10 December 2007

In a dim light: neither daylight

December darkness is something that I once feared and that may seem like a terrifying thing to people from brighter places. Most Icelanders I've talked with find it to be something that one simply deals with, or in some cases, embraces.

On still days and nights when not a single branch twitches nor dead leaf rustles, it's a time full of witching hours, these hours that stretch from black to sunup- the blueness of the pre-dawn that makes white blankets look aquatic, the white simplicity of light on cloudy winter days, the rich and magical navy of dusk, the purest black of nighttime. Even a clear full-day sky is deep glacial cobalt, and then the snowed mountains across the bay emanate the most perfect kind of frigidity I can imagine. Whenever I want to think of the coldest temperature imaginable, I am sure my mind will go to the black mountains to the north, etched with glowing snow and edged by Arctic sea waters.

Offsetting this chill is the delirium of lights that cover the city- every tree that can hold a bulb is draped, stores staple entire illuminated evergreens over the doors, and windows are festooned with candles. A Saturday stroll becomes a festivity of greetings, street caroling, pepper cookies and cocoa. It's a tiny glowing oasis in the midst of the miles of darkness beyond, where one single car light over on Kjalarnes can be followed on its entire outbound journey around Esja, a dot of bright in deepest black.


Professor Batty said...

... absolutely beautiful!

cK said...

Someday I want to see that, whether in Iceland, Sweden, Norway, etc. The northern latitude light is wondrous thing.

Brenton Eccles said...

Oh how fantastic.
I long so to live where you do.

ECS said...

batty: thanks- it does really capture how I felt over the remarkably beautiful weekend. I think that it's also partly because these days don't happen for very long that I am trying to squeeze appreciation out of them.

ck: I would have thought by now you'd have achieved it! I know you're so fascinated by these northern lands.

brenton: you do know I only write about the best bits, right? :)

samuel said...

Then the true night, perilous too but sweet to him who knows it, who can open to it like the flower to the sun, who himself is night, day and night. No there is not much to be said for the night either, but compared to the day there is much to be said for it, and notably compared to the morning there is everything to be said for it.

Vikingisson said...

Stunning words that describe a light and colour that I've seen in many pictures and so many dreams. Those words describe an emotion that I've only imagined but often felt just from the imagery. Now you have captured that feeling in words that pictures alone cannot easily convey. I am convinced more than ever to capture that emotion for myself.

Most people it seems totally miss out on the special qualities of the solstice light. They only lament the darkness and the cold. I love this time of the year and wouldn't want to miss this brief moment. As the eternal pessimist on many human topics I am however the lover of nature's special and rare gifts.

Tom said...

The phrase which left me staring at the screen is:"Whenever I want to think of the coldest temperature imaginable, I am sure my mind will go to the black mountains to the north, etched with glowing snow and edged by Arctic sea waters." I've been there. I can feel it, hear it, the howling wind which is an indescribable emptiness, loneliness.