There is a fascinating Danish word that I appreciate on cold nights. ‘Hygge’ means to get cozy, light a fire, play some warm music, pour some tea and curl up with a good book and maybe quietly spend the time with a friend. As a busy parent with a lot on my plate, I turned my living room into a hygge nest here in my home on more than a few cold nights. It is a way of finding peace in the chaos and storms of life, and one way nordic countries get through hard things together.
There is another word that seeks peace and rest by going in the opposite direction: out into the wind and cold. ‘Uitwaaien’ means, quite literally, to go out and walk in the wind. After being cooped up, we instead find a fresh new hope out in the wild, in the rush of a stiff breeze with rosy cheeks. Comfort in hard times, it seems, can be found in the most unlikely places.
Wendell Berry speaks to the clarity that comes from venturing out. His poem, The Peace of Wild Things, is a classic:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
There is a focus that comes when we step out into the wind or cold, it allows us space to think, to pray, and to express our deeper longings. It is also the place where it seems God has a chance to meet us (or maybe . Many people have stories of venturing out on a long walk or hike, and returning with a renewed sense of purpose, belovedness, and peace.
There is also a clarity that comes from stepping into our neighbourhoods. While I’ve not found a good Dutch word for it yet, I believe that when we step into our neighbourhood with expectation that much of what we are looking for is found in the unique exchange of care and presence found between two neighbours, we will find peace.
So may you find peace in the coziness of your home, and in the wild places, and among the people that make up your community. Peace and rest can be found, even here.