Today is a gray, rainy day in Memphis, Tennessee. It reminds me of the many gray, rainy days in Amsterdam, Netherlands, when I lived there as a student.
The weather report looked similar as it does this week: rain, rain, rain, sunshine, rain, with the sunshine usually disappearing by the time that day arrived.
When I was a student, I could stay home in my dorm room, cozied under blankets, watching the rain fall while I read or wrote in my journal. I would turn on my twinkle lights, fluff up my pillows, maybe light an illicit candle, and breathe. Coming from school in Los Angeles, where rain was rare, the constant gray drizzle of the Netherlands took some getting used to. It was only when I went to spend the weekend in Belgium, with a similar weather outlook, that I learned the flipside of what I perceived as terrible weather–gezelligheid, most closely translated to coziness. Though like the Danish Hygge, coziness doesn’t quite capture the translation.
I would describe gezelligheid as the feeling of being under a cozy blanket in soft lighting, reading a good book or having a deep chat with a beloved one. These moments seem to be occur far more frequently when the weather is garbage, and thus when I moved back to Los Angeles, with its constant sunshine and superficial niceties, my soul craved gezelligheid. I longed for twinkle lights and candles, for it to be cold enough to warrant a cozy sweater, warm socks, and a soft blanket.
Notice these words I keep using-soft, cozy, warm. Essential elements of gezelligheid, and now they’re encoded in my DNA. I have sought to make my little home here in Memphis, Tennessee resplendent with coziness. The surfaces are soft and covered in blankets or pillows, with sharp Scandinavian edges on tables and bookshelves. Icicle lights hang in the window year round, and twinkle lights provide ambiance. Plants and candles abound, and my bookshelves are laden with novels and novel ideas.
I have translated it as best I can, this feeling into a tangible space to find home. People often remark on the coziness, and to me, this is the highest compliment-that I have successfully taken this core value of gezelligheid and transposed it to my living space.
Come visit and see for yourself.