The sun is scheduled to rise at 9:02 am today and there is new snow on the rooftops and ground.
Though all signs point to winter, I’m in denial about its presence. Instead I’m choosing to pretend that the snow is going to melt sometime this week, that fall is going to have a resurgence where the leaves magically reattach themselves to the trees, and that the lack of light won’t get much worse than this.
Seeing as how we are slated to get 9 hours and 22 minutes of daylight today, and by the time winter solstice rolls around that number will decrease to 5 hours and 22 minutes, you can see how unrealistic my pretenses are.
The Danish have a word for embracing an attitude of warmth, coziness and a celebratory feel during the dark winter months, “hygge.” Which from my understanding doesn’t have a word equivalent in the English language, but is more of a feeling- a mental state, of comfort, connection and conviviality. Like taking the holiday spirit and enveloping the whole of winter with it.
Over 30 years in this state, and being hygge has gotten me through many an Alaskan winter. Lighting candles, making plans with friends, taking pictures of the beautiful sky, curling up with books and comfort, creating moments of intimacy and connection during the dark season of the stars that feel different than the connections made in the expansive bask of summer.
Being intentional about finding joy during the harsh of an Alaskan winter was a profound teacher years ago, who taught me that our circumstances do not need to dictate our level of happiness. That was the winter I bundled up in cheery coats and thick scarves and zipped around town to all sorts of plays and musicals and restaurants and friendships and filled the darkest months with fond memories.
Those were good days. Cozy days. And those days lasted a long time.
When my husband moved here we added to those kinds of days. Chilly winter hikes in the mountains followed by hot pizza and movie nights. Dates to the Nutcracker, tickets to the performing arts center, plans that made us dress up in the cool months and venture outside. Memories of good food and white lights and tucking into our rainbow home filled with color, plants, and pets.
But over the past few years, a sense of wear has been creeping up on me that coalesced last winter into the realization I am pretty hygge-ied out. It started when we were coming back from our Oregonian wedding and honeymoon, and I found myself sitting at the airport realizing that for the first time ever, I had no interest in going back home, no sense of my usual characteristic excitement about the things to come. Just a sense of burnout with Alaska and a strong desire for change.
Last December was a claustrophobic month. Like I was going from home to car to office to car to home- trapped inside these boxes- and it was always black outside. I did my best to try and embrace things, but somewhere close to solstice, on a dreary gray day where my husband and I forced ourselves to get out and hike, we acknowledged our truth- that life here wasn’t really supporting or nourishing the best of either of us- and came to the conclusion our time in Alaska was coming to a close.
Kauai in December of 2018 we said! Just 3 more winters!
And then Life shook things up big time in 2016, and we got rearranged in that shaking, and 3 years became too long , and now we are down to one last winter.
One last winter.
Things have the ability of taking on a precious quality to them when you realize this is the last time you are going to pass this way. And that awareness- that this is it for Alaskan winters- has the potential to bring a little bit of light and hope to what can feel like a dark space, the potential to create a little bit more magic in the memories being made.
I tried to grab onto that perspective as I walked in the freshly fallen snow yesterday, but the truth is, I dread the winter months and would move now if I could. Life has a certain timing though, and the timing for our move is June 2017, not October 2016. So here I find myself in this odd transitory state, no longer belonging to where I was, not quite yet ready to step into where I would like to be.
You can learn a lot about life in such a space. How to let go. How to sort through what’s most important and find your truest treasures. How to belong to yourself, so you always have a sense of home within, even as your external sense of home begins to shift and change.
How to be patient with Life’s process and your own process. How to lean into metamorphosis and learn to be okay with not knowing how it will all work out. How to continue to define the strength of your connections to others by the amount of sincerity and love found in the relationship and not the convenience of location and geography.
How to release your old molds of self and allow yourself to be comfortable with feeling a little unformed. How to embrace the moment and live in the present, all while wanting to be elsewhere and yearning for what is to come. How to hold two opposing truths side by side in your heart and find harmony among them by acknowledging they both have a right to presence and perspective.
I can walk in the snow and hate winter’s harsh heart, all while reveling in the grace that comes when everything is washed clean and new. I can sadly stare out the window and sigh over all the black, all while letting it lay over me like a velvet sky inspiring poetry of starlight, desire and wonder. I can grudgingly don my boots and gloves and shake my fist at the cold, all while breathing in how crisp the air becomes this time of year as I pull the experiences of one last Alaskan winter tightly into me.
Life doesn’t have to look a certain way to learn how to find goodness and peace and joy inside ourselves. Goodness and peace and joy are simply what happens when we make space for all of our experiences and learn to see them as worthy. Learn to open ourselves up to our full expression of self and know it to be valid. Learn to see that this too- the whole range of self that runs from messy human to lightest divine- is simply part of belonging to this time and place.
Learn to see the sacred beauty in all.
Even in the tired weariness and awesome wonder found in one last winter.