loved it…
Back in Holland I still love spending time in the house or nature just by myself to load up on energy. Are you one of these sensitive people too? How do you step out of the 21st century rat race now and then?
The past week my house has been renovated. A big operation for which I needed to pack up all my stuff. It really reminded me of moving houses, something which I have done 16 times in my life already. I think you would all agree moving houses always feels like a big hassle that causes a lot of stress. So it does for me. As a creative my head is so full of ideas already that I very much dislike things around me also being out of place.
What’s the stress about though? Mainly about our belongings. I have been hiding this week at my parents’ house in the middle of the woods. I only brought my guitar and a small rucksack and quickly I started to relax, and just letting go off the renovation situation in my house in The Hague.
Back in 2007 when I left to Ireland after quitting my lawyer job, I moved all my belongings to a storage space. I only lived out of three suitcases for those three years in Ireland, in several furnished houses. When I came back to The Netherlands I decided to throw out as much as I could from the storage since I hadn’t missed these things anyway.
Since then I have had a natural dislike to buying things, especially big things like a piano or a surfboard! If you have ever travelled you know big things mean more weight to carry along in your backpack…or in your life….
I never chose to live a minimalistic lifestyle but it just somehow happened naturally this way. Living from a lower budget I started making more conscious decisions on buying things and not just throwing out things that are still very well usable. My current stage outfit for the castle tour (pictured below) is a dress I bought at the age of 17 for the highschool prom, that still fits perfectly at 35!!
I mean it when I say I really don’t miss anything. I don’t think I dress that badly either and people often compliment me with the cozy interior of my house. Wouldn’t living from a lower budget be good for all of us? I think it’s much more in line with our real ‘earthly budget’ anyway! Do you think of your footprint and sustainability when buying things?