21 May 2007


In the last two weeks, the darkness at night has disappeared like a puddle of water on hot asphalt. Today is the first day totally without civil twilight, so the "night" hours are spent in a sunset glow of mystery. The below-the-horizon portion of the sun's circle is completed behind the mountains to the north of Reykjavík, making for heartbreakingly beautiful light in the wee hours.

This excess of light makes sleeping suddenly seem like it should be more optional. I don't want to miss one minute of this peachy lavender sky, the navy silhouette of Esja, the witching-hour spook that settles over the city. Of course, the usual indicators of hour that I grew up with are so hard-wired that the fact that it's still light out means I feel like it's not bedtime yet, and then I suddenly look at the clock and realize it's past midnight. In the mornings, I get a similar effect, waking up with a start of "I'm late" guilt after noting the blazing yellow glow in the room. A peek at the clock shows that it's 6am, not noon.

I would love to know the average amount of sleep the Icelandic nation gets in the summer versus the winter. Just like it's easy to sleep until 11 every weekend morning in December, in May and June, 6 seems like a sensible hour to wake up. Mornings actually spent sleeping in have the feeling of an afternoon nap, since by 10 the sun is already noon-high.

However, in spite of the light indicating all systems go for Summer in Iceland, the weather has its own plans. We spent the morning in a haze of blizzard-level snow squalls passing over us. As I think I mentioned before, the seasons in Iceland are reliably only light and dark. Don't expect the weather to comply with those crazy notions about summer being warmer and snow free here! The silly thing is that people still dress as if it's summer, working open-toed sandals on a weekend night out, leaving the big winter coats at home, forgetting the hats. I thought about this yesterday as I walked home in a spirited snowstorm, hatless, wearing my thin sneakers and cotton blazer. I'm as bad as the rest of them now, but somehow, the light does make you feel warmer, as does the sure-to-be-proven expectation that the storm will surely pass us over as quickly as it arrived.


cK said...

Very strange. I hadn't know the weather was so disparate within a single season, though I shouldn't be too amazed since it was 37 (Fahrenheit, of course) the other night at the cabin on the tailend of an 83-degree day. And I'm...I don't know. Perhaps 20 latitudes south of Iceland? (Twin Cities, Minnesota...cabin only an hour north and 90 minutes east.)

I like that people say "Hell with it" and wear summer clothes. At some point, you just have to do that.

Janni said...

When I was in Iceland, I regularly found myself up past midnight, wondering why all the grocery stores were closed when it seemed like it was only just time to start thinking about dinner! :-)

I also remember waking up with the sun streaming through my window, only to find out it was 3:30 a.m.--a very strange feeling!

the_scientist said...

My dear friend K introduced me to your blog and I'm thrilled. What a great blog! I'm becoming a regular visitor.
Hopefully, soon I will also visit Iceland, but most probably and unfortunately, not in time to experience these nights with no darkness.

sb said...

I miss those summer nights! If it was a wee bit warmer in the summer, I'd be back home

SOe said...

Again a great post! You wrote exectly what I feel. I came back from Germany yesterday, 30 °C. In Iceland 3°C. But the sun was shinning and the sky was blue until midnight. I really love this country!

ECS said...

ck: Sounds similar to here! I have heard that the weather in Minnesota's pretty variable. As for the clothing, I think it's also that 45 degrees f CAN feel like summer in the absence of the Icelandic winter winds. Plus, there's always the hope that it'll suddenly get warmer on its own.

janni: I had that feeling a couple days ago when I went for an 11pm stroll around Hallgrímskirkja. The light said 6pm, but the quiet over the city was definitely "bedtime".

scientist: Welcome, and thanks! You've got a few months of this kind of light so maybe you can get over in time! It's interesting other times of year as well, but this is definitely one of the more surreal times.

sb: I was starting to wonder if you were ok! It's been a while since I saw a comment here or an update on your blogs. Hope all is well. As for the weather here, I was just reading about how it's been like 31 (celsius) in Germany and I am quite happy being in the cooler weather here!

soe: Just checked out your blog- congrats on the wedding! You looked lovely as a bride :)

Rose said...

I wondered the same thing when we were in Spain. We were on vacation, so it was fine to eat dinner at 11 pm and then go out for some music. Bed late, sleep late...but what do the natives do? Do they keep this kind of a schedule, and then go to work in the morning? And Iceland, do you just sleep less and catch up in the winter? Suffer sleep deprivation? Or go to bed when it is too lovely outside to spend time sleeping?--Mystified and intrigued...

tsduff said...

One of my most favorite and mystical joys on the last trip to Iceland was from the novel act of staying up way too late, being able to take photos at midnight without a flash...birds flying about. I never tired of it. But, on the flip side of the coin, I didn't experience the long night of winter.

I'll be in Keflavik on Friday for just a few short hours laying over on the way to Milan - too short to hook up with you for a coffee, but I'll think of you when we are there.