The pursuit of happiness: You “get it” or you don’t

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Joan Ekstrom

Joan Ekstrom

Rutledge News

By Joan Ekstrom

Rutledge has a slogan: “Rutledge… Small but Special.” And when you visit Rutledge you either “get it” or you don’t. The folks who “get it” come back again and again. I believe part of the reason is the small and simple things in life bring happiness. Yours truly is a visitor to a small country this summer, and whether it’s Rutledge or Denmark, maybe size really doesn’t matter and sometimes less really is more.

Although Denmark is small geographically (about one-third the size of Georgia), it’s big on the stuff that makes its people smile. Denmark ranked No. 1 in the World Happiness Report commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness held in 2012. And in 2013 continues to rank in the top seven, with the United States at No. 6 and Australia at No. 1 this year. According to the findings in the report, it’s not just wealth that makes people happy. Health, a balance of work and leisure, and a strong social support network, are fundamental contributors to the happiness factor.

These are just some of the official reasons Danes may be happy. However, with a little observation, I would like to suggest some reasons of my own. First, I must begin with the Danish summer. The Danes have a phrase,” den dejlige sommervejr,” which translates to “the delightful summer weather.” The daylight hours become long and as much living is done outdoors in the sun as possible. To be fair, the weather is not always perfect in the summer months, but when it’s good, it’s really good. In the weeks leading up to the longest day, June 21st, the sun barely dips below the horizon, and though at times it can be chilly and wet, the temperature rarely reaches over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Just think about the perfect fall day in Georgia, add at least three more hours of daylight, and you get the idea. Then, there is the food.

The sun, rain and soil here combine to give marvelous flavor to food grown in Denmark, and in the summer there are two crops the Danes seem to eat in abundance: perfect, sweet strawberries and flavorful, small new potatoes. We anxiously await the first arrival of these from local farms and friends’ gardens. And as you may know, there is an abundance of fresh seafood. What I like most are the catch-of-the-day fish fillets that are pan fried and served up with a heaping plate of “pomme frite,” French fries. Our daughter enjoys “polse i svob,” a hot dog wrapped in bacon and grilled at the many hot dog stands around town. And if you consider doughnuts to be a major food group like I do, you would be ever so happy to eat a world famous Danish pastry from the many neighborhood private bakeries. It’s delicious, why wouldn’t the Danes be happy?

Do you remember the freedom you felt when you could jump on your bicycle and ride the streets of your hometown? A survey of Danish commuters found that cycling was the most enjoyable of all forms of transportation. And cycling has been shown to reduce depression. Just this morning a group of 4- to 5-year-old day school students rode their little bicycles on the path by our house, all with the proper safety gear and all pedaling their way to a happy future.

Then, with limited space, I must include the concept of “hugge.” Pronounced “hoo gah,” which is not only the atmosphere of “cozy,” but the attitude. Having been away for several years, old friends and even newly met acquaintances invite us into their homes or on excursions where candles are lit and every one sits down to a hot coffee and fresh pastry. Being cozy with friends seems to make us happy too.

Yes, small and simple pleasures can contribute to our happiness. So whether you are in Denmark or Rutledge this summer, pursue a little happiness of your own– take some time off, enjoy the weather, eat a hot dog, ride a bike and meet a friend over coffee and… don’t forget the doughnut!

Visit; “Like” Rutledge, Ga., “Small but Special” on Facebook; and Google “World Happiness Report” to find out more.

Music in the Park

Join Madeline Sheppard for her second performance in the Gazebo. Maddie, an acoustic guitarist and singer, performed last summer while on break from Georgia Tech and is really excited to be there again. The performance starts at 7 p.m.

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