Reading List

The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection

You might be thinking, “Hygge?!” Yes, back on November 25, 2020, the New York Times published an article, “Danish Hygge is So Last Year. Say Hello to Swedish Mys.” And Louisa Thomsen Brits’ slim treasure of her own evocative photography, wise quotations from a broad range of thinkers (Emily Dickinson, Kierkegaard, Einstein…), and connective rumination on “acknowledg[ing] the sacred in the secular [and] focus[ing] on people rather than things” came out a full five years ago, in 2016—but the inspiration offered within it far transcends the brief moments of superficial retailing or performative lifestyles. Brits arranges her thoughts into six areas—Belonging, Shelter, Comfort, Well-being, Simplicity, and Observance—and when we practice the  intense focus that she illuminates and encourages, we can experience both an amplification of joy and an easing of suffering, from the personal and the domestic radiating outward.

After dinner yesterday, when the sun was headed toward the horizon, and the air outside was simultaneously warm enough and cool enough to justify opening the screened windows for cross breezes through the house, I stretched out on the floor between our bed and the windows on the second story of our house, ready to read an entry or two in a book about traditional craftspeople, the bright green leaves of the elm tree waving at me. There was enough light left in the day for R to fit in a quick mountain bike ride, welcome physical exertion on the nearby trails at the end of his long work day. I also had (and still do) an intense ache in an upper left molar; R has something similarly wrong in an upper right one; we’re scheduled at the dentist next week for urgent—not quite yet emergent—exams and possible treatments. Earlier conversations with loved ones had included widely variant topics: hopeful (career progression with one beloved) and hopeless (disease progression with another beloved). In that expansion and breaking of the heart yesterday, in the granular focus on being, another Perfect Moment—all of it together, the beauty and the pain.