Advent: Christmas Eve

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An old photograph – we’ve not had a snowy Christmas for a few years.

But this is “home” and it’s prettier than the winter we’re having at the moment!

Home.

I feel so very blessed. My family are the people I love most (closely followed by my animals of course!) and I am lucky enough to have seen all of them in the past few weeks which is unusual. But the past two days as we and our neighbours have met and called on each other to exchange cards and gifts and wish each other well and see how each other are I’m reminded over and again how the people I live near are also like family to us. How much we rely on the love and goodwill of those nearby, even when our own relatives are so very far away.

We don’t make much of a festive fuss. “Things” have never really mattered that much to me. People do. The greatest joy I know is to spend time with someone I care about and enjoy their company and friendship. If that is the most precious thing someone can have then I am rich beyond measure in the people I have in my life and I am grateful to have everything I could possibly want in that. I hope I have given of myself to those who need companionship too. None of us take each other for granted but at this season when we all take the time to say “thank you for being there” to each other it cements the bonds we share. Almost like resetting us for another year of living and working together.

I know there are many without, not just at this time but all year round. More than usual, those who “have not” are more on my mind and I find myself asking if I can do more about this. So many people who do not have someone to look out for them or just to care enough to ask if they are OK. Knowing how fortunate I am to love and be loved, I want to keep this in mind for the coming year, not just at Christmas time.

Wishing you joy, peace, love and good cheer this season and for the coming year xx

Hyggeligt

I’ve always been fascinated by words; individually, their etymology, their use and construction in sentences as a means to convey information or emotion. I don’t converse in other languages (a sad failure on my part) but I am intrigued by words from other languages also, especially those that don’t translate well and remain unique to their own tongue.

Hygge – a Danish concept and  Norwegian word – is one of those words that has percolated into my consciousness over the past couple of years, especially in the cooler seasons when hygge comes into its own and more people talk about it.

As I am not Scandinavian, hygge is something I have to really think about to try and understand. If indeed I can. Its loosest association in English appears to be “cosiness” – surely a universal concept. But as with other words that don’t translate into other languages, reading more about it, hygge seems to be so very much more intriguing than just being cosy.

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Cosiness is something intrinsic to fibre artists the world over, especially those of us who work with wool. Knitters, spinners, dyers, knitwear designers; however much we enjoy summer, lots of us secretly long for the crisper days that allow us to dig out treasured woollen hand knit items, lovingly crafted and carefully stored.

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Grey rainy days pen us up inside and beg us to light the woodstove or a candle, find a mug of something warm and comforting and pick up needles and yarn.

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Autumn and Winter turn us more inwards to search for inspiration within. The darker days and longer nights perhaps allow for more hours to devote to crafts. And the chilly evenings and crisp mornings give us the excuse to cast on exciting new projects, peruse patterns and buy fibre, yarn and books…

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To a non-Scandinavian fibre-loving person, hygge would seem to be present in pretty well all of the tactile enjoyment of our craft – from inception to finished item – and the pure pleasure that creativity brings. Days off for me invariably involve time to sit and spin with a mug of good coffee and something tasty to nibble on. It will always be drunk from a hand thrown chunky mug and appreciated slowly to fully invest in the enjoyment “making” brings me.

I feel hygge when I carefully lay out ingredients in readiness to bake, when I enjoy the pure aroma of handmade soap whilst washing my hands, in the cool earth crumbling beneath my fingers as I plant out tender seedlings or harvest home grown food. In the kneading of bread, the line of a poem, the shape of a letter being laid down in ink on fresh paper…

Hygge however seems to be much more than the cosiness of our surroundings or simple enjoyment of the things we do alone. More than material possessions. We hygge when we meet with family or friends, enjoy a moment or a meal together. Whilst reading about hygge and the Danish way of life recently I found the following thought very interesting:

Hygge stems from a society that is focused on people rather than things. It is linked to the language of love and to the idea that real wealth is not what we can accumulate but what we have to share

So hygge seems to mean a kind of happiness and generosity of spirit. But so often happiness of a kind has been linked to a striving for something, a nebulous something that is perhaps achieved only occasionally and has to be chased down like a rare butterfly eluding our net or purchased in an experience. In my early twenties I felt trapped by my work and by illness, happiness was something I’d felt I had long since lost and in the words of my doctor when I sobbed in his surgery I could no longer “see the light at the end of the tunnel”. Giving up my job was the terrifying non-choice I took but I’d reached the bottom of the hell-hole I’d somehow fallen into and there was no place else to go. Hurrying through the days without living them mindfully, I’d suddenly been brought up short. Slowly I returned to the light. Family, nature, faith, whole foods, and being outdoors in natural daylight all played a part in nourishing mind, spirit and body. I had no income, no future plans, saw few people and had very little in the way of material possessions and no money to buy new ones or to go out socialising. Despite the apparent lack of trappings of the modern world I did discover something I’d not had for many years. Peace…

In between the new activities that filled my days; learning to grow vegetables, reading and study, spending more time making and building, finding alternatives to owning, buying and having things, I discovered a truth I had overlooked in my race to achieve something, anything, je ne sais quoi. Happiness was not ecstasy. It was contentment. Having less, doing less but accepting those limitations with simple gratitude gave me a peace I’d not experienced since childhood. I felt like I’d come out into a whole new world. I learned to invest in each moment and live in the present. I felt that the past and the future were linked by a trail of “nows” and that living each moment fully would build a better life. In the frugality I felt like I’d learned the secret of happiness and for a season nothing could shake that.

