A little bit of hygge…

There is no doubt  a weight about our world right now.  No, not just the Covid weight that many of us  are packing around our bellies, but a deeper, broader, more insidious weight holds court.    That weight – that world wide ‘what the hell is going on’ heaviness  we all currently carry – is an invisible but hefty burden.  It can simultaneously hold our feet to a fire of negative thought, compel our hands and eyes toward our screens or simply paralyze our spirits with genuine yet helpless concern for the world around us. 

So what can be done?

Perhaps we can simply start by pushing back.  Push back on the barrage of negativity.  Put the screens down.  Engage instead in the things that bring us joy, tap into what ever it is that gives us courage, and daily carve out moments that refresh and hold us tight.  Simply said, perhaps we can start by bringing just a little bit more hygge into our life.

What exactly is this hygge? Hygge – pronounced hoo-gah, hhyooguh or heurgh –  comes from a Old Norse word meaning  ‘to give courage, comfort, joy’.  In current Danish and Norwegian culture it is a word that closely reflects a mood of coziness (something we seasoned Canadians know well) and comfortable conviviality, with feelings of  wellness and contentment.

No matter how you choose to pronounce it, incorporating a little bit more hygge into your life is not something that requires much effort. According to Meik Wiking from the Happiness Research Institut in Copenhagen, “‘Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is a feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”

The Guest – painting by Al Skaw

So how did a couple of Wakefield girls get their hygge groove back in spite of current circumstances? 

After seven months of lugging around the pressures of work, Covid, politics, masks, and being subject to every possible conspiracy theory under the sun, my Scandinavian bones seemed to instinctively know it was time for a little hygge… okay,  maybe a lot of it.   It was definitely time to crawl out from under this Covid creep and to find joy again.  In my world, that meant it was time to go for a walk.  A  long, long walk.

But where to go?  What to do?

Before red was a zone and orange was a warning, all of Canada, even the world would have been one’s oyster.  As that was not the current reality, I decided, like many, to take a long and closer look in my own backyard.  As luck would have it, I stumbled squarely on la grande Traversée de Charlevoix.

Really?  A long distance walk that offers a hut to hut experience less than a days drive from Wakefield?  No need to pack a tent or cooking bits?

This was it.

After reading a few articles, and conversation with my intrepid friend Susanna, we were both in.   It seemed a no brainer until the real planning began, then of course, Covid concerns came to rest squarely on our shoulders…again. 

To go or not to go? That was always the question.  All was unpredictable, all was dubious.  We cautiously and responsibly advanced our plans recognizing that things could shift at any moment.   As the day of departure grew near though, so did the elation. 

Finally, all factors weighed, orange zone to orange zone, we headed north toward Baie St. Paul, Quebec.

Two women, backpacks and boots. Adventure was imminent.  Hhyooguh.. bubbling up.

Day one – is never easy

Once we had checked in and found the trailhead it was only a 4.2 km hike down a dirt road to the first hut.  It had been ages since either Susanna or I had carried 40 lbs on our backs and it took no time for our bodies to tell us so.  The spirit was willing but oh how the flesh felt weak.  

Once arrived, we opened the door of Chalet L’Écureuil or Squirrel Hut,  gushed at having the cabin to ourselves and dropped our packs. 

We knew that some of the best views of the entire walk could be found on secondary trails in and around this area and we were off like a shot to explore. We climbed and climbed and climbed until we reached the first lookout.

Blue sky and mountains as far as the eye could see.  Breathless, we raised our arms toward the sky… hoo-gah!

Day two – Let there be light

It was still dark when I crawled out of my sleeping bag. I felt around for my toque, slipped it on my head and quietly tip-toed downstairs to light the woodstove.

Dawn’s mystic light, a hot cup of tea and silence… I  could literally feel months of built-up stress begin to drop off…exhale, exhale, exhale.  Now this was a hygge moment if there ever was one.    

Map reviewed, lunch made and water bottles topped up, we bolted the door behind us ready to spend the day walking a twisting route and somewhat rocky trail through a hardwood forest.  I had not seen yellow like this since having left northern BC.  Shuffling our boots through fallen leaves we soon found our rhythm. The outline of surrounding mountains just visible through the naked trees, showed us the way. 

The trail was mainly forest-walking with some woodsy sections straight out of a fairy tale.  I didn’t want it to end..until my feet got sore, and then I did.  We reached the cabin, dumped our packs and settled into a well earned restful afternoon with a book.. an actual book with pages and everything.  More hygge, more deep seated release; comfort and satisfaction.  We already felt so many pounds lighter. 

Day three – Oh the views

The views on today’s route were spectacular.  From our carefully selected lunch spot, we watched what looked like lego ships on the distant St. Lawrence make their way to parts unknown.  Hour after hour, our boots navigated the trail and we called on deep-seated reserves of courage-joy.  That familiar “hurts-so-good” delight that graciously carries one through aching muscles and swollen feet over miles of unknown terrain .

Day four – A gentle rain

We woke early the next day to a gentle rain.  Again with the toque, the fire, the sunrise, the tea, the bliss.  Despite the wet morning, there was a discernable bounce in our step as we got ready to go.  Rumor had it that the best of the best awaited us today. 

The Hautes-Gorges Valley and the beautiful Malbaie River were only a few hours away.  En route there were bridge crossings, and the gigantic trees of Grands-Ormes ecological reserve. 

We thought that was magical…and then we came to the hut. 

With its spectacular views of the Malbaie River and the surrounding mountains we knew we had arrived in every sense of the word.   We soon made our way to the sun drenched deck and pulled our sleeping bags from our packs.  Toques, warm socks, autumn sun, nature, a good friend and expansive views.  This was hygge on steroids.  The Danes would be so proud! We soon gave in to a river-lulled bliss and dozed. 

“Hygge is humble and slow,” Wiking says. “It’s choosing rustic over new,simple over posh and ambience over excitement.”

Day five – Our last day

No need for words. The photos below best chronicle the magic of that day.

So there it is.  That is how these two Wakefield gals got their groove back… pushed reset.. got grounded..however you want to say it.   Five days packed full of hygge and we were on our way home,  lighter, brighter, happier, more grateful and grounded than we had been in months. 

‘Hygge is the complete absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming. It’s being surrounded by calm and relaxing things’

As we move toward winter, let’s all vow to create and relish many hygge moments. On our own or with loved ones, it’s never a bad time to light a candle, don our favorite wool socks or simply hunker down with cozy blanket. You will thank yourself for it.🌿

It’s the little things…

Here at Wandering Wakefield, we would love to hear your ideal hygge moments.    Drop us an image and/or a line or two at wanderingwakefield@gmail.com and we will collectively post and share them in one of our upcoming blogs.    Sharing our stories of comfort in these trying times is a very hygge thing to do ! 

To find out more about la grande Traversée de Charlevoix visit https://www.traverseedecharlevoix.qc.ca/