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Column: A Moomin moment in Saskatchewan

Latest winter storm-inspired opinion piece.

Writer and illustrator Tove Jansson was Finnish, but she must have known a lot about Danish hygge (in a nutshell, a warm atmosphere) when creating her beautiful and cozy world of Moomins.

I know her books are not as popular on this side of the planet as they are in Europe, but I believe a lot of people have heard about them, as, I'd say, they became as big of a part of Scandinavian culture as Mickey Mouse here. (Since 1993 they have their own Moomin World in Finland, so maybe even bigger.)

If you haven't read stories about the Moomin family and their friends, and if you ever come across them, give them some of your time. No matter how old you are, read them for yourself or to your kids or grandkids. Believe me, you'll enjoy the sophisticated, warm peace blooming on those pages. (Check with our Estevan Public Library, even if they don't have them here, they'll probably know how to get them).

Moomins, a family of white, round, fairy-tale characters with large snouts who look like hippos, but are trolls, hibernate in winter. Jansson, not the biggest fan of winter, still beautifully described the moment when winter arrives:

"One grey morning, the first snow began to fall in Moomin Valley. It fell softly and quietly, and in a few hours, everything was white. Moomintroll stood on his doorstep and watched the valley nestle beneath its winter blanket. 'Tonight,' he thought, 'we shall settle down for our long winter's sleep.' (All Moomintrolls go to sleep about November. This is a good idea, too, if you don't like the cold and the long winter darkness.) Shutting the door behind him, Moomintroll stole in to his mother and said: 'The snow has come!'"

The family, their friends and acquaintances, prepare for winter by eating a meal of not-so-tasty but filling pine needles, which help them sleep through several months. Then they clean their teeth, make sure the doors and shutters are closed, put a mosquito net over the chandelier, so it won't get dusty, and calmly go to bed until spring.

I didn't eat any pine needles last weekend, but with the winter storm in the forecast, I felt similar to those creatures, who took winter as the time for recuperation. I made sure I had enough clean water and food, in case the storm would be bigger than expected, put aside the endless to-do lists, made sure all doors were closing tight and the furnace was running fine and … did nothing. But that nothing wasn't anxiously empty. It was filled with something indeed essential.

I didn't sleep through this short blast of winter, but it felt like I hibernated, with all worries set aside in favour of a peaceful time-out.

I did read a book and watched a movie with my hubby, I talked to family and friends. On Sunday, I even went out of my nest a few times and shovelled a little patch in front of the house, like Moomintroll (in the books, they sometimes suddenly wake up and learn about winter a bit), appreciating the beauty of the snow.

"One by one, the snowflakes floated down on to his warm snout, and melted. He reached out to grab them so he could admire them for a fleeting moment. He looked towards the sky and watched them drift down towards him, more and more, soft and light as a feather."

There was no rush or stress in anything I did, and I felt that my home and my soul filled with joy.

That magic lasted throughout the weekend (and probably should have lasted longer with the temperatures staying below zero this week), but disappeared Monday morning when I heard my husband snowblowing the driveway. Just like that. That noise meant that I was not locked in the house by the snow anymore, and life needed to go back to its busy normal. But even though the weekend was wonderful, I didn't feel sorry because I did get to rest and enjoy what felt like that mystical art of hygge to me. 

(In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Hot cocoa with marshmallows in a cozy cup is hygge, too; so is a pot of favourite soup or cuddling up with a loved one with a Moomin or any other good book in your hands.)

There are many ways to practise hygge described in Moomins books (probably unintentionally, I think Scandinavians just naturally feel and live it). We here in North America live a very different lifestyle. (I don't think any other place, but the U.S., could have invented a to-go coffee cup, because everywhere else coffee is a reason to slow down, enjoy, think, visit, anything but run.) Even though Canada is different, and rural Canada differs from urban, there is more rush, more workaholism and more stress as part of lifestyle when compared to the old world.

Living goal-oriented lives, we sometimes forget to breathe. Thankfully, inspired by Mother Nature, my Saskatchewan Moomin weekend slowed me down and reminded me how influential the pauses are. Hope you had a chance to enjoy some you-time as well.