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In everything of course though there are good and bad moments. In time dark days returned and with them a level of pain previously unknown. The newly learned lessons of contentment were rattled and shaken by storms which often threatened at times to snuff them out altogether. But again family, faith, nature, the love of friends and now spinning and knitting gave me threads to hold onto and weave into the chaotic fabric of my life. And dotted in and amongst the turmoil I tried to find small oases of what I think were hygge or at least hyggeligt (hygge-like); moments to shut the door and sit and spin for a while, perhaps lighting a candle and sit with the window open listening to the night sounds or taking a few moments to properly savour a mug or plate of something thoughtfully prepared. Love pulled our family through the dark canyon to the other side, albeit each of us to our different shores.

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Since then there have been times when I’ve managed to live each moment fully and times when I have utterly lost sight of this. Pondering on the word hygge in recent weeks it reminded me of this need I feel to live each moment mindfully and find contentment that is in the here-and-now rather than always thinking ahead to what the future might bring. Perhaps. One day. Maybe.

I know there are busy times ahead and uncertainty. Winter is always our longest season here; we spend the short summer months preparing for the longer colder darker times, storing, mending, preparing. As we move into Autumn with the prospect of greyer light and fewer hours to pack things into, it increases my feeling that I need to savour each moment for what it really is and be thankful. This season to try make my life a little more hyggeligt. Piece by piece. Moment by moment. It will be good.

I’m almost tempted to say I can’t wait!

 

 

Knit 1, Love 1

Sometimes life catches you up … or out. I do a lot of other things I don’t mention online that aren’t to do with my textile “life” and as with anything, you go through times outside of your control that feel like you’re slogging against the odds with no end in sight, that every throw of the dice turns out unlucky. I often remind myself that life is not about the hand of cards you’re dealt, it’s how you play them that matters. But rightly or wrongly, lately it felt like I’ve staked everything on chimeras and false hopes and disheartened was beginning to lose sight of things that matter.

Social media has opened many doors for me, both in terms of work as well as leisure and friendships with wonderful people I wouldn’t otherwise have had the good fortune to know. I’ve generally kept things low key in the years I’ve interacted online and escaped the more toxic aspects of it for which I’m grateful. However even in the happy world of textiles I generally inhabit, the political events of this summer meant that an edginess has seeped even into that. I’m not built for conflict and don’t generally engage in things that involve it and yet still was unable to escape the bile rolling up my social media feeds. The pervading air of petulance and anger on all sides indicated just how childish adults can be at times and left me confused, hurt and sick at heart because it doesn’t reflect how the people I know deal with things in the real world.

Social media not only opens doors, sometimes it opens a pandora’s box. Realising this, almost too late, caused much distress in recent weeks – for all its good aspects it’s important to hold onto the fact that neutral things can be used for ill as well as good. After a deal of thinking and with the prospect of family visiting I made the decision to close my online shop for a couple of weeks to give myself a space in which to spend time with loved ones as well as take a look at the creative and admin aspects of the business ready for some new stock and ideas.

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Being able to walk away from some online activity and focussing on the humanity of face to face conversations and eye contact with people who’ve known me since I was a child, simple things like laughter, hugs, board games, writing postcards instead of texts, drawing, reading from paper instead of screens … restored some balance. For me I am happiest outside in nature and several days spent in, on or under saltwater washed away some of the tears.

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As a childless person I sometimes feel inadequate and clumsy around small people. However I am blessed with a large collection of nephews and nieces as well as my goddaughter and these youngsters I love with as fierce a love as though they were my own. I love watching them grow and develop, learning new things, experiencing life and becoming the next generation to take responsibility. Family is central; nowhere is the sacrificial nature of love demonstrated more strongly than in a family. Genetics do not make you all the same and yet you are bound together by love. Love is sometimes an act of will, choosing to be excellent to those you are responsible towards even when you don’t feel like it. And knowing in return your family will always have your back even when they don’t really understand gives security that you can thrive within that nothing else can.

Patience is a virtue they say. It’s not really one of my virtues and having to slow down to accommodate tiny people, whether the footsteps, understanding or physical skills is also good for my soul. Going out for a morning’s kayaking I was ready long before my family, underestimating the time it takes to get children ready to go out. Sweating in my wetsuit and feeling every so slightly impatient, I picked up my knitting and headed off to sit outdoors and wait productively whilst my lively nephew and niece were wrangled and processed into teeny tiny wetsuits by their parents. I must have looked very odd knitting attired thus but then I’m used to being the oddball. Shortly a shadow appeared at my side and peered curiously at my hands.

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Aunty, why are you knitting?

Because I like knitting, darling.

But you like animals!

Yes. I like lots of things, not just animals and knitting.

What things do you like Aunty?

Well, I like reading and cooking and being outside and music and making things. Lots of things.

Do you like people?

Yes I like people.

Do you like friends?

Yes. I love my friends and family.

….

A short pause whilst my niece processed this as I finished my round and put my knitting away. And then…

Aunty, you like everything!!!

I hid my smile at the simplicity of her four year old’s perspective on life. Kissed her bonny wee head and we went off down to the beach hand in hand to play, kayak, swim and build a series of sandcastles decorated with shells and sea glass along the shore, one for each member of our family.

But maybe she’s right. If you like people and love friends and family maybe you really do “like everything”. Not in the individual micro sense of course, nobody likes every single thing. But in the overall macro sense. Love really does make the world go round; a choice, an act of will, sometimes through gritted teeth and over misunderstanding, pain and differences. With love, those differences then become the things that bind us together, not the things that divide us.

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