This is a hard admission for me – I didn’t quite get Christmas right this year.

The cottage was decorated with huge paper snowflakes, evergreen branches and red wooden hearts and of course there were candles lit everywhere. There were moments of hygge; wrapping gifts, drinking Schnapps and laughing hopelessly with my eldest daughter and her silly, loving man, the glow of the fire, waiting for the whole almond in the risalamande on Christmas Eve, standing in front of the tree bright with candles, looking down the length of two tables pushed together at our family and friends gathered to celebrate, sitting alone at the bottom of the stairs to keep the tree company for a little longer before bed.  I held on to those moments but my underlying feeling was of the silence and real stillness that was escaping me, possibly us all.

 

How many of us really found the peace we look for at the close of the year, the space for just a bit of contemplation and time to feel restored?  If we’re honest, could we admit to feeling compelled to uphold all those lovely winter traditions for each other but silently bear the mounting cost? I don’t just mean the escalating price of the gifts we choose to give or the pace of the festivities, I mean the fatigue of pretence. Honesty and real hygge are interlaced.

 

Hygge isn’t the ‘complete absence of anything overwhelming’ that it’s often declared to be. It’s a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life, a way of illuminating the dark and inviting the warmth, simplicity and connection that contrast chaos and smooth anxiety.

Hygge can’t really happen if we are hiding from reality, from admitting to the strain of expense and expectation. Few of us can comfortably sustain the pretence that Christmas and New Year don’t bring enormous strain for thousands of people but with honesty and a good dose of love we can make it easier.

Lighting a candle doesn’t pay the bills, empty the septic tank or excuse spending wildly in the post Christmas sales but it can help us keep perspective and remember to celebrate the light in each other through the year to come.

 

 

Honesty and hygge
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 2 January 2013

‘A crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures; and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.’

Francis Bacon

 

The house is still and warm. Sun is melting the night frost. I am alone in our bed, writing and procrastinating. There are uniforms to be washed, three dogs to walk, grates to be emptied, books to be written and calls to be made. But I’m making cups of ‘Mother Pukka‘ tea, eating apples and toasted rye bread, pinching Christmas chocolate from the fridge and scrolling through Maria Popova‘s inspired literary jukebox to listen to great tunes, cut and paste quotes for you and celebrate my solitude.  To be alone is easy when you feel loved.

 

 

 

 


Celebrating solitude
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 2 December 2012

Hygge is about what makes us happy, what makes us feel open hearted and alive.

For years I have wanted to piece together a collection of happiness lists – lists of what makes each one of us happy, lists of those things we love. I want to create a site where we can share our handwritten lists.  Simply presented, adding nothing more than our name, our age and our profession. I can see them pinned above the seats on the underground or on the wall of a bus shelter.

I know our rhythms and priorities change from day to day but each one of us knows the the small everyday details and simple pleasures that always enrich us, make us feel fortunate and whole.  Our lists are poetic. They are unique. And they are worth sharing.

Here’s mine (cut and pasted, for now, from an old Appleworks document). Reading through it made me smile:

I love red peppers, cow parsley, family, my children, stillness, friends, spirals, skulls, jade green, bare feet, open fires, street art, clogs, tails, crochet, food, the sea, trance, Africa, orb webs, Rowan trees, coffee, Mary Oliver, drumming, snail shells, Gerard Manley Hopkins, community, growing things, graffiti, the smell of new books, the smell of old books, ferns unfolding, photography, vanilla, rain on Lupins, Denmark, the moment before sleep, a kestrel slope soaring, allotments, fennel, rosaries, the seasons, dark chocolate, lying spoons, sunshine, tribal bellydance, the smell of wild honeysuckle, flea markets, fonts, Roger Deakin, simplicity, candlelight, disco balls, bones, beach combing, hygge, walking the dogs, dawn, dusk, vintage textiles, cats, Ash trees, collective nouns, ritual, children’s art, tides, home, a blank sheet of paper, Rosa Rugosa, Konrad’s hands, bonfires, freewheeling downhill, shrines, window seats, smooth stones, hag stones, orchids, wooden crosses, ground glass beads, geese in flight, notebooks, charcoal, jasmine, sex, fairy lights, hearts, earth, hot baths, dark cinemas, night walking, heavy blankets, holding hands after school, modernist architecture, cadmium red, poems on the underground, the smell of cut grass, spinning tops, sheepskins, honesty, the words drift, parched, naughty, nincompoop, yield, crepiscule, stop, kiss and coalesce, Polaroids, biros, hot water bottles, totems, Autumn, Tate Modern, dappled light, candlesticks, oil paints, carrot cake, outsider art, red wine, bell tents, lanterns, Cy Twombly, Christmas Eve, rosemary, hand stitching, flodeboller, AfrikaBurn, bed.

 

 

Happiness lists
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 1 October 2012

Heavy rain is washing away the smell of the honeysuckle outside the bathroom window. We’re tired of grey uniforms and dark skies.  Everyone else seems to be sun-kissed and holidaying.  So we found a tea light, our own small sun, and ran a warming morning bath.

 

Washing away
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 16 July 2012
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