My wife has a favorite store in our town, which means I’ve become a shop regular
myself. Situated off the brick sidewalk on River St., Gezellig mixes a bit of old world mercantile, a bit of Garden & Gun, a bit of close-to-the-earth art gallery. The tall front windows and old wood door welcome you into a light-filled space abundant with greenery and stoneware and color. Here, you are enveloped in beauty and warmth. Roughly the size of a deep one-car garage, the shop somehow manages to be full to the brim and yet not at all overstuffed. It’s cozy, not crammed. Somehow the room grows larger as you take it in, and being there, the space inside you somehow grows larger too. As you browse, you touch the glossy leaf of a Pilea plant resting in a clay pot that reads “give me the dirt.” You smell herbal teas and Turkish mocha candles. You pause at the print of the Big Red lighthouse that keeps sentinel at the shore of the lake. You realize that while some stores are only for transactions, others are for breathing.
You might wonder where the name Gezellig comes from—and Ah! this is where you discover the magic. The shop owner explained how gezellig is a Dutch word with shades of meaning making it difficult for precise translation. But it means something like: warm, cozy, welcoming, jovial. “It’s less a word,” they tell me. “It’s more a way of life.” Some say gezellig gets at the very heart of Dutch culture.
When we moved to Michigan in August, friends told me how necessary gezellig will be for us as we find a rhythm amid long, stark winters. “You must invite and celebrate winter,” one friend told me. “Don’t fight it. Embrace it.” So that’s what we have done. We have our stock of good teas (Lavender Mint and Dark Chocolate, Firefly Chai, Evening in Missoula), coffees (Blanchard’s, Taste of the Hill Country), and our favorite pottery mugs. We bought warm winter boots and parkas and have learned how we absolutely love walking our dog Gus in the winter night, the moon above and the crunch of snow under our feet.
We have a back room, with windows that welcome light and offer a view of the white world that surrounds us and opens to that marvelous row of pines. In our light-filled room, we have an iron stove pumping heat in the corner, and through the front glass I watch flames dance. My wife Miska filled the room with green plants and beautiful art and the wool blanket we purchased from a weaver on Prince Edward Island. In this gezellig room, we played games with our sons during holiday break—and given college and life, who knows how many more days like this we’ll have.
We have welcomed the long winter. We are embracing this season of (due to both
weather and a pandemic) restraint and simplicity. We welcome the cozy comforts. We aim to kindle joy, tending the flame in these months of cold. Gezellig.