Shoveling, sniffling and scraping: Winter...at times, I hate it too.
But with a little bit of imaginative creativity and emotional surrender, winter can be quite wonderful. There is a regenerative quality to the world when large amounts of white fluffy crystals come pouring out of the sky and leave you barricaded in your home. Winter is meant to be a seasonal Sabbath; an opportunity to turn the switch off on the hamster wheel of life, hunker in with those you love in close quarters, and be present.
Recently, I came across two very interesting words in my reading, one is Danish and the other German. Bet you can't guess which one is German: Hygge and Gemütlichkeit. Both of these words describe the tremendous opportunity winter presents to us - - but we must embrace them:
* Hygge (pronounced "hYOOguh") often translates to "cozy" — though it connotes much more. The loose translation, as one writer puts it, means something like "fireplace warmth with candles and family and friends and food, tucked under blankets on a snowy day, cup-of- coffee conversation, scarf-snuggle, squiggly, warm baby love." A Forbes article defines it as, "being healthy, free from pain, being able to take care of yourself. It's having good times with friends and family."
* Gemütlichkeit means a space or situation that is warm and cozy, that induces a cheerful mood and peace of mind, without a need to hurry or worry, and with a connotation of belonging and social acceptance.
A Danish radio commentator gives some specifics on how to capitalize on those rare moments winter affords us: "Hygge is a deep sense of cozy that can originate from many different sources. Here is a good example from my life : a cloudy winter Sunday morning at the country house, fire in the stove and 20 candles lit to dispel the gloom. My husband, puppy and I curled up on our sheepskins wearing felt slippers, warm snuggly clothes and hands clasped around hot mugs of tea. A full day ahead with long walks on the cold beach, back for pancake lunch, reading, more snuggling, etc. This is a very hyggligt day."
Are you getting it?
My family had many hyggligt moments when I was a kid, and those moments have added greatly to who I am as a person. Somehow the quiet and peaceful seasons in life spent with friends and family add something significant to the fabric of your soul, they establish something solid, they form a richer heart.
One specific memory I have (the Cleveland, Ohio version of Hygge) took place in the blizzard of 1977. It was cold, I mean really cold. I can remember delivering newspapers with my brother up and down the frozen streets of Bay Village which received the full force of the frigid Lake Erie winds. My hands and feet often became numb and my mom would have to put my hands under a warm stream of water from the sink to get feeling back.
Well, one day my dad decided that it would be more cost efficient if we heated our house with coal. No, we didn't have a coal burner, but we did have a fire place! He figured he could buy bags of coal from the local farm outlet and heat piles of it in the hearth while the whole family sat around and got warm. So being his little helper, I joined my dad as we jumped in the station wagon, braved the snowy streets of Bay and purchased four bags of coal.
That night my dad told all of us 6 kids (4 sisters, 1 brother and my mom), to get on some warm pajamas, bring a blanket, and meet around the fireplace. While he heated up a pile of coal, and then popped some popcorn and put it in brown paper grocery bags, we got ready.
There we sat, huddled around the fire, eating popcorn, talking and listening while the fire burned. My dad had all the lights off in the house to save energy, and he also wanted us to simply enjoy the ambiance of being together in the dark. It may sound a little weird, but it was cozy, and I must say, a blast for kids!
After awhile one of my sisters went to the bathroom, and immediately she ran out shouting, "My face and hair is all black, it is loaded with soot!" Instantly my mom turned on the lights, and sure enough my sister was right! The coal my dad bought was cheap and the soot that burned off it was swirling all around the living room. Our couches, our blankets, our carpet, our hair, and our nostrils were coated with flaky black soot! My mom was horrified, but the rest of us were laughing hysterically!
My dad just smiled and said, "Oh Rita, don't worry about it," which made us all break out in laughter all that much more! Oh the memories that are born on cold, snowy, frozen days!
So, instead of dreading the shoveling, complaining about the sniffling and griping about the scraping...join with those you love in a cozy corner and smile! Please, don't waste your winter.