I tend to become calmer, even complacent, as the temperatures begin to rise and the days lengthen. I become almost Zen-like in my approach to life. The spring cleaning I didn't get done will wait until autumn leaves have fallen. There are more important things to accomplish...such as smelling the tulips, irises, azaleas, peonies, and roses.
Regarding my reading, I am one of those who have discovered e-books...thanks to the friendly staff at our local library. A recent “check-out” has been The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. The author, a Londoner, moved to Denmark due to her husband's new employment with Lego. She is aware that Danes consider themselves to be at the top of the list regarding happiness – and as a freelance writer she decided to do some research on this topic.
There seems to be a number of reasons for this happiness factor. Denmark is a fairly small country with about 5 1/2 million people. It is a fairly wealthy country and its residents pay a lot of tax. The very wealthy pay a bit over 50% in taxes...and do so happily. All people enjoy a comfortable life style. The man who cleans the floors of the factory is as respected as the factory owner...and enjoys the same life benefits. There is free education – even at university level. Wages for all workers are good. The health care system is beyond healthy, and good child care is affordable for all families.
I had the opportunity to visit Jutland in Denmark a few years ago. This was the region where my grandparents were born and raised. As I traveled around, met with people there...I had to wonder why my family had left? It turns out that the current social system wasn't in place at the time of their departure.
Donald Trump would not be happy in Denmark. Showing off wealth or “power” is a no-no there. Those who are business owners do not live much differently than those employed in the business. Denmark is not a country of extremes...and it appears that everyone is very contented. Their cup is half-full...or more, not half-empty. Houses and apartments are fairly small...yet comfortable, neat, clean, with well designed furnishings.
After I returned from my trip to Denmark I wrote about that visit in one of my columns. Stepping off the train as I arrived in the small city near my grandfather's home I saw a huge parking lot that was filled with bicycles. Danes tend to be fairly tall and slim. While the Danes eat good - even rich food, they bike or walk a lot. It is not unusual to see a lawyer, doctor, or university professor tooling down the street on a bike to their workplace. There is very little automobile traffic in Denmark...not much pollution produced there! Trains run on a regular schedule between communities.
The work week in Denmark is short. Officially it is 36 hours...however, many work even fewer hours. It is not a badge of courage to work long hours. In fact, those who stay beyond quitting time are seen as inefficient. It should be noted that Denmark is a highly productive nation, and families spend time together.
As I read The Year of Living Danishly I also took a bit of time to catch up on the news. The face most often appearing was that of Donald Trump. I couldn't help but compare the sneering countenance of Trump with my memories of the faces I saw in Denmark...and with the faces I see around my community. I somehow doubt there would be very many Danes or Canadians sitting at their computers in the wee hours of the morning tweeting about how everyone is “out to get them.”
As for me...I have a few months ahead to walk along the shore, soaking up a bit of sun...painting a few pictures, and living my Summer-Zen existence. I may even pick up some Lego's for my new grandson...just to make him a bit more aware of his Danish heritage.
Shirley Hallee’s column appears every two weeks in the Amherst News.