The Last Four

(…as remembered after they happened, because I got too caught up in them to finish this)

I volunteer at the classical studies conference first, in the days after New Year’s. I slip into a hotel conference center, hiding from the frigidity of Washington D.C., to listen to scholars speak on a range of topics that dizzies me: mystic papyri and Latin poetry and digital publishing and Plato (to name a few). I leave somehow even more excited for my philosophy classes at DIS than before.

The hotel (still with Christmas tree!) from 15 floors above.

Then I take the bus home, and remember, fully, that my days here are numbered: four, to be exact.

I spend most of them on mundanities (see doodles above), the thirty small things I have to do to leave the United States that seem grand and looming. I also waste a lot of time, watch a lot of Jeopardy!, flip through the journals I kept in high school and wonder: was I really that stupid? (Yes.)

In between everything, I get a first bite-sized taste of Danish culture by reading The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. Each section focuses on a dimension of hygge, a hard-to-translate Danish concept of coziness. I’m drawn in by Wiking’s point that the richest hygge experiences often occur against a backdrop of danger–that comfort with others is powerful against the unknown.

Inspired by the author’s stories of feeling this sensation after outdoor adventures, I sift through my own memories for a similar feeling of hygge. The first moment that comes to mind: sitting around the campfire with new friends from my freshman orientation trip, worn out from paddling canoes, stargazing together, unafraid for the moment of the darkness on the island we’ll be sleeping on.

No pictures of my possible hygge (which would probably defeat the idea anyway), but here are our canoes, somewhere on the Susquehanna River.

Somehow it never feels certain that I am about to leave to study in Denmark for five months. Not when my mom loans me her compressing bags to stuff with sweaters and flannels, and I punch them and sit cross-legged on them to flatten them out. Not when my sister shares her last in-person inside jokes with me for a while, or when I take one more drive down central Virginia back roads, the same six Led Zeppelin songs playing on the local classic rock station. Not when my whole family laughs at dinner about internet search results for my upcoming folkehøjskole housing in Roskilde–it’s so new that concept art with unrealistically Photoshopped humans still appears.

Are these my new housing mates?! (source)

It doesn’t happen until after I hug my mom, and my dad and I spend the car ride to the airport talking about websites for learning Danish phrases, and the wary Icelandair rep asks me to extract several denim pieces’ worth of weight from my too-heavy suitcase. When the plane lurches upward and the nausea hits me, so does the realization that I’m leaving, again.

In the moment, I’m not overwhelmed with anxiety or enthusiasm or wistfulness about this fact. I’m just ready to be in Denmark.

(Or anywhere, honestly, that isn’t my seat.)

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