And You Thought I Was Exaggerating

So remember a couple weeks ago when I said that I could really do with some sunshine? Well, apparently it wasn’t all in my head. Nor was it a factor of this being my first winter in Scandinavia.

According to this article from the Copenhagen Post, this is the gloomiest January since 1988. So far – now, prepare yourselves for this. Maybe you might want to sit down. This might be a bit of a shock – so far, there have only been 17 hours of sunlight in the entire month of January.

I’ll just let that sink in.

17 hours of sunlight in an entire month. And frankly, I don’t know when those 17 hours happened because I sure don’t remember them. They must have all been over Copenhagen.

So what does this mean for my everyday life? Well, yesterday I was walking to the bus stop and there was one lighter patch of clouds against all the dark grey clouds. And for that moment, the street noticeably brightened. And I got very excited. About a patch of light grey clouds. Because it meant I could believe that the sun was actually back there somewhere.

And now that it’s cold enough that instead of mist rain every day we have light snow every day. I’m pretty sure it’s been snowing constantly since last week.

And we all feel like Ned, here, because we thought winter was over after Christmas. But really, winter is just beginning.

Got Winter

And I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.


Rain Rain Go Away


Oh my god, guys, am I tired of the Nordic darkness. We were told that it gets old quick after Christmas, without all the holiday hygge, and that is most definitely true.

For the past week it has been overclouded and snaining, our very clever made up word for that snow-sleet-rain weather when it can't really tell which type of precipitation it wants to be. Which means that it never gets lighter than the dark gloom in this photo – taken at 10am – and that you spend every moment you can indoors so as not to get snained in the face.

If this were St. Louis, I could take heart in knowing that the next week would have to bring sunshine because St. Louis' weather is so changeable. One day it's snowing 10 inches and two days later it's 60F and sunny. But here, for all I know this could just be winter in Denmark and there's now change until spring. (Hint: I think that this is just winter in Denmark, so I don't have much hope.)

All I know is that I could really do with some sun. I'm starting to day dream about wide open blue skies and sun drenched plateus. (I'm not the biggest beach person, so when I want sun I think about the American SouthWest. That's my happy place.)


The Dark is Rising

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.

Au Fil du Temps

(Sometimes only French will do.)

Au fil du temps

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. How your perception of it can change. How it can change you.

We just passed our 90 day mark here in Denmark. 3 months. Such a short time. Usually when I think about our time overseas it seems like we have so much time to go still. 3 whole years. But if I look at it another way, we’ve already spent 1/12 of our time here. From that perspective, our remaining time seems short indeed. Especially when I think of all the places we’d like to visit before we leave. (And of all the work Brian has to finish on his PhD before 2016…) Perspective is something I have to work to keep – I often forget the forest for the trees – so it’s nice when these little moments happen that remind me of the larger picture.

Last Sunday was daylight savings here in Denmark. We fell back one hour, which means lighter mornings (for the time being) and darker evenings (until April). The jolt to darker evenings is always sudden with daylight savings, but it feels more so here. Instead of feeling one hour off for a week or so, you feel like you’re two hours off. I’m very interested to see what December looks like. Luckily, the Danes have lots of hyggeligt holiday festivities to keep your mind off of the darkness.

St. Louis doesn’t have daylight savings until this Sunday, so for the next couple days we’re only 6 hours ahead of our families instead of 7. It reminds me of those few months between my birthday in August and my little brother’s birthday in October when I’m technically 3 years older than him instead of 2. (He used to hate that when he was little.)

Anyway, this got me thinking about how time is such a weird concept. I feel like every moment of our first month here in Aarhus is burned with vivid colors into my brain. I can easily put myself back to stepping off the bus for the first time in front of the train station and trying to find our way to our apartment with our four gigantic suitcases. And I clearly remember the bright sun and warm days of August. Then all of a sudden I look around me and I think, where did the summer go? The last month or so has sped by, despite my moments of homesickness, now that we both have gotten down to day-to-day living.

Time passes is perhaps the one eternal truth. That and winter is coming.

Winter is Coming