We recently found another term to apply to our lifestyle; and, like the others, (see Shin-rin Yoku) it’s foreign. I read the other day about the Danish concept of Hygge, which, while untranslatable in English, seems to apply to us.
My information comes from an article published last year on the Mother Nature Network, How ‘Hygge’ Can Help You Get Through Winter. If you take a moment now to read it, the rest of this essay will make more sense, if indeed it’s necessary to elaborate on it.
But of course, I will elaborate!
Michelle watched some online videos on hygge for her work. She says they pronounce it like “HEH-guh.” If you regularly read this blog, the article above should be full of familiar concepts and references.
As I write this, seated in my favorite place at the table, wearing a cozy sweater, in the light of the Christmas tree, with the cheery wood stove behind me, a spectacular view of the beach and fjord, a favorite mug of fireside coffee at hand (see A Cup of Coffee That Brings Tears to My Eyes), and soft Christmas music playing, I believe that I have pretty much mastered the art of hygge in my life, even if I’m not Danish, and can’t fully describe the term.
In my last essay I spoke of my less than perfect practice of living in the moment. Perhaps I’m now presenting the flip side of that rather flip piece. I think this newly learned term, hygge, describes our life philosophy quite well.
If I understand the thrust of the article, hygge goes beyond physical coziness or contentment, encompassing one’s state of mind.
A quick look at our life reveals so many aspects that most people would find difficult, even repellant: hard work, isolation, primitive facilities, the list goes on at length. Yet, we don’t simply endure these aspects to gain some other ideal, we enjoy—even love them. They are all part and parcel of the joy we find in this lifestyle.
Beyond that, our lifestyle offers many features that people do find cozy, comforting, companionable, snug—hygge!
All of this feels most prevalent at Christmas time. I considered saving this essay for publication after the Christmas season, when we experience winter without the grace of a holiday to buoy our spirits. It would be too easy to focus the idea of hygge around Christmas, but the feeling it seems to describe, while admittedly most intense at Christmas, applies throughout the year, beyond the winter months to every other season. I do not mean to imply by this the Dickensian ideal “to keep Christmas in my heart throughout the year.” I mean that it includes Christmas, but does not necessarily originate from it. Hygge, as I understand it, is where one finds it, when one finds it, if one can find it, or even chooses to seek it out at all.
Hygge certainly works as a descriptive term for us. It may encapsulate, in its simple syllables, the essence of our life, and of this blog.