As I was reading one of the Louise Penny mystery novels recently…Chief Inspector Armand Gamache was thinking to himself”: As we get older we yearn for less. (He then began to prioritize what was important to him now in his late middle-age years…his wife and children, reading, long walks and his dog Henri. These things made him fulfilled and completely happy in life.)
As we get older we yearn for less… I think Penny’s heroic, fictitious character nailed what has been behind my crusade to clean out closets, drawers and shelves of everything in my house. I don’t want a lot of stuff around me any more…it hinges on producing a slight suffocating feeling within me, if I see things junked up.
I think I must have gotten a visit from one of those special angels “who don’t let us get too comfortable, fall asleep, and miss out on our own life.”
I want to surround myself these days with family and special friends who hear us when we never say a word. They know what we are saying without uttering a sound.
When I entertain I like to do so spontaneously with just one guest or perhaps a very small group of friends…so I don’t pull a “Becky” and start cleaning under sofas and wiping down baseboards. (I can really do a number on myself)
But if I don’t plan ahead…simply call and say that I have left-over this or that or just picked up some yummy lasagna…can you join me…I don’t give myself time to do anything but chill the white wine and have a good time.
The French have an expression that I love concerning close-knit meals with others called “en famille.” It suggests a last minute, very relaxed, ‘come as you are’ gathering. Actually, it even means more than that..these types of meals are reserved for only special guests who are considered family. It is a compliment to be invited…a special position felt by the host towards the guest and vice-versa.
What got me thinking along these lines of hospitality and familiarity…was my visit to Denmark almost two decades or so ago. Several teachers in our district became involved in a state teacher exchange program with Denmark. Some of us traveled together…we each had a host family for two weeks and they were located all over this beautiful country.
I got lucky…my host, Benedikte Christensen, lived in Copenhagen. She had already come to my home earlier in October and remarked (on numerous occasions) about the warm weather and the direct connection, she thought, to the warm-hearted people who lived here.
I was visiting Benedikte in early April (over our spring break) and it was frigid…within any 24 hours…it could go from rain, to sleet, to snow, to sun but always quite chilly. I discovered, however, because of the cold weather (that extends for such a longer period of time in Denmark)…people there actually entertain more than here.
Every night I was there, with the exception of one or two evenings, we went to a friend or relative’s home for supper. Always taking something, usually wine along with a dessert, and we had a ball…laughing, eating, and drinking well into the evening. Schools there actually start at a practical time…more like 9:00 than our 7:00 (especially for teachers.)
The academic part of the day ran on a half-day schedule, when the students stopped and went home for lunch to return for extracurricular activities according to their interests and aptitudes in the afternoons. *Benedikte taught what would be equivalent to our third grade and most of the students spoke English quite well. I had no trouble working with them on their English lessons. This is a poster the class made for me.
As teachers get older in Denmark they can decide to teach less hours (obviously for less money) if they so choose…and many do. (They definitely don’t have the same high rate of teacher burn-out that we do in our country.)
For the last few years you have probably seen on Sixty Minutes that Denmark has been crowned “the happiest country in the world.” Just for the short time I was there I picked up on this uplifting atmosphere stemming from the lack of stress one feels going about every day work and living.
When Cindy Ashley stopped by to pick up the next Louise Penny detective book she was telling me that she and Dennis are going to Denmark this summer to trace down her ancestry…since her heritage goes back to the Scandinavian countries.
She has been reading up on a contemporary word which symbolizes a new cultural attitude in Denmark called Hygge. It is the Danish counterpart to the French “En Famille” except it is broader and encompasses more than just a meal…it is a way of living.
Cindy provided me several links which I will pass on to you but in a quick synopsis its roots go back to this origin:
*Term comes from a Norwegian word meaning “wellbeing”
*First appeared in Danish writing in the 19th Century and has since evolved into the cultural idea known in Denmark today
“It’s interesting that the word doesn’t really translate into other languages. Hygge isn’t restricted to Denmark, so why is it so hard to describe without borrowing a Danish word?”
The blogger Anna Lea West, has offered “coziness of the soul” as an English definition. “Hygge was never meant to be translated. It was meant to be felt,” translator ToveMaren Stakkestad has written.
(2016 Word of the Year) Excerpt from The New Yorker(“The Year of the Danish Obsession with Getting Cozy”: Anna Altman; Dec. 18, 2016)
…“Perhaps Scandinavians are better able to appreciate the small, hygge things in life because they already have all the big ones nailed down: free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year. With those necessities secured, according to Wiking, Danes are free to become “aware of the decoupling between wealth and wellbeing.” “After our basic needs are met, more money doesn’t lead to more happiness.” “Instead, Danes are good at focusing on what brings them a better quality of life.”
I don’t think the ‘special angels’ have to check on the Danes for being too comfortable…they have just realized that more money doesn’t bring happiness…just more greed and troubles. Life is good when one doesn’t have to worry continuously about saving money for college, health care, insurance, etc. Instead the Danes gather for meals, shared friendship, vacations, and travel. Danes travel a lot! The best kind of education!
* Every morning all the students at Benedikte’s school would gather and sing…folk songs, patriotic songs, etc. What a great way to start the day! On my last day at the school…the students had secretly been practicing a song and suddenly I heard (to the tune of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.)
“My Becky lies over the ocean, My Becky lies over the sea, My Becky lies over the ocean, Oh bring back Miss Becky to me. Becky, Becky oh bring back Miss Becky to me….Becky, Becky oh bring back Miss Becky to me.” (I will always love that memory)
So until tomorrow…”Life is either a great adventure or it’s nothing.” Helen Keller
Here are a couple of the links Cindy provided: Hygge (Thank you Cindy!) * Like me…you might feel like catching the next plane out…for a slower-paced life.
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
Birthday Weekend! Lots of fun!
Eva Cate can now start and stop her bicycle…it was Jakie who got the ‘Boo Boo Owie’ when his trike toppled over.
*As I noticed this community sign leaving Mandy and John’s neighborhood…I had to laugh at the creative spin on the Wizard of Oz...But it was true…the USC Gamecocks, Citadel Dawgs, and Clemson Tigers all had “Oh My” performances Saturday. Way to go state teams!
I received this picture from Kaitlyn as they walked the dogs while going back home to Chattanooga ….was glad to see the sun was out there today and no rain for them too.