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The Winds of Change

I was wide awake in bed at about 2am the other night, as I often am these days. I was listening to the wind and thinking about this state we’re in. This whole new world.

It occurred to me that I really dislike the phrase “new normal”. The old normal was just fine, thank you very much. Some days were ordinary, even boring. But I was okay with that. Sigh.

Neither am I a big fan of change. I mean, certain kinds of changes can be really exciting, like a new car or better paying job. The birth of a child. Other, more pro-active changes can make you feel better about yourself; committing to a healthier lifestyle or working at having a more positive attitude. There are a lot of healthy, happy changes.

And then there are the life altering changes that are thrust upon you with little or no warning. Like the loss of someone or something, or a sudden illness. Or a pandemic. It’s when you feel at your most vulnerable, and you become very aware of how little power you actually have over many things.

We are shifting into a change of seasons now with autumn blowing in. The first of the rainstorms has hit, the air is a little crisper, and the leaves are starting to turn. We don our sweaters and light jackets. We think about bringing an umbrella if we go out for a walk. Soon we may turn the heat on in our homes for the first time in many months, and cover up the patio furniture. A change of seasons is something we are familiar with and know how to adjust to.

But how do we deal with a new and very different world we are also shifting into? This dreaded new normal? Thanksgiving will not look the same for many of us this year. Never mind Halloween and Christmas.

Well, we do what we’ve always done. We adapt, we adjust. It might not be as simple an adjustment as putting on a heavier sweater or grabbing the umbrella. But since we first roamed this earth, humans have had to learn how to adapt to all kinds of changes, big and small. And that ability is what has helped us survive as a species.

We’re lucky that we’ve had smart people to lead us safely through this pandemic and show us what changes we need to make. So far we’ve learned that there are many things we can do to keep ourselves healthy and hold this virus at bay.

Well, some of us have learned. There will always be those few who will refuse to behave differently, who will rant and rail against any small changes they have to make. I mean, as I said, I don’t like change either. But the way I see it, refusing to adapt to the threat of this virus is like purposely walking off a cliff.

Charles Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

There is nothing we can do to stop the winds of change. Even if it blows.

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We All Need A Little Hygge

My parents were both Danish, so I grew up hearing that language all around me. My first words were in both Danish and English, likely in that order, and it wasn’t until I started school that I realized they were actually different languages.

There are words that seem to be unique to a language, and hard to translate exactly into another. For instance, one of my favourite Danish words has always been “pyt”. It is said in response to something that is stressful or frustrating. And when you say it, pyt is almost like spitting. So it works really well when you’re fed up. “PYT! Let it go…”

You may have come across the word “hygge” in the last few years, and perhaps you even know what it is. But for those of you who haven’t heard of it before, I will explain.

Hygge actually originated in Norway, but first appeared in Danish writing around the 18th century. It is an old, but still very relevant and common practice that has become more popular all over the globe lately. Pronouncing it is your only challenge: the “hy” part sounds sort of like you’re hacking up something that is stuck in your throat. And then add a “ga”. Saying HOO-ga comes close.

The Scandinavian languages are all rather guttural, and Danish is no exception. There are certain letters and pronunciations that are difficult to demonstrate. Danish has often been described as sounding like German, but with a hot potato in your mouth.

But what exactly is hygge? It’s coziness and comfort. A long hot bath. Reading a good book by a crackling fire. Lots of lighted candles. Warmth, soft music, good food and friends, all of those cozy things. Being out in nature is hygge, as is a feeling of gratitude.

In Danish, there is the word “hyggebukser”, or hygge pants. Those are the pants you love to wear, but rarely in front of anyone else. Maybe your pajama bottoms or sweats. In fact, if you’ve been working at home for the last few months, you’re probably wearing them a lot anyway. I mean, if no one can see, who cares? That is hygge.

There’s also the word “hyggesnak” which is what you might think of as cozy conversation. You know, a nice chat with an old friend about comfortable topics. No politics or anything that could be controversial. Politics is definitely NOT hygge.

