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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bracing Myself for the Shortest Day

One of the oddest things I've dealt with here in Helsinki is getting used to the variability in the day's length and just climate things more generally.  It isn't helped by the fact that we're having the warmest autumn and early winter on record; in fact, we've only had snow once so far, and that was just a dusting.  Given that I'm trying to restabilize Ted's bad knee and my own innate klutziness, I'm not complaining about dodging the inevitable ice as long as possible.  It's just surprising, that's all.

More than the lack of snow, the variability in daylight is amazing to me.  For example, even though the shortest day of the year isn't for c. 10 days or so, the days are already less than 6 hours long.  Today sunrise was after 9:15 am and sunset will be around 3 pm.  Those numbers are deceptive, though.  What you don't think about unless you've experienced it is how high the sun will be in the sky during those hours.  Right now even when the sun's "up," it isn't much past the horizon.  For example, across the park from us are a series of 6-story buildings.  For the summer and much of the autumn daylight in the park wasn't a problem, but for the last several weeks the sun hasn't risen above the buildings.  Amazing.

As for me, I seem to adapt okay--at least I'm not depressed and sleeping all the time.  When it's cool enough to sleep with my window closed--and thereby drown out the construction noise that starts punctually at 7 am--I'm usually out until 8 am, but it's really unusual for me to sleep more than 8 hours.  Once I'm at work, the lights on in the other offices actually act as incentive to stay: I don't want to be the first one to leave!  The gray only seems to bother me when it's raining, and then the real issues are slogging through all the mud and dealing with a grubby Ted.  (He's especially messy right now considering he was due for a bath when he slipped and pulled his knee.)

Today, though, I really realized how things have affected me when we had a brief moment of sunlight for a couple of hours in the early afternoon.  I was sitting in the common room in front of the big picture windows reading when suddenly the sun broke through.  It was as if a light had been turned on, not just on the landscape but on my mood.  I wanted to go for a long walk with the Dude--unfortunately not an option--and generally go outside and have fun.  So I took Ted out for his afternoon stroll and sat for a bit on one of the benches in the park.  What was especially wild about the whole experience is that, because the sun was so low on the horizon, it looked like sunset most of the time, even though it was 1 pm: the light was diffuse and pink & orange against the clouds.  Pretty but odd.

Wonder what it'll be like or I'll be like come the shortest day (December 21)?

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