Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Darkness and The Light

The view from our living room window, early afternoon.

People have asked how it is to live in Finland during the dark time of the year. I have not asked the rest of my family about their feelings, so I'll just speak for myself.

As I write this, it is December 7, 2010. While winter days are fairly short in Wisconsin, they are not as short as they are here. The sun rose today at around 9:30am and will set at approximately 3:00pm, with the days continuing to get shorter until the winter equinox. If we lived farther north in Finland, we would be seeing even less sunshine.

Part of me relishes the cozy feeling of being warm and inside when it is dark and snowy outside, but if we were to live here permanently, the darkness would get to me. Not only is the sun short-lived at this time of year, it is also in hiding behind the thick, gray clouds that seem anchored above us almost constantly.

Tampere's wonderful Metso Library, under November's clouds.

We've been told by many Finns that the darkness is easier to handle after snow is on the ground, as the snow reflects light. Also, Finns make sure to light up the night at this time of year. Tampere turns on its decorative lights in November, and the Independence Day (December 6) celebration features flames and fireworks - both good for warding off the dark.

Independence Day

The city lights up many of its buildings alongside the rapids that run through town. This makes our walk home feel safer and more welcoming.

The gym Bryan and I belong to (Go Go, if anyone in Tampere cares to know), has an awesome massage chair set up by a sun lamp, and while I've never used one in the states, I have sat by the lamp several times just to get some sun-like light on these dark days.

When we do see sunshine, it is such a gift, and it calls me outside, making me feel giddy and child-like in my excitement.
Perhaps I don't look excited in this photo, but I'm enjoying the sunshine!

Remember that the flip side to this darkness is extreme lightness during the summer. Finns take full advantage of the long days, many of them staying up into the wee hours, grilling and spending time with family and friends.

It is easier to deal with the darkness when I remember that it is part of what makes our time in Finland special and different from our life back in Wisconsin. We can head outside into the snow to walk or go sledding, or we can stay cozy, indoors drinking warm coffee or Glögi (warm berry drink) with our books, board games and the TV. Also, taking a sauna is relaxing any time of year, but it takes the edge of a dark winter day, for sure. If you are thinking of coming to Finland in the winter, don't let the darkness keep you away - we will have fun at any time of the year.

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