I woke up to a dark room. A soft, freshly-oiled beard brushed my face. Sandlewood. "See ya later, lover" it said. My iPhone displayed 8:50am. So dark though...it can't be that late. Those thick navy curtains were a bad idea. I rolled out of bed and made my way through the apartment, grabbing a handful of misplaced items as I walked. Glancing out the large window to the parking lot, I noticed our downstairs neighbor putting her eskimo-bundled daughter into a warm vehicle as rain drizzled and exhaust steamed up the few square feet surrounding the car. Standing close to the glass I noticed a chilly draft moving subtly into the room. October is coming to an end.
The leaves on the willow in front of our balcony have changed from brilliant green to mustard yellow to dull brown. The wind has become noticeably persistent. No, the wind hasn't become more frequent, just colder. The canal, so beautiful and refreshing in the summer, has become damp and bone-chilling in mid-Autumn. Preparations to leave the house have become ritualistic: cover the feet (boots), cover the body (coat), cover the ears (hat), cover the fingers (gloves), headphones, bag with essentials, wrench set (just in case), keys. On the now-rare sunny day though the coat, hat, and gloves are foregone. The temperature hasn't dropped below freezing or even close, but the constant dampness combined with overcast skies and windiness create a frigid atmosphere.
These chilly, damp, dark days are difficult to wake up to, but they make way for this one special, all-encompassing, untranslatable, heartwarming word to take meaning:
Gezellig is a beautiful Dutch word that is untranslatable to the English language, but that describes what most of us in the States feel around the holidays especially. Imagine a cold night spent in a warm house beside a crackling fire laughing with closest friends and/or family, christmas lights twinkling softly on the fragrant tree in the corner, favorite warm beverage in hand, perfectly content with life at that moment.
That feeling is gezellig. The closest you can get to translating is to say cozy, but gezellig can refer to more than just a feeling of coziness. It can refer to atmosphere, to people, to places, and to activities. The combination of them all encompasses the true meaning of the word.
Because of these cold, rainy days, we've been able to truly experience gezellig for the first time in Holland. We've enjoyed nights with movies projected on our white, popcorn-paint wall surrounded by laughter, good food, and friends. We've relaxed with friends, toasting Autumn's damp arrival around a pub-table in Amsterdam with pumpkin beers. We've wandered around the city admiring the lights that have been strung over the cobblestone streets in honor of the approaching holidays of Sint Maarten and Sinterklaas. We've sat around kitchen tables and enjoyed meals in warm homes, laughing over the complexities of international living. We've bundled up in scarves and coats and listened to Ella croon over our tiny headphones as we biked to buy bread for dinner at the grocery store.
Today gezellig means rain misting, radiators creaking, candles burning, Down in the Valley Pandora station playing, comfy jeans, and warm veggie taco lunch with my man. For that I'm thankful.
I'm thankful today for curtains that keep in warmth while shutting out light, even if they make waking up hard, and for my sandlewood-smelling bearded man.
Today I'm thankful for big windows that let in lots of light, little draft, and a view of nature slowly falling asleep.
Today I'm thankful for little words like gezellig that remind me to be thankful.