December 30th, 2017 to January 1st, 2018.
The train stopped halfway between Malmö and Stockholm, turning a three-hour trip into six hours. No one complained; I could not see any frowning or frustration with the conductor. Later, my friend Josef would comment that perhaps that is just the Swedish way: they probably felt angry, he explained, but people here seldom express their emotions publicly.
Curled up in my railway seat with my book on Fridtjof Nansen, I was not complaining either. Swedish railway carriages are luxurious with lots of leg room (airlines, please take note…). The train crew left the coffee urns in our carriage well-stocked too. “It is an electrical fault” explained the conductor. “There will be many trains waiting to get into Stockholm station. I am sorry but we could have a wait…”
Mys. The Danes call it hygge and the Swedish nuance is roughly equivalent to cosiness or snuggly. Josef had not heard of it but then he is Hungarian so perhaps my clumsy explanation got a bit lost in translation.
The winter is something you all learn to survive here, the short-cuts to and from places, knowing where to pause in the doorways of warm shops for a few seconds. Just as they do in Germany, many leak warm air out into the street, trapped in the double-doorways. Unless you notice it, you miss the delight of warm air on a cold nose for a few seconds.
Implicit in mys is that winter here is not a time to hibernate but rather a time to snuggle down with a perfect chair and the book that you have been yearning to spend time with. Time to get things done. And hot chocolate: that is intrinsically part of mys too. It is something to do with hot chocolate releasing endorphins in your brain which are naturally calming: it also triggers changes to the microcirculation in your skin. Warmth yes but there is a deeper empathy being drawn out here though. Swedes write that they cherish memories of being outdoors as children and the steaming hot chocolate poured from thermos flasks. Families playing in the snow together. Gulnara had a delightful look in her eyes on December 1st as she explained that we were all going for Advent Fika together, just up the hill from her snuggly office.
Out through the snow for apple torte, an open fire and friends talking while clutching steaming mugs of hot coffee. Yes, mys with coffee works too but it is not the same somehow. Then there was Café Lina next door back home later, the morotskaka. Think carrot cake but no, somehow different.
Mys is also solitude but not loneliness. It is not mindfulness either but it resonates with my own ideas of fellowship and grace, the being alone and at peace with your Father as a believer. Perhaps finally comfortable in your own skin too? At first, I did not notice myself mimicking the locals but Jane tells me I have started saying ja even though I consciously avoid saying hei when greeting people I do not know yet (Hei, hei is for friends). With the light already gone late on Friday afternoons, I found myself yearning to get back to my tiny apartment and get snowed in for two, uninterrupted days.
Mys: snuggled away with Bottomly, hot chocolate and a wicked research problem, not hibernating but thriving. Going out sometimes, wrapped up in great gear, still getting cold but the first step later back into an already warm apartment: mys.
That it rhymes with bliss cannot be co-incidental. I found myself slipping into this concept here long before it was explained to me so, close to the end of my time here, it is delightful to begin to understand it a little. I love this place and mys goes someway towards explaining the attraction.
Mys…does that resonate with you too? Bless you on this last day of 2017. Brave New Year friends.