You might picture a Scandinavian winter as dark and intense. And as a native Swede, I enjoy cosying up under a woollen blanket with a book and a cup of herbal tea in a room lit mostly by candles, as much as any hygge fan. But when it comes to powerful seasonal memories, I actually have a very different image. It’s of the leftover sandy grit, used to prevent slipping and skidding on the roads, which would remain on the dry spring pavements after the snow and ice had melted. I can remember the sound it made under my shoes – so different from the sound of all that winter snow.
As we re-enter the world after coronavirus restrictions, this seems relevant in two ways. One is the way we humans crave novelty and new experiences, particularly after a time of restraint. The other is a feeling of gratitude. In the case of the Swedish spring, gratitude that this simple substance had kept us safe from the lethal winter roads, and – as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, releasing us from that period of freezing temperatures and deep darkness – that it was now no longer needed.
Returning to the world now that the coronavirus restrictions are easing – where I live in Dublin, at least – feels a lot like that. The experience of stepping out the door knowing that there are no – or fewer – limits on us, is profound. It’s a release. A liberation. But as we follow the temptation to plunge headlong into the future and grab the new experiences available to us with both hands, let’s not forget that sense of appreciation, respect and gratitude for what we have, and the ways in which we kept it safe.
“Let’s not forget that sense of appreciation, respect and gratitude for what we have, and the ways in which we kept it safe”.
I wrote a book back in 2017 about the Swedish concept of lagom. The imperfect translation of this untranslatable term – “not too little, not too much, but just enough” – has its limitations, making many think that it’s all about moderation. But lagom is about so much more than that. It’s about consensus and neighbourliness, an agreement that no individual greatness is worthwhile without connection, that we are stronger together and no one must be left behind.