One of my favorite writers, Isabel Gillies, has a new book, Cozy, published in February. Not long after its release date, I called my favorite local, independent bookstore, Bookworks, to see if they had the book in stock. They didn’t, so I asked them to please order a copy for me and to consider carrying it, because I thought they might like it and could sell a few copies. This bookstore and its owner and employees here in Albuquerque, are kind and amazing and obliging. They said they would order one for me and a few for the store. Sure, I could have ordered it on A$$$dotcom, but that’s no fun and I want my limited dollars to work their magic: provide good jobs, keep things local, support one another. That is cozy to me. I picked the book up a few days later, along with a couple of new discoveries, and couldn’t wait to dive in.
The idea of Cozy, is more than comfy blankets and shelter in thunderstorms. The subtitle is, “The art of arranging yourself in the world.” As Gillies writes in the book’s introduction:
“On a planet where people are hungry, and elephants endangered, perhaps other books are needed. But this is the book I thought to write because being cozy makes me feel capable of getting through to the next moment, to help another, to accomplish something important–even to love. It’s easy to dismiss cozy as a confluence of hot chocolate, a roaring fire, and falling snow–magical, tangible treats you can find in a ski lodge in Vermont. Or, you might think coziness happens if you’re lucky. . . But I don’t think it’s only physical things or fortunate circumstances, I think cozy is a deeper beat, derived from a parent, a friend, a teacher, or your own good instincts.”
That paragraph slayed me. I had been looking forward to the book, as one looks forward to a visit from a good friend. I figured the book would be interesting, read in a weekend whirlwind, and that I would emerge from the book sleepless and shaken. But now, I realize, and as always after reading a really well-written book, that I am changed from the words.
Basically, I realize what my last few years of spiritual remodeling have been. I needed to find myself, to make peace, so that I could emerge, whole (cozy), for this next part of my life. I am whole and at peace, and I now have the tools to always be this, one moment at a time. It’s not a permanent state, and there will be ruptures, but I know how to heal and remodel and live. This is huge. And this book came at a perfect time, at the end of this healing, and at the beginning of something different.
The crux of the book is a map to helping us find what is cozy. Cozy is not just a winter snow day. Cozy is finding what makes you tick and how to get there internally, so that you can be yourself, sturdy yourself up for good days, and to guide yourself through the hard times. Cozy is different for all of us, and some of us can find “our cozy” easily, according to Gillies. For others, we need time to figure it out. She guides us by looking at our pasts, our histories, our families, our experiences.
This all made sense to me. Cozy can be comfort, but not always. Gillies say this in the introduction, “Being cozy isn’t about being comfortable.” In fact, solidifying our sense of cozy can help us face the world, contribute to it, not escape from it. So cozy isn’t necessarily respite, but it can be. It’s not escape, but it can be. Cozy is what helps us to pick the up the pieces, to find the light, to begin again. Reading this book helped me to identify and remember what cozy is for me.
A few years ago, when faced with the story of the children and adults killed in Newtown, Connecticut, my heart was broken and overwhelmed. On a grey winter day, I felt unsure about what next. How do I respond? There were heartfelt responses on social media, and a shared talk with co-workers (we all were environmental educators, visiting schools every day), but nothing felt quite right. My sister (also my best friend and roommate at the time) said there were no words. A couple of days later, I wrote a blog entry, listing all the things I love. It was a long list, about the everyday things that fill me with joy and inspire me. It had started as a paragraph for an online dating site, for my “ad” a few years before, that became my love letter to life. That blog post was my first published piece (not counting a couple of things written for work or stuff written in college for the school newspaper), something I submitted a few months later for the local library’s anthology. It also became the first piece that I read in public (not counting high school speeches or presentations for my job) as a writer. Remembering what you love and writing it down, that is cozy. Finding things you love to do and doing them, that is cozy. For me that was a beginning. That is cozy.
A few summers ago, I worked as a nanny for a family with two kids. It was the same summer that I lived with a certain boyfriend. Anyway, I worked four ten-hour days, and had the luxury of three-day summer weekends. My boyfriend had the freedom to create his schedule at work, and so we enjoyed the long weekends together. Even though I didn’t really like my job (I’m a good teacher and great with kids, but I never really quite jelled with the family), I remember that whole summer as cozy, at least all the off-work time of the summer: evenings, mornings, nights, weekends. That boyfriend and I made a cozy home. He helped me to clean out my stuff and rearrange the space for the two of us when he first moved in. We took epic weekly grocery shopping trips and cultivated a full cupboard, freezer, and kitchen. We made dinners and planned weekly hikes. On our days off, at least one or two of the days together were dedicated to hiking. We picked out routes on public lands within an hour’s drive, easy to do in north-central Colorado. The night before we’d fill up several reusable water bottles and put them in the freezer so we’d have cold water and ice on a hot day. We’d stuff light packs with rain gear, sunscreen, granola bars. The hikes themselves were lovely, but the memories of them melt into each other. That summer is mostly a memory of one long hike and it was glorious. That is cozy.
