Light is a pretty big deal in Scandinavia. With its scarcity in winter and abundance in summer, the light here is much more a part of the culture and daily living than in any of the places I’ve lived.
We’ve had a lot of afternoon flight arrivals here in Sweden, which has meant showing up just in time for sunset. Our flight to Stockholm got in around 3:00 pm, so our bus ride to the hotel featured a lovely, slow sunset (for those of us that managed to stay awake).
Our arrival in Kiruna, around 1:30 pm, featured a similar sunset bus ride, and it has been a strange sensation to watch things get dark well before dinner. Many times in the past few days, Beate has asked me what time it was and we’ve both been disconcerted to learn it was only 4:00 or 6:30 – given the darkness around us. (And I’ll just go ahead and blame the early darkness for my 8:30 bed time the past two nights…)
But it was our first full day in Kiruna (just three days ago – though it seems much longer) that helped me really appreciate what it might mean to live north of the Arctic Circle. I woke up sometime around 6:00 – my apparent trend regardless of time zone – and although the sun wasn’t scheduled to officially rise until roughly 10:00 am, by 7:35 the horizon was lightening.
So I got up, ate breakfast, and went for a walk in the snow. I got fika at the local cafe, and wandered up to the snow-covered church yard. I walked maybe two miles round trip, spent 30 minutes at the cafe sipping coffee and journaling. And all the while, the sun was slowly inching its way toward the horizon.
It was a really spectacular sunrise – and I’m especially grateful to have been so present with it, given that the next two mornings were snowy and overcast. I can’t quite imagine what it would be like to go without a sunrise for the better part of a month (as they do in the region for most of December), but even having sunrise as a frequent part of my daily life back home, I felt the specialness of this one.
Daylight is not something to be taken for granted, though darkness can be equally awe-inspiring. Getting away from the light pollution of cities, we really got to witness the vastness of the night sky. And though we only caught a few, chilly and wind-swept minutes of the aurora borealis, the natural landscapes of our trip north will stick with me for a long time hence.