It was an undiscovered country for me, too. It wasn’t a place I was thinking about beyond Viking helmets and Northern Lights. To be fair, Norway itself thinks about those things often enough.
So maybe it was the comingling of Texas, that dusty warm wind slipping into the solgangsbris, which made forty of my friends post to my every timeline and inbox all at once the article from Texas Monthly about the Norwegian phrase “helt Texas!” (“That’s so wild!”)
Is it true? Have you heard? Oh yes, I had heard. I’ve been walking around in boots since I got to this continent. Every time I say where I’m from, I hear about it. Y’all, I’ve been living here for months — I have heard.
But I remember that first year of sending Andreas every article I found about Norway, asking him what was true, reading the entirety of Scandinavia and the World and then losing myself to the Wikipedia pages on the Danish royal family. It’s pre-dating a country, that time period you can’t get it into your head besides the fantasy, the rush of discovering new ways of being. He asked me what the candy was like. I asked him how cold it would get. I asked him again how cold it would get when he told me “like Michigan.” He wasn’t lying to me, or, the winters have been mild since I started coming over here.
My first visit to Norway was Christmastime two years ago. I visited his family in Stavanger, I snuggled up on his couch and watched tv shows I would never have watched in English, and I did not bring enough sweaters. Sometimes I imagined I would never own enough sweaters to make Norway palatable. The Norwegians will tell you there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
Well, my rain boots haven’t made it into my suitcase yet, and I am permanently between good jackets, but when the air changed the other night into that snap of woodsmoke heralding winter, that for reals winter is coming mouth taste, the oddest shiver of comfort washed over me. Inner warmth, and familiarity. Maybe even something home-y. Maybe this was koselig.
Maybe three Michigan winters prepared me. I got used to checking my weather app for the day, got used to thinking in layers. My mother bought me a very good coat and snowboots and other than slipping at least once a week on my icy walk to campus, things were okay. I carried gloves in my pockets. I wore earmuffs. I acted like a human who thinks about winter when they leave the house rather than a surprised armadillo beset by freak storms. Many years in St. Louis should have prepared me, but it took Michigan to really set me winter-straight. I took photos of the sculptures ice would make of the trees, and panoramas of snow tracks across the Diag, and the library steps housing abandoned scarves. I thought, there’s no way I could do this for even one more winter. And then that last winter, things just seemed, well, do-able.
So here I am in a city where the sun sets at 3pm. Where they sell snow-cleats for your shoes, and salt the sidewalks so well that you rarely need to use them. Where even the cheap gloves have metallic threads woven in so you can use your phone without taking them off. Where long johns are my most coveted fashion item. The Christmas Market, a tiny village of small shops and fire-warmed Lavvu-style tents (Sami-inspired “tentipi”), will crop up in the King’s Square this time of year, selling reindeer ribs and chocolates and handmade crafts and juleøl (Christmas beer). Sitting beside the open fire, my mittens wrapped around a warm mug of spiced wine, listening to the song of a Norwegian folk artist, it’s hard not to feel, well, cosy. Koselig.
The warmth I felt from Andreas’ family at Christmastime, nibbling on homemade cookies and Grandma’s lefse, playing word games and chasing the children around, finding the almond in the Christmas pudding and icing gingerbread cookies and picking up as much Norwegian and Swedish as my brain could hold, and visiting friends in their warm houses dotted along the country roads of Stavanger; this is koselig. It’s woolen blankets and space beside my partner on the couch, or piles of comforters and being pulled into tenderness. It’s the hugs we give our friends as we leave a party, where we’ve spent the entire evening in laughter and camaraderie, and it is no different from the giddiness of a conversation with a dear friend across oceans. I hope to carry it with me, now that I know the smell of it, now that the cold brings another kind of warmth to my limbs; I hope, like I carry the wildness of Texas everywhere my boots take me, that I shall also carry this.