Written by Florence Neville
I am, by nature, a low-energy kinda person. I am happy doing nothing for hours at a time, often forget to leave the house for days, and can easily spend months cloistered within a 15 mile radius without really noticing. My home is my haven: an ode to woollen blankets, beeswax candles, glossy plants, locally-roasted coffee and home-baked cake. But I often forget that drawing my comfort zone too close can be cloyingly claustrophobic.
Lifestyle bloggers went crazy over the Danish concept of hygge a couple of years back. Hot chocolate piled high with marshmallows, teeny-tiny fairy lights twinkling, cable-knit sweaters and thick fluffy socks. But these symbolic representations of the hygge lifestyle only really come into their own as a contrast to cold frosts, sleeting rain and long nights. Lighting candles when it’s truly dark and foggy outside, woollen socks worn on a cold, stone floor; that deliciousness of hot soup after a wet and muddy walk.
Luckily, the things I forget, my husband remembers for me. Although I have extensively read, practised, written about and constantly wittered at him about seasonal living and balance, he gets the concept of hygge instinctively. More importantly, he also knows that often I need help getting out of the house.
When I went into meltdown a few evenings ago, losing my ability to speak, eat or make useful decisions; and crying constantly with no knowledge of why, he quietly gathered together walking boots and gloves. The next morning, after we’d had coffee but before the sun came up he drove us just outside of our village to the outskirts of the local woods.
We saw the just-past full moon drift downwards through pink, fluffy clouds and the golden sun begin to rise into a deepening blue sky. We crunched though frost-dusted leaves, slipped on frozen mud and crept carefully over moss crystallised in ice. I found a tree to lean on, closed my eyes and breathed deeper than I had in the past few months.
I ran around taking photos of moss-covered trees, frosty teasels and crumbling walls; laughed at our usually slow and placid Labrador, Ella haring around in tiny and erratic circles; listened for the birds calling for each other after a night of sub-zero temperatures.
Rubbing together icy fingers, marvelling at vivid colours, organic shapes and sharp tonal contrasts; scenting distant log fires and the tang of resin; and hearing the crackle of the puddles of ice we jumped on gave me a glorious sense of my world expanding again. My lungs filled, my jaw released, any residual stiffness left my joints and my body felt less tired.
Less than an hour from leaving the house we were back home, lighting candles, and baking muffins. And the second coffee of the day tasted even better.