Autumn has officially put up the white flag of surrender, with Beckwourth Peak and the Lakes Basin skyline shrugging the seasonal snow onto their shoulders.
The creek near my home is sharp, snapping and crackling as ice creeps in wind-blown ridges and swirls, and my ninth winter in the Lost Sierra has officially begun.
My commute takes me along the Feather River towards Portola, and when the snow finally sweeps through, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the beauty in which I am surrounded in this sugar-glazed scene.
Winter has arrived with the bang of a “bombogenesis,” or snow cyclone, just in time for the holiday season, and the rattling symphony of chains on pavement has started its first act for the season.
Yes, it’s the time of year for people to learn how to drive all over again, and yes, it hasn’t gotten over 30 degrees yet today, but let’s forget about that for a moment.
Instead, maybe this winter it’s time to take a few pages out of the notebook of the champions of winter and indulge in the concept of hygge a little bit.
Hygge is a fun word (pronounced hue-guh) used as both a noun and a verb that is regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture, meaning “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment of well-being.”
Outside of Denmark, hygge is referred to as “the good feeling you get from a well-curated, cozy, and aesthetically pleasing environment.”
Basically, it’s that good feeling I get when I’m wrapped up in a soft blanket, with a steaming cup of chai and the latest historical fiction from Phillipa Gregory, preferably near a crackling fire on a rainy day.
It’s an obsession with well-being, coziness, and happiness — a train that I am more than willing to jump on, especially during the darker, colder months of the year.
It’s such an enticing concept that at least eight books were published on the topic in 2017 alone, with one of my personal favorites being “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking.
A lot of us indulge in hygge without knowing it, in those moments when we are truly present, fully enjoying every moment. Another definition of hygge is along the lines of “the art of creating intimacy” — either with yourself, friends or your home.
I see hygge alive and well in the Lost Sierra, when groups of volunteers lose themselves in the excitement of putting together the perfect gift basket for children with their friends, or in the way that members of the community come together into a warm bubble of coziness despite the temperatures each and every year for time-honored traditions such as the upcoming Christmas Tree lightings in Portola and Graeagle.
All through the darker months, hygge is a concept that can help to break up the mundane and bring a little more joy into each day, and thankfully, it doesn’t take a new year’s resolution or drastic lifestyle overhaul to incorporate it into our daily lives.
Above and beyond everything else, hygge is being simply aware of a good moment, and making it last. As we reach the coattails of the year and enter what can be a stressful time, I wish you all a large dose of hygge, however you might discover it for yourself.