29 December 2005

The inevitable upswing

The solstice was a week ago, and since then I have become a daily checker of the sunrise statistics. We have already added 10 minutes of daylight in the last week, and the minutes added per day is increasing rapidly. Just when I got used to doing just about everything in the dark, it goes and changes on me, at a clip of already more than 2 minutes a day. This stuff is almost more comforting than the difference between summer and winter weather. I remember a few times in Boston when we would all think that FINALLY it was proper springtime, only to have a surprise April snowstorm. Can’t ever count on the weather to behave itself, although here it does seem to be more predictably unpredictable. By this I mean the cold snaps never last for more than a few days, snow never stays on the ground more than a week, and even the best windstorms die down after a day or two.

Still, you can count on the darkness always being on the move. It may not be the most fun thing ever, but getting up in the dark has become the way it is, helped tremendously by the whizzbang body clock, but still uncomfortable. I swim in the dark, grocery shop in the dark, and eat most of my meals in the dark. Lunchtime is a special daily treat with the weak early-sunrise light filtering in the corner windows of the cafeteria (I can’t really call it “morning light” when it is 12:15pm).

The thought of an Iceland where I do all those things in the light, where swimming an hour daily is enough sun exposure to give you a fantastic summer-on-the-Cape tan seems like a crazy place. I try to remember the honey-gold glow of evening light and walking to Tjörnin to feed the birds at 9:30pm, and I feel like I must be imagining another country. Maybe it is- how can it be the same place as this Christmas light-decorated place where life swirls busily on the dark side of the Earth?

In spite of the strangeness of this all, I know that part of me will miss it when the darkness has been passed off to the Southern Hemisphere. As J said yesterday, we take the darkness for granted when it’s all we have, but there was an evening in the summer when the clouds were so low that the street lights turned on and the neon signs in Hafnarfjörður actually turned on. We were so excited by this display of dimness that we went for a midnight drive just to experience darkness for a while. It doesn’t obey our desires, and sometime in July, I will be thinking fondly of days like yesterday. There had been snowsqualls all day, so there was a fresh layer of white, and the temperature was appropriately winter-crisp. We went to a movie, and when we came out of the theater with an unusually large crowd (for Iceland, mind you, so downscale your imagination, American readers) to a patch of clear northern sky. The northern lights were jumping and shifting there, and I thought of how much I love the changing colors and eerie shapes of them. In a few months the swirling ribbons will be hidden, tucked away for another season, and the sun will start the pattern of lazy sideways sunsets once again.

Ship Sighting: Not much activity in the ol’ harbor lately. Engey is still front and center, and the expected arrivals only show Icelandic cargo ships. The vintage-style Víkingur is listed as departing from the drydock today though. I wonder if it gets to keep the styling Christmas lights when it goes.

1 comment:

JB said...

This is your best one yet! The capture of the contrasting feelings of winter and summer is really something.