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Southern Hygge

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 19, 2015 — 2 Comments

This weekend has left several improving marks upon my life.

It began with a challenge: an attempt to clarify a fuzzy whisper in my mind.

Feeling another step in the right direction of living well in my place, it tickled the edges of my thoughts. The many tasks and routines and duties of daily life crowded out any understanding. For the weekend, I decided an easy and concrete way to lessen the buzz and listen to life is to set aside the smart phone. You know how it is these days…our children telling us stories or asking us questions while we continue staring at the screen, looking for who knows what.

Be present, original photographyIt started with a sentence: “Be with the ones who are here.”

I added it to my phone’s lock screen photo, my favorite photo. Each time I lift it and push the magic button, I am reminded to be present. Most often, I put the phone down. I needed nothing; just an idle addiction to “news” and “notification.” When the timing is appropriate and I am the only one here, I browse. Friday afternoon happened upon an article introducing cultural concepts from outside the US. Several of these ideas struck chords in my heart and set off a light bulbs in my mind. I ate up as much information as I could to understand (and correctly pronounce) these new terms.

It begins with an “H”: The Danish Hygge (pronounce something close to “hue-gah”)

A warm, cozy sense of well-being; being grateful for the present moments, for warming, light-filled simple things. Like walks in the woods, bundled in soft clothes. Like a warm cup of tea, or hot chocolate by the fire. Like snuggling on a deep couch with your family, or taking time to pet your dog. Watching your children run and laugh and play down a trail; watching the sun rays through the trees, shining off the puddles and warming your face. A home that exudes welcome. Good friends and good company.

In Denmark, they say this contributes to the Danes being the happiest people on earth. Filling their homes with candles and lights and joy and camaraderie. I ordered some string lights for our home (with Christmas past and hygge not quite celebrated here, they proved hard to come by!) and have candles in mason jars on my mantle…a southern type of hygge. I’m ready to bring warmth to these cold winter months and more peace and awareness into our daily moments.

It starts with an “S”: The Japanese Shinrin-Yoku

Translated as “forest bathing,” we immediately explored this concept of “spending time in the forest and natural areas,” which is supposed to be “good preventative medicine.” On our sunny and mild January Saturday, I loaded up the three kids and headed around the way to our nearby Red Mountain Park. We wove our way through the forest, up and down and around the hilly trails and through the tall, tangled towers of bare trees. We soaked in the forest, the sunlight, the changing earth which darkened the nearer we came to the old iron ore mines. We explored and adventured.

It was good for the soul.

The two children who had earlier been squabbling as we stayed indoors now laughed and ran and chased each other, finding rocks and sticks and life. The mother who was tired, morose and irritable breathed deeply and gazed warmly at the world and with so much love and gratitude at the scampering kids. Can hygge and shinrin-yoku go together? Fusion philosophies, like fusion food? It seems that way.

There is so much to learn in the world; so many ways to improve our lives so that in turn, we may improve the lives of others. In our fast, competitive, needy American life, these slowing, peaceful, contented cultural concepts sound like good medicine. I already feel a difference in my life, just from the first days of appreciative attempt. I wish the same for you, along with a warm and welcoming winter.

Explore, original photography

Explore, original photography