By Jane Heil Usyk
I really hate winter. It’s so cold! And besides that, it’s often slippery, and slushy, and wet. I could stay in all winter, except I need my walking exercise, and I have to get groceries, and go to the library, and watch movies, mail bills, and do a number of other things that require going out.
Recently, I saw an article on the Danish idea of “hygge,” or cozy cold-weather things that make winter bearable. What a great idea! Apparently, the Danish have a whole arsenal of things they depend on for feeling good in winter: candles, lights, warm throws, lit fireplaces, hot drinks, curling up on the sofa with a hot drink and a good book, cafes. Of course, there are other features of Danish life—free health care, free education, cheap child care, no fear of losing your job or being homeless—that help a lot, too. Nevertheless, it’s those immediately-available small changes and additions I am focusing on, ones that don’t require a total change of mind set by the government.
If you’re happy in Denmark, you’re considered a success. They think about what constitutes a balanced life. More life, fewer things.
Having given you an idea of the Danish principle of “hygge,” here is a list of activities older Villagers might consider to get through that most troublesome of seasons in the northeast.
1. Get waterproof boots. I mean, really waterproof, not water-resistant. Then you can walk anywhere and not have damp feet. It will help your long walks and will make you unafraid of going out in snow and rain.
2. Walking. Long walks can clear your mind and improve your outlook on life, and you can visit some interesting places. For instance, the stores around 19th street and 6th Avenue. Or 14th Street. Or Canal Street. Or the East Village. Or even just Trader Joe’s. One of my bosses used to tell me, “It is good to have un but” (she had spent twenty years in France). A goal; ours used to be Sutter’s Bakery. That tells you it was a long time ago.
3. Libraries and reading. What wonderful places libraries are! You can dip into magazines, newspapers, and books of all kinds. The librarians are really pleasant, the place is warm, and has comfortable chairs. Plus, you might come across an absorbing book.
4. Games: Scrabble, Mahjong, puzzles, card games. My only game is Scrabble, and I can tell you it is completely and totally absorbing. Anyone wants to play, please contact me.
5. Volunteer work. If you have spare time, you can find something interesting to help with. You might even make a few new friends. Gods Love We Deliver? Gilda’s Club? Animal Lighthouse Rescue? Sage? Visiting Neighbors? City Harvest? The GLBT Project? The Bowery Mission? Food Bank?
6. Coffee shops and bars where there is a certain amount of fellowship and warmth. Teas and coffees, with little snacks, can warm you up, as can, say, Irish coffees and other hot alcoholic drinks. It’s a place to meet neighbors and friends and celebrate.
7. Occasional celebrations at senior centers and other groups you may belong to. Celebrations really help in December, January, and February. They remind us that there are other, cheerful people in the world and they want to hoist a drink with us.
8. Movies. There are numerous movies going on at all times, the kind you pay for and free ones, and it is useful to gather schedules of all the movies within about a half mile. We are lucky; the movies around us include Film Forum, IFC, Angelika, libraries and senior centers. Anthony Cilione has great movies every Monday and Wednesday afternoon at Greenwich House on Barrow Street, and most Thursdays and Fridays are good for movies at Greenwich House on Washington Square North. And the libraries have free movies: Thursday and Saturday at the Hudson Park Library, and usually Monday evening at Jefferson Market Library.
9. Special projects. No time like bad weather to start work on special projects, such as improving your knitting skills, looking for a job, or learning more about some aspect of computers. There is a place at 127 West 25th Street that is devoted to teaching seniors about computers. It is called Senior Planet, and the phone number is (646) 590-0615.
10. Snuggling up to your honey. I am indebted for this idea to my husband. What could be better than generating your own heat? Especially under lots of blankets.
Have a good winter, and keep thinking of the blossoms on the trees in early Spring! March, April, May will come eventually.