The Importance of Home

The first harvest is mostly in for my part of the world, in Suffolk, East Anglia. There are still a few fields of wheat or barley that are waiting either for the rental of the combine harvester to come through or for a clear, sunny day when it can be gathered in dry. It’s been a good year so far for all the crops, and it beckons me to see what the first of the harvests gathered is like within my own life, and how I can work with that for the rest of the harvest tide.

My new book came out on Lammas here in the UK, which I think is an auspicious time. I’ve had really good feedback so far, and it’s a work that I am very proud of; it’s my best book yet. But thoughts are now turning once again to the simpler things, the quiet things, time out of the limelight. Even as the nights begin to draw in, and the leaves lose their green vibrancy settling into dark shades and some even beginning to turn in their autumnal splendour, I think of the coming months and the safety, security and sanctuary that is home.

For me, my home has always been split between two continents. My family home in Canada, and my adopted home here in the UK. I love both landscapes; I love the history and the spirits of place. While politically the UK seems to be going down the rabbit hole while Canada is holding its own with integrity, still it’s the land that I keep coming back to. My own little patch, where I live and work and love and play is so very important to me, and has always been. It’s been instilled in me, from a young age from my wonderful parents, just how much a home can take care of you, if you take care of it. We never had much money growing up, but it was the little things that made home so very special. Making home a safe space, a space where you could grow but still retreat when needed, a place to find companionship and also experience the solace of being alone. The vibrancy and comradery of the dining table in full swing, or the quiet solitary walks through the woods. It was all good.

My home here in the UK is a haven of quiet, peace and often solitude, working as I do from home with my two cats for company. We have lovely neighbours all around us, and this time of year I will often answer the door to find fruit and veg presented and offered in friendship, which I gladly receive! Zero food miles, for starters, and there is nothing like eating a meal with food that fresh. In return I offer the bounty of my garden: apples as well as seedlings from the many and varied plants (and my latest book, for those who are interested).  It’s got a feel of a small community; we look out for each other, and we’ve got each others’ backs. My neighbours bring in my dustbins when they do their own, and I’ll do the same if I’m the first out there. It’s a feeling of togetherness, which is something that I’ve never really had elsewhere. Perhaps it’s living in the countryside that does it – or maybe it’s just luck of the draw when it comes to your neighbours.

But the home is all important. Keeping it looking and feeling lovely, maintaining that balance between tidy and relaxed. I love my home and have always made anywhere I live a home. Surrounding myself with the things I love, as well as the gifts from others who remind me of the deep bonds of friendship. I’m so grateful to my parents for having instilled in me this sense of the home being a sanctuary, and that has allowed to me to live thousands of miles away for the last twenty years in relative peace (while still missing them incredibly).

Soon, I will be flying back home for a visit, as it’s been over a year since I’ve been back. I’ve calculated this into my carbon allowance for the year.  I Skype with my mother and father every week, and occasionally if she’s online my sister will join in. It’s lovely to be able to see their faces through the miracle of technology, and it’s even better that the computer they use is in my old bedroom. I really feel like I’m back home when I get to talk to my mom this way, and it gives me a sense of connection even when the miles are so numerous between us. But there’s nothing like actually physically being there, enjoying the sights and smells and engaging all the senses in the concept of home, as well as the memories. Just sitting at the kitchen table, having a cup of tea with my mom makes me smile with warmth and anticipation. Watching my young nephew run around, or listening to his older sibling play guitar. Cycling with my sister, going to my brother’s cabin. Reminiscing and walking through all the memories, and letting the future take care of itself. Swimming in the lake, having a beer outside in the evening.  It’s the little things that matter.

And so, as I ponder the rest of the harvest, I wish you all a wonderful harvest tide. May you enjoy it with those you love, and may the peace and sanctuary of home be with you in your hearts, even if you have to create that anew. Find that place, and let it settle in your soul. It’s the perfect spot to reflect and plan for many future harvests to come.

xmas 2015 2

Pagan Hygge

Hygge is a wonderful word. But it’s more than a word; it’s a feeling.

candle 2Hygge (pronounced hue-gah or hoo-gah) was originally a Norwegian word, meaning “wellbeing” that was adopted by the Danes in the early 1800’s. Nowadays, it’s a very important word to describe a feeling of comfort, security, warmth, friendship, cosiness and more. In today’s world, we need that more than ever.

The Danes are experts at creating hygge. Much like the Druid searches for inspiration, the Danes quest for hygge. I too work to create feelings of hygge, to nourish the hygge in my home and with my friends and family, even as I quest for the awen, for inspiration from the natural world as to how to live my life with honour and integrity, as a fully functioning part of an ecosystem. For me, the two can work hand in hand.

Hygge is the simple things in life. Things that make you have that warm, fuzzy hyggelig feeling. Things that bring you joy. Small things. “Unimportant” things. It’s paying attention to the moment, right now, and appreciating it for all its worth. So, what things am I talking about here?

knitted socksFireplaces. Candles. A cup of tea. Warm knitted socks. Petting a cat. Sitting outdoors watching the sunset. Walking quietly in a woodland. Picnics on the beach. Barbeques in the garden. Gathering with friends in a cosy pub. A family birthday party with lots of cake and laughter.

Hygge is nourishing the soul. We very much need this nourishment, for in our Western lives we run ourselves ragged. It’s not hard to see why the Danes are the happiest  people in the world. They cultivate hygge regularly. They know the importance of being with family, of leaving work at 5pm to cook dinner and eat together at the dining table. Of working 40 hours a week or less. Of a welfare system that makes everyone feel secure, paid for with higher taxes. A free university education that benefits from these higher taxes as well. A sense of security, of well-being. Given that they live in a very challenging place, where the winter months have precious few hours of sunlight, they have strived to create that sense of security and safety in their homes, in bars, even at work. They’re doing it right.

I practice hygge. I sit in my conservatory after work, or outside in the sunshine with a cup of tea, smelling the air with a cat by my side. My morning cup of coffee is a silent ritual, sitting at the dining table with incense and candles lit in the autumn and winter months. I cook as often as I can, with local produce that nourishes not only the body but P1070068 (1024x768)the soul. I welcome my friends over, have a spare pair of warm socks should they need them, cookies and teas or coffees at the ready. I light a candle and say prayers to my lady Brighid every morning at her shrine next to my fireplace, and give thanks for my many blessings. In my home, I want people to feel welcome, to feel safe in my little sanctuary. My work with the goddess Nemetona greatly helped me to appreciate all that sanctuary includes, and the importance it plays in all our lives. Gratitude and sanctuary are what we so desperately need.

With the threat of nuclear war, with the instability of Brexit, with floods and landslides and earthquakes and other natural disasters around the world, with capitalistic consumption and greed running rampant, it’s not hard to see why we are so unhappy. But we can change our own little space, creating space as well for others to appreciate the little things, in the spirit of hygge.

These little things become the most important things, and hopefully our actions will ripple out across the web of existence, with more and more people coming to understand the joys and wonders of hygge.

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