For me, hygge is sitting out on the back deck on a summer morning with my thermos of coffee and my cat on my lap. I have been known to stay there until noon. As long as my husband doesn’t turn on the radio to blast the news, that is. The news these days can ruin everything, can’t it? All I want to hear is the birds.

Many times over the years I’ve had my friends over for smørrebrød, which is a Danish meal that literally translates as “butter bread”. These are open-faced sandwiches made with dark rye bread topped with all kinds of delicious treats. You might use different cold cuts, shrimp or other fish with fancy garnishes. And lots of butter. I usually make Danish red cabbage along with the sandwiches, and serve up some pickled herring too. We drink Aquavit and Danish beer or “øl” and feel the hygge. (You probably noticed that letter ø. That’s an extra letter in the Danish alphabet, which also sounds somewhat like you’re gagging.)

These days, of course, having friends over is not possible in the same way. So instead, we spend time every week on a Zoom chat with a glass of wine.

Your idea of hygge might be different from mine, and that’s okay. The point is that however you do it, it has to be something that makes you cozy and content. Happy, even. And with fall and winter looming, we’re going to need lots of hygge to get us through.

And we’ll hope for a better 2021. Because, you know, PYT to 2020!

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Goat Fund Them

Moe the cat.

In this picture you’ll see where my cat Moe sometimes waits for me. I work in the basement of my home, so she often lies on the steps leading upstairs, staying there until I am done for the day.

The reason she is wearing a towel is because my daughter put it over her when they were upstairs, and Moe forgot to take it off. Well, I’m making excuses for her. She literally dragged that towel with her to the steps because she didn’t know how to get it off herself.

Cats are weird, aren’t they? Sometimes hilarious. As are dogs and parrots and pot bellied pigs, and, well, pretty much any animal. That’s why we can’t get enough of the YouTube videos chronicling their antics. They are delightfully entertaining, especially lately. For those of us who have pets, thank goodness they’ve been around to help us through. Dogs have been equally as happy to have us home, though I’m not so sure about all cats.

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At different times in my life, I’ve had a dog, three budgies and four cats. I’ve laughed at their antics, and scolded their bad behaviour, and I’ve cried like a baby when they’ve died. I can’t imagine having lived without them all.

There has been a greater demand for pet adoptions in the last couple of months on the island, for obvious reasons. Animals make us happy and we need that right about now. Every time I watch Pet CHEK on CHEK News on Sunday evenings, where they feature different pets every week up for adoption from the Victoria Humane Society, I want all of them. Every one.

A couple of days ago, I got an email update from another animal organization through their Goat Fund Me (not a typo) campaign. The Beacon Hill Children’s Farm has been in existence for 35 years. They opened their barn doors just a couple of years before my children were born, and we visited them often, especially in the spring. My girls even volunteered there when they were in their teens.

It wasn’t until someone posted something in my Facebook news feed recently that it occurred to me that the kids might be suffering too. Goats, I mean.

This year, the farm had only been open less than a week when it was decided that it should close its doors because of the virus. When the story first came to light a couple of months ago, the hope was that sometime soon it would be able to open again. But now they have made the difficult decision to stay closed for the foreseeable future.

The only problem is that they still have a lot of costs: feed for over 100 animals, veterinarian bills, hay and sawdust, even insurance and phone bills (the roosters’ early morning long distance calls really add up).

Peanut Butter, the miniature horse, turns 29 this month. She needs some dental work done and has some health issues, but she’s looking forward to her cake. There are pigs, rabbits, ducks, geese, and alpacas too, all needing food, bedding and attention.

You pay by donation to visit, but that won’t be happening for some time yet. So that’s where we can jump in and goat fund them to help them get through the next few months.

Some day we’ll all be able to hang out at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm again, and watch the kids in boundless joy jumping up and down on the rocks with reckless abandon.

Goats, I mean.