Hygge: it’s been everywhere the past few years. Around here, coffeehouses and restaurants are ranked according to how well they offer up hygge, and anything cozy (socks, tea, blankets, pajamas, stew recipes) gets placed in the hygge category. But today, as the temperatures here in Minnesota are seriously below zero (it is -17 as I write this; Wednesday’s high is predicted to be -16 and mail delivery has been suspended due to extreme cold), it seems like a lovely idea to practice a little hygge right here at home, where it belongs. It’s the perfect weather to brew some tea, light the fireplace and let the dog sleep in front of it. Do my own work in front of that fireplace, a little jazz on the radio. (Minneapolis has a fabulous public jazz station.) Last week, I wrote about how I like winter, so now, when it’s really showing its teeth, I will not complain. I will turn my attention to how to be cozy.
Of course, I am very, very lucky. I am not an essential employee who has to venture out no matter what the outdoor conditions might be. I am not homeless. My furnace works. My windows do not leak. I own a really warm coat. My friend Luann, who is a nurse, is someone who braves the cold to care for people who end up in the hospital; she is on the job this week as Minnesota – and the rest of the Midwest, come to think of it – replicates Antarctica. And my daughter Abby, who works with infants at a local KinderCare, has to show up no matter what.
Living in this kind of climate, experiencing the swift changes in weather, the seasonal temperature swings, and the occasional challenges that presents, has deeply shaped who I am. Winter, for all its ferocity, its icy walkways and bitter winds, heavy snow that is sometimes backbreaking to clear out of the way, has always been the season that has offered me the most opportunity to practice gratitude, to look within, to dig into my writing work with renewed focus. Winter is when I cook new recipes at the end of the day – my preferred method of stress relief, and consider all the ways to feed people other than myself. I can’t remember the last time I thought of winter as a season to dread, even today when it is bitterly, dangerously cold.
Every season offers it challenges. Winter, because of its ability to freeze people and pipes beyond their breaking points, and its direct affront to any ease of outdoor movement, challenges us more than other seasons. And in that challenge, there is an opportunity for creativity.
So, light a candle. See what’s in the refrigerator that can be corralled into something for dinner. Open a book. Wear your thickest wool socks. This chilly discomfort is all temporary.