National Happiness

You may have read that Norway is the happiest country in the world according to the 2017 World Happiness Report (http://worldhappiness.report). I can completely understand that it might consider itself the most beautiful, as its close happiness competitors in Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland could do as well. But happy? Its weather can be grim, taxes are high, and I can imagine considerable financial and physical challenges to living there, having found it an expensive (but fabulous) place to visit.

The World Happiness Report looks at the role of social factors as contributors to life quality and evaluates a data base of 155 countries to reach its conclusions. The United States this year dropped to 14th in rankings, “largely because of poor social support and cohesion” quoting The New York Times in The Week Magazine.

I suspect it is easier to develop cohesion and social support in smaller nations than ours, but I still have to wonder how happiness enters a national psyche when a country tries to achieve those goals, particularly at high tax cost to its citizens. Perhaps our Congressional denizens should review the federal budget from a new perspective and adapt a thing or two from countries who seem to have a novel definition of what “quality of life” means. My guess is it has something to do with different values and ideals than we currently seem to prefer. Norway contributed to my personal happiness; my national happiness has some questions to ask, some pondering to do, and some lessons to learn.NorwaysmallNorwaysmall-2Norwaysmall-3

Irish Reverie

On a grey day like today, when my spirit is low, I often think of Ireland and the gifts it offers to mood shifts. Every day brings its own colors in which to pleasantly lose one’s thoughts. Thank you, Ireland, for your very rich and nourishing green.Ireland 1Ireland 2Ireland 6

Holding Pattern

That’s what January feels like to me. I like it actually, and feel lucky that snow and sleet and misery are rarely part of my winter experience. Even so, it takes several days of compelling sunshine to motivate a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Spanish missions near San Antonio post-holidays as a change from dark mornings and quieter days.

Operated by the National Park Service, the lesser known missions are short distances apart, several miles south of the Alamo. Spanish Franciscan missionaries worked to convert those who arrived for protection and food in the mid-1700s, building communities for “New Spain”.  Each mission, crafted by Mexican artisans with Indian labor, has its own story of hardship, success and failure. In varying states of restoration, several are still used as active parish churches. The mission compounds must have appeared as mirages to weary frontier travelers; I found them beautiful.

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San Francisco de la Espada

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Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepcion

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San Juan Capistrano

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Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo

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A Capital City

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With a backdrop of the lovely Royal Palace at the top of the hill, Oslo sets its stage for a very good show. Whether looking for a busy seaport, traditional or contemporary architecture, tree-lined promenades, culture (the national theater and new waterfront opera house with a floating stage), museums (the Viking Ship Museum with preserved ships and artifacts dating from 800 A.D. is particularly interesting), the outstanding and controversial Vigeland sculptures at beautiful Frogner Park, busy sidewalk cafes and flowers lining every street, you’ll find it in Oslo. While laying claim to having become the most expensive city in the world recently, Oslo can also lay claim to being a capital city. It’s great, and a wonderful place to end our Scandinavian journey.

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Cold without Snow

norway-760We left the land of fjords, and passed by deep valleys and waterfalls as we drove south to Bergen, a charming city on the western coast, and the rainiest in Norway. I include proof. The long drive to Oslo followed, through high plateaus of harsh, windy, barren land, and the only part of the country we saw where I was sure I could not live. It was cold even without the deep snow due very soon.

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