I wonder if the celebration of a sports season, as a culture’s focus says something about the people?
In North America, with the exception of honouring Thanksgiving, (seasonally triggered & not religious), the main events tend to be sports related. Either the starting of the sporting calendar or the end of it where the ‘winner’ is crowned through competition. (There is an extensive chart on wikipedia which details all the dates for different sporting leagues.)
I suppose it makes sense for a society which also likes to capitalize on business opportunities. Other than selling food and booze, the changing of the weather to signal any of the seasons doesn’t represent a win fall. In some parts of the world, the seasonal celebrations, brought on by weather continue to be honoured. For example, before working with Scandinavians I didn’t know there was a May Day celebration and a Mid Summer party in June, before the Summer really got going. Those are pretty big deals over there and are not on our radar, unless your family is from Northern Europe.
They are not limited to celebrations around the Summer season. Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word that refers to a feeling, a social atmosphere, and an action. It includes something nice, cozy, safe and known, referring to a psychological state. The season for Hygge is in the winter. Norwegians in particular, experience some of their happiest time spent in their winter mountain hytta, (cabins). These are basic structures, but warm and cozy. This enables removal of the distractions of modern life (TV, internet, telephones), encouraging relaxation. In essence, there is a celebration for the whole winter!
In contrast, in North America, some of us get ‘sad’ in the winter, (seasonal affected disorder). This is the season when the earth tilts away from the sun, less time is spent outside so we are less active outdoors. A time when the Norwegians are heading into the mountains, we are heading indoors. GoodTherapy.org describes this in Does Your Mood Change with the Seasons? I have to admit, I do spend less time outdoors in the rainy winters of Vancouver. I wish for the long, dry days of summer. But, I don’t have any rituals to make the winter more tolerable, other than my hot tub.
It was not always this way. Growing up in Alberta around the Edmonton area there was lots of snow and cold. My Mom helped us to create all kinds of Hygge-ish ways to pass the time. That was after we had spent hours outside sledding, skating or building snow forts. We would happily read a book, by a warm fire with some quiet music playing, bundled up in wintery clothes. (I remember it this way, I wonder if my Mom does as well?)
I guess the opportunity for me now, is to work on honouring the cycle of nature during the fall and winter seasons. It seems that my current strategy of surviving it, is not really working. Until I can escape in Mexico for more than a few weeks, it might make sense to make peace with it. Stop fighting it. There seems little point in trying to make the winter go faster and slow down summer. Time will pass as it does, equally.
My preoccupation with the beginning of the warm weather season has lead to some interesting opportunities, however! In May of 2014, there was a season opening celebration dinner in Newport, RI at the New York Yacht Club. This is a big secret. It is for members only. Or maybe your group can be sponsored by a member. Which was how I found myself rolling up to the magnificent estate, just before the appointed time of 7pm.
It is not like you check-in with a hostess. The only reason you would be here is because you know the drill. We wandered in and made our way through the dining room to the back grounds, facing the sea.
We had drinks on the back lawn, while canapés were passed. Then it was time for dinner. We had a grand round table, similar to the one shown below. Decked out with the clubs flagged dinner ware.
Everything was historic and ceremonial. Fitting for the opening of the season. I suppose the club’s social activities are timed to coincide with yacht racing calendar. As well, Newport as a town is just starting to come alive with the return of seasonal guests, as the weather begins to warm.
For the regulars, it was another dinner at the club, one of many. For us, it was a peek into the exclusive lifestyle we would likely not see again. The patterns and rhythms are old, tried, true and comfortable. But, I’m not sure if the manners and rules of the past will survive into my generation. For example, there was strictly no cell phones allowed in the dining room. That was one rule we managed to learn, or be advised of. While I liked having one evening of no distraction, I’m just not sure if trying to hold onto every little thing from the past is going to work in the future.
While I’m not likely to visit Newport again, the idea of opening day in a season really appeals to me. Marking the beginning, at the appointed spot on the calendar and gathering to celebrate seems like a really good idea. It is this kind of tradition, I am hopeful will stand the test of time. Particularly if the events themselves are allowed to evolve and reflect the characteristics of those attending.
We have an opening day of sorts. It is the first dungeness crabs being caught. Of course the crustaceans are down there all year round, but the boating weather has to be such that the recreational guys want to be out on the water. My husband is the captain of our boat and every few days, when the weather is good, he wanders down to our local marina to see if the season is ready to begin.
I would like to say that opening day was February 13 this year. After the, (by West Coast standards), brutally cold and snowy conditions of November, December, January and early February, it felt downright balmy. But as I look out at the rain and the forecast, I think old man winter may not be done with us yet.
In any case, on Family Day this year the marina was buzzing with boats. Lots of activity, particularly for February. Almost like a Spring fever. My husband managed to catch 3 legal sized dungeness crabs. This means we had a seafood crab boil for dinner. The first of the year, our opening day!
For this boil, it went like this: (the recipe changes depending on what I can find at the grocery store at a moments notice).
- Large pot of water, add a fair amount of salt, a lemon – quartered and squeezed and old bay seasoning. Get the artichoke going and the corn.
- Thrown in a whole head of garlic and an onion cut in half. Add the baby potatoes.
- The crab needs 11 minutes after the water has come back up to the boil, so plan accordingly for the next stage. Check to see how the artichokes are doing and then add the crab, set the timer.
- Watch the clock and add large prawns, mussels, clams and asparagus.
- Put the lid back on and carefully check to see that the shell fish have opened and the prawns are just pink.
- Get the pot off the heat and start plating. (In my photo you will not see the crab, but it is in the centre of the mound staying nice and warm. We ate everything except for about half the asparagus, (thanks to my very hungry teenage son). That was a huge tray of food for 4 people!
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