On November, sweet potatoes, and hygge

Laurie Snider
Notes from the Nest

I just got in from my daily walk in the countryside, with Farley and Barnabas. The sky was a dreary, ash grey, the foliage dull, brown and crumpled and the air cold and damp. A few withered corn husks were scattered on the path before me, accompanied by the odd, stray cob, minus the kernels. Those were being enjoyed by enormous flocks of chattering geese, congregating in the fields, devouring a last hearty meal before departing for southern climes. It definitely feels like that November time of year.

November is one of only four months in the year, that has 30 days in it. In the ancient Roman calendar, it was the ninth month, not the eleventh.  It gained its name, from the Latin Novem, meaning nine. Owing, to the drabber colours and cooler temperatures, if one were asked to choose a favorite month, it’s highly doubtful that November would be it.

The poet T.S. Elliot called it, “sombre November.” Sir Walter Scott in his poem “Marmion” lamented, “November’s sky is chill and drear.” And 17th Century astrologer and physician, Richard Saunders stated when referring to November, “In this moneth, melancholy much increaseth.”

Luckily, he had a few recommendations for dealing with this malady however, which was eating plenty of eggs and honey and vomiting sometimes. There is nothing like a little vomiting, to lift one’s spirits.

The month is not without it’s important dates; All Saints Day, Remembrance Day and the American Thanksgiving are among the more noteworthy. If you are looking for other reasons for celebration and meaning this month though, it’s also National Sweet Potato Awareness Month, Peanut Butter Lovers Month and pickles, devilled eggs, sandwiches and vanilla cupcakes each have their own designated days for jubilation and hoopla.

When it comes to dealing with shorter days, longer nights and chillier temperatures, no culture does this better than the Danish. They value and emphasis the concept of hygge; pronounced, ‘hoo-ga’ into their daily round. Hygge originates from the Norwegian word for well-being. It’s gaining popularity worldwide, the concept being featured in several magazines and news programs. It was the second most popular word in the United Kingdom in 2016, following only behind, Brexit.

According to VisitDenmark.com, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. It’s not a thing but rather a feeling, or a philosophy about living, involving slowing down, relaxing and enjoying the simpler things life has to offer. It can be realized alone or with others. Coziness, contentedness, comfort, reassurance and familiarity are also used to describe the feeling.

Hygge isn’t something that can be purchased at a store. It’s about finding modest ways to make regular everydays, a little more extra-ordinary. The soothing glow of candlelight and snuggling by a toasty fire, immediately spring to mind, while perhaps sipping something warm. Having someone to snuggle by the fire with, makes it even better!

Another way we incorporate hygge into our life is, inviting friends or family to share an evening meal, using the good dishes and taking the time to savour each bite. Of course, this also means engaging in lively conversations about current issues of the day, shared interests or swapping funny stories. It’s one of the most pleasant ways Randy and I can think of, to pass the hours and to fend off the November blahs.

How about buttery, grilled cheese sandwiches, made with tangy, old cheese and served with a steamy bowl of tomato soup, to take the edge off the day? Especially delightful, if it is preceded by a brisk walk or some other form of outdoor activity. My favorite herbal, cranberry tea, with its fruity aroma, sipped from a china teacup, always adds a little sunshine to my day, as does an occasional cup of homemade cocoa or warm apple cider.

Hygge is not only relegated to the indoors, or for that matter even to colder weather. Often in November, Randy and I relish a walk in a local provincial park or conservation area. Dressing warmly in comfortable clothing and bringing along a blanket for lounging, while feasting on a picnic lunch, is a favorite pastime. One advantage we’ve discovered during our November hikes is, we rarely run into others. Spending an afternoon in one of these magnificent, natural places and having it to ourselves, is such a grand experience and heightens our chances for wildlife encounters.

Less daylight, brisker temperatures and duller colours can contribute, to a lasting case of the doldrums. I’m certainly susceptible. Taking steps on a daily basis to incorporate warmth, light and enrichment into life helps fend off these negative feelings.  I suppose, if for some reason these methods fail, I can always resort to celebrating sweet potatoes!

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