OK, I totally ripped off the title for this blog post from a Susan Cooper novel – which is a really excellent book by the way and which you should all go read now – but it’s for a good purpose. Well, mostly I did it because it’s catchy. But I also did it to emphasize a point: the dark has come to Denmark. And it’s both exactly what I expected and totally different.
The expected part is that as of today the sun doesn’t rise until about 8am and it sets by 4:30pm. So poor Brian goes to and from work in the dark. (Like in the dark dark, with bike headlights and reflective gear required.) This early dark in the evening has the effects you would expect. It always feels about 2 hours later than it actually is, so we’ve found ourselves going to bed earlier than we normally would. And Brian has serious trouble some days in waking up and getting going in the morning.
Surprisingly, you really do feel the effect when the sun goes down. Sometimes, we’ll be out running errands around 4:30pm, and I definitely feel a difference in my body and energy level as that sun sinks towards the horizon. It’s like your body is saying, “OK enough of this galavanting around. Time to have dinner and go to bed.”
The unexpected thing is that even while the sun is up it casts a kind of dim, half-powered light. Because where Denmark is on the Earth has rotated away from the sun, it never fully rises into the sky. Now, it’s not anything like Northern Alaska where the sun just skims the horizon, but it never reaches apogee either. And this fact makes even sunny days dimmer, like there’s a haze. Or like you only ever get afternoon light. So you go outside thinking it’s 11am, but the quality of the light is telling your body that it’s in the afternoon and getting towards dark. It’s the weirdest thing.
And the stupidly unexpected thing – the thing I really should have expected but didn’t for some reason – is that it is rarely sunny in Denmark in the fall/winter. It is usually overcast and misting. So even when the sun does “rise” (note the sarcastic quotes) at 8am, it remains dark and cloudy all day. Which means that it feels like the sun rises even later and sets even earlier than it actually does.
This seems to be having the most negative effect on moods and energy levels in our house. When the sun does shine for a few hours a day, at least we have clear, bright sunlight for those few hours. But this constant gloaming twilight is a whole other ball game. It just kind of feels like you have to push a little harder. And it’s harder for me to do certain things – like, ahem, study for my upcoming Danish test – when it feels like it’s evening and thus I should be relaxing.
This is only going to get worse, of course – The Dark is Rising, remember – until December 21st, the shortest day of the year. Thank god for Christmas and all the hygge it entails.
P.S. For those with some questions on the concept of hygge, watch this video of Danes describing the concept as they walk the rainy streets of Copenhagen.