In the middle of a crazy, hectic and upside-down few weeks, I found solace through the magic of a little book called Greenhouse Hygge – The House of My Growing Dreams, written by Vancouver Island’s Lise-Lotte Loomer.
Loomer’s book chronicles how she painstakingly moved and installed her Danish mother’s beloved greenhouse to her own property and gave it new roots for the next generation. It is a tribute to her mother and a celebration of love, friendship and growing things. Most of all, it’s a first-person ode to the Danish notion of hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah,” and defined here as “a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, everyday moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.”
Hygge was shortlisted as an Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year for 2016. It has become a marketing catchphrase of late, and for good reason. In light of the insanity to the south of us and the messiness and relentless acceleration of life in the wired, 21st century, hygge represents a kind of anti-social media ideal – where peace, gratitude and a slower pace provide calm respite.
We lack a word for the concept in English, but it harkens for me the Yiddish hamish, which connotes the properties of warmth, comfort and welcome. A home can be hamish and so can a person. Hygge and hamish go far beyond cozy socks, candlelight and the smell of baking bread. Instead, they evoke an overall quasi-meditative, appreciative approach to living that Loomer evokes through her gentle descriptions and genuine gratitude for life's big and small gifts – a blue enamel coffee pot, black licorice, a mother’s gentle guidance.
Juxtapose this lovely concept with alt-right – another word on the Oxford short list, or the ultimate winner, post-truth, to appreciate why the world needs more hygge. Discovering the wonders of a backyard greenhouse is a great place to start.