There is one memory from that summer, though, that really stands out. We had gone for a good hike in rocky foothills. I remember the hike being arduous, not so much for the uphill parts as for the need to pay attention to footfalls and sliding pebbles and slick surfaces. That afternoon, as we were making our way back down, back to the car, some late afternoon storm clouds began to gather and darken the sky. A child of the west, and used to the afternoon rains, I was unconcerned. My boyfriend, a child of the Midwest with its tornadoes and torrential spring floods, hurried us down, keeping me going quickly by following behind me. There were flashes of lightning and the big beginning drops of rain turned into drizzle and then downpour. We were soaked in an instant. We ran and made it to my little blue station wagon at the trailhead parking lot. We climbed in the car, reaching for sweatshirts and a towel we had thought to throw in the backseat. There were two chilled water bottles. We dried off with the towel, slurped down water, ate trail mix, and held hands while it stormed all around us. We watched the lightning and pelting rain in our little sanctuary. That is cozy. I always think of the shelter of that car, with a warm dry towel, trail mix, cold water in chilled bottles, and my loved one near me. That is cozy.
When my dog, Opie, suddenly suffered from a series of seizures in the middle of a gloomy January night a few years ago, my sister was with me. We watched over him, held him, and cried together. The seizures and the time between them sped up and got worse and worse. The next day instead of making an appointment with the vet to make him better, I knew that it was time. We drove to the vet later that afternoon. I held Opie and the vet gave him a shot. I talked to him and whispered what a good boy he was. I felt his last breath, his last sigh. My sister looked at me, a sad smile. We didn’t want to go home to an empty apartment without Opie there to greet us. She drove us to my favorite Mexican restaurant where serving sizes were huge, prices were cheap, and the staff was friendly. We ordered house margaritas and a plate of nachos, and we hunkered down in the vinyl corner booth. That cheerful restaurant on a sad night held us and sheltered us, that is cozy. That sisterhood, that support, that is cozy.
Gillies writes in Cozy, “We might not always have enough natural warmth, fortitude, or strength to traverse every bump on the road. But if we know how to create cozy using what’s inside us, we can search for it on the outside not matter where we are, and each day stack the the odds in our favor for happiness and, on some days, survival.”
A friend sent a text last night asking how I was. We caught up in a quick flurry of messages. That connection, that friendship and all that we have been through is something I love. That is cozy.
I just hung up from a phone call with my mother, we updated each other on the day to day and the upcoming and just talked a little about everything. That is cozy.
I am sitting on my bed, as I write this, on a day off, leaning over my tablet and wireless keyboard. Because a co-worker is on vacation, my work schedule changed this week and my weekend has been split into two separate days, today and Friday. This day off is early in the week and reminds me a little of a sick day, without the sick, and it feels cozy. I am wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Ganesh, the Hindu god known as the remover of obstacles, and of beginnings, one that I find solace in. I am wearing my favorite black leggings, a pair of white anklet running socks. Tights, a tshirt, and ankle socks are my cozy outfit for my two favorite activities: going for a run and writing from home. I am wrapped in a weird handmade crocheted cardigan, a reused relic that I bought for cheap at my friend’s vintage shop a couple of years ago, that is mostly brown with a swatch of red, turquoise, orange, and yellow running through the sleeves and across the back and front. I think it looks like New Mexico, the sands and mountains, the sky, the sun. This is cozy. I wear the sweater when it’s cold in my apartment, rather than turn on the heat. In the fall, I pull on the sweater at night and sit on my patio. Sometimes, I wear it like a meditation shawl. This is cozy.
I have the book Cozy near my knee. I draw inspiration. I am at the beginning of some things and at the end of some things. This is cozy. After a couple of weeks of thoughts simmering like stew on the stove, I wrote down some things on paper and then yesterday, committed these ideas to a big white board to hang on a wall in a new nook I made for my desk, after some rearranging. That is cozy. I have some goals and very specific things that I want to do and work for. After years of living life like a tumbleweed, or like a blowing around plastic bag, I have some direction and objectives. There is no need to share here, instead it’s about being quiet and just doing the things. That is cozy.
I realize that cozy is what I needed to get to, so that I could go past healing to a new place, to a new direction. The feeling of cozy, now, I can find within myself.
Cozy, for me, is finding the bravery, the fortitude, the little things. Cozy connects me to myself and allows me to reach out to others.
What brings you to cozy? What helps you to have comfort on a sad day? What helps you to find strength, to find yourself? What makes you cozy?