A boy I met in the hospital gifted me a book of untranslatable words. I was obsessed with words from other languages that had no translation to English, especially the ones that described a feeling. At the time my days almost exclusively revolved around my weekend long chemos in the hospital and weekdays back and forth to the city for appointments and blood transfusions. My feelings at the time were understandably much too big for my heart to hold, so finding these words was a revelation. Ever the word enthusiast, I’ve been known to collect especially favored words that embodied or described a time in my life that maybe felt lost in a lengthy description, and was better suited in the summary of a single word. For example, the Japanese term wabi-sabi suggests that we should see flaws as being part of what is charming about something. Usually in reference to pottery or furniture, but it felt like a poem written about the current state of myself - a young, single, sick girl, with too much risk and baggage to be worthy of love, but in a single word. It gave me the first inward glimpse that maybe this illness, and the physical and emotional imperfections it was causing, could be considered beautiful. An idea that a very bald headed, frail, and single 20 something would obviously cling to. From there I immediately took the red pill and jumped straight down the rabbit hole of untranslatable words. Sadly the red pill was white, and was just a zofran for nausea, but nevertheless I still discovered the magic the English language didn’t possess.
Spoiler - Things didn’t work out with the boy in the hospital, but I did keep the book. From time to time I’ll flip through it and find a word I forgot that poetically describes something far too magnificent for just a single word.
While I was dating strange men on the internet from inside of a hospital room, what I didn’t know was that my now husband was at another hospital in the same city with the same cancer. One day years later, he’d remind me of a word from this book and together we’d adopt the concept of it into our lives. That word is “hygge”. Maybe you’ve heard of it by now. Sadly the sales marketers of the world have all but devoured it and turned it into something you can purchase (Another spoiler alert - it’s not). Ask any Dane if you need a blanket or a candle in order to be hygge and I guarantee you they’ll tell you it’s not a tangible thing, but a feeling. This is a feeling my husband and I are currently chasing, and has been a popular topic in our household. While having dinner with my mother in law a few weeks ago, we discussed the charm that is hygge. Pulling out the book, we found it was a concept that she too admired. From there the conversation led to a collection of ideas for items that compliment this feeling or invoke an opportunity to create it, and those ideas quickly became this collection.
As a reminder, hygge is not something you can purchase and none of the items in this collection will bring you the comfort and well-being that the concept of hygge embodies, and no physical item for that matter will. Let this season be a reminder that this feeling of hygge, while not translatable to the English language, is very translatable to life and that you, my friend, are deserving of it. This time of year it’s especially important to remember that we don’t need tangible things to feel a sense of happiness or coziness. Rather, in true hygge fashion, we only really need the people we care about.