I was out shopping recently and happened to spend a few minutes browsing the shelves of scented candles. It was interesting to see how many of the choices were happy, nostalgic treats like sugar cookies, apple pie, and vanilla birthday cake. All instantly conjured up with the quick rasp of a match. This ties in nicely with the many popular books available which outline how to create what the Danes call “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah), a now over-used buzz word that defines that snug feeling of cradling a mug of hot chocolate in front of the fire whilst wearing fancy socks that have never had cat hair on them.
The reality is that while most of us absolutely do crave this feeling, we are also excruciatingly busy. When time permits (often at the ghastly hour of 10 pm when we may still be folding laundry by the light of the dryer) we still feel guilty about failing to do more, be better. Women are especially prone to this kind of anguish and tend to undervalue what they accomplish every day.
Yet small things are important and their effect is cumulative.
Despite now being over six feet tall, my own sons can still wax sentimental about going to the market when they were small. Even though I myself was often exhausted and shuffling with a coffee, they only remember
The Cheese Ladies. These sparkling women took a genuine interest in them every Saturday and shaved off crumbly shards of Cheshire or offered squares of buttery Havarti, all the while earnestly listening. From Colby to New Zealand Cheddar they tried them all, and my eldest son began shyly bringing a drawing each week which the women proudly displayed till it curled and faded. Kindness and sincerity are good business partners, as it happens. We bought a lot of cheese!
I was extremely moved recently by a tender anecdote delivered at a memorial service. A young woman, the eldest granddaughter, held everyone’s attention by eloquently describing the shivery chill of a wet bathing suit after a long afternoon of swimming, and her squealing delight as her grandmother wound her into a soft, thick towel which she had thoughtfully toasted in the dryer first. She was then presented with a cherry Popsicle, before skipping back to play. So simple. But it’s a feeling she can rekindle throughout her life: feeling loved, cared for, cherished.
There are other things. A child’s excited pride in unclipping the Tupperware lid at soccer time. “Guys! It’s watermelon!” A friend of mine once marveled at her own mother’s help after the birth of a child. “She made chicken, she dried sheets outside. And she folded laundry perfectly — like they do in the store!”
Many of us know and dread the endless preparations that go with camping. But ultimately, who remembers the homemade gourmet foil packets that cook uncertainly in the ashes of the fire for dinner? No one — not when there are s’mores!
Light a scented candle by all means — but look carefully at your own life, gentle reader. You may already be creating far more hygge than you know.