Let’s talk a little bit about Hestia, Goddess of hearth and home. She often gets less attention than some of the other Greek deities and that’s OK with her. She was always a bit of a homebody, happy to stay home and create a warm, safe, comfortable place for people to live. I submit that, especially in these times, having an inviting haven (that safe, sandy cave you used to dream about as a child) is extra important. We are spending so much time marching, organizing, canvassing, registering voters, and resisting that, if we’re not careful, we can get worn out. Burnout doesn’t help anyone and, so, simple things that provide us with a cozy retreat are important.
The Danes have this word — hygge — that translates roughly as cozy contentment, comfort, an enjoyable time alone or with friends. A crackling fire in the fireplace, soft socks that keep even your ankles warm, hot chocolate with nutmeg, friends playing instruments together after a Sunday brunch: that’s all hygge. I think hygge is a way of honoring Hestia.
What in your home contributes to your hygge? What could you do that would increase your hygge? Sometimes, it’s as simple as mixing up biscuit dough the night before or digging that soft, warm sweatshirt out of the back of your closet. Pull the drapes at night to keep in the warm air and open them in late afternoon to let in the sun. Sometimes, it’s opening the windows when the air is warm and putting a vase full of golden daffodils on the counter. Or it can be turning on the music you haven’t heard in a while, lighting some candles, burning some incense, and pouring the good oil into a tub full of steaming water.
Speaking of hygge, I’d like to sing the virtues of the old-fashioned water bottle. You remember water bottles; it’s likely that your grandmother had one or, if you’re old enough, that you used one for menstrual pain. This winter, I dealt with a series of ear infections — something I’ve never had before and hope to never have again. There’s this period between when your doctor calls in the prescription and when the drugs begin to work. And, when we’re talking about ear infections, that’s painful. The only thing that seemed to relieve the pain for me was heat. So, off to the drugstore to buy a hot water bottle; they’re on the very bottom shelf, a bit dust-covered, hidden in the far distant corner. But it really worked. Putting it between my pillow and the pillowcase, I was able to get enough relief to go to sleep.
But you know, we’re talking about hygge, not pain relief. Once my ears were better, I began to fill the hot water bottle with the hottest water I could run, wrap it in an old t-shirt, and stick it down near my feet, under the covers. Instant bliss. Sure, I can wear socks, and, sometimes, when it’s really cold, I still do. But with or without socks, having that snug bit of warmth near my feet has been a source of real comfort and luxury. (The cats like it too; they have an uncanny ability to position themselves directly above the warmth.) I’m knitting a cover for the hot water bottle so I can reclaim my t-shirt. There are patterns as plain and as fancy as you like.
Speaking of knitting, crafts are a good way to honor Hestia and to help create a wonderful retreat. First, doing the craft is, in itself, comforting and rewarding and, second, the products you make can be wonderfully hygge. Knitting a hot water bottle cover, an afghan, or a shawl, crocheting a tea cozy to keep your tea pot hot, painting anything from a mug to a wall mural, carving love spoons to hang on the wall, weaving placemats, mixing incense or potpourri — there are as many ways to create offerings to Hestia as there are arts and crafts.
Finally, and I am going to post more about this in the days to come: order. We all have a different tolerance for order and for disorder. I have to have things pretty neat and clean — a place for everything and everything in its place. My friend, S., an artist who makes jewelry, artwork, and clothing, likes to have her materials and projects out where she can see and be inspired by them. Part of growing up is learning the boundaries of your comfort zone. Do you know what yours are? Are you living within them?
I’ve spent the winter cleaning out some closets, dressers, and files, although most people who see my house don’t imagine there’s much to clean out. But I’ve disposed (trashed, donated, put out by the curb with a notice to the neighborhood listserve) of a LOT of stuff and it feels brilliant! Fresh! Clean! Open! I can literally feel the new energy moving around in the guest room (one place where “stuff” I didn’t want to deal with tended to accumulate) and my main dresser. I can sense how much happier my files and home office are now that I’ve done one purge and, as soon as I can have a discussion with my financial planner, I’m going to do a second. (It’s possible that I no longer need every paycheck I’ve ever received, even if all of them are neatly organized into folders. Now that my little cottage is paid off, I probably don’t need all the refinance papers and cancelled checks. The service records on the car I sold four years ago can probably go, no matter that they are filed in chronological order.) As soon as the weather warms up a bit, my garden shed and I are going to have a long, serious talk.
If you’re honest, what’s your tolerance for order/disorder? What creates comfort for you? What would make you happy to see go to a new home? Where would some Murphy’s Oil Soap bring you happiness? Is there a spot in your bathroom, laundry room, or pantry that would make you smile every time you saw that it had been cleaned out? Can you spend an hour folding and putting away your clothes in a system that would let you get dressed easily and happily in the morning?
How do you create/maintain/establish hygge? Do you ever invoke Hestia? What in your life needs to change so that you have at least one room where you are completely comfortable, safe, warm, full, content, dry, clean?
Picture found here.