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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Dark Time


I felt a little embarrassed when I opened a Christmas gift from my late sister and found a travel guide to Finland with a note which said, "Go for it."
This gift and note were fueled by my obsession at that time with something I had read - an article about an article. The article, in Whole Earth Review, referenced a New Yorker article regarding the "dark time" in northern Finland - that period of time in the winter where the sun does not rise for two months.

The New Yorker article (which I never got to read) discussed the culture and how they dealt with this extraordinary situation - lanterns, various activities, etc.
But as fascinating as all this was, I knew I would not really travel to Finland in the winter to experience polar nights firsthand. I smiled after I opened that gift, but I felt guilty knowing I would likely never use it. I still keep the book in my library.

I am fascinated by extreme environments and how they affect culture, mindsets, etc. In many ways, New York City is an extreme environment, particularly given that four out of five boroughs are on islands.
Of course, if you are going to indulge yourself in fantasies of heading to the extreme North in winter, a study of maps will be required, something I am always happy to get lost in. I chose Finland because over 25% of its landmass is north of the Arctic Circle. I looked to the province of Lapland, where the northernmost village is Nuorgam, in the Utsjoki municipality. This is also the northernmost point in the EU. (I recently learned, however, that Knivskjellodden, Norway is further north - the northernmost point on the European continent.) This seemed to be the perfect travel destination for my dream of experiencing the dark time.

Sunday, as every American knows, was the resetting of clocks to standard time, which means the sun sets an hour earlier than during Daylight Savings Time - currently at 4:50 PM. This means I not only rise before sunrise, but most also leave our workplaces after sunset. Most everyone I have spoken to is not enamored with the shorter days and early sunsets. Every year at this time, I think of the Arctic Circle and days with no sunshine, only twilight.

Some may find occupying one's mind with notions of polar nights, the Arctic Circle, and winter in Finland to be rather morose, adding insult to the injury of early sunsets and shortening days. But for me, when I contrast my life here with these remote, northern locales, I am happy that I do not really ever have to live in the Dark Time...

Photo Note: I was granted access to a vacant floor in SoHo on Broadway with vistas west to the Hudson River. I took a series of photos during and after sunset. The photos were taken between 4:50 PM and 5:09PM. See additional photo here.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's strange how people always seem to yearn for something they can't get, e.g. I'm from Estonia which is really not that far from Finland, and for me the whole ``dark thing`` isn't such a mystery and I would like to swap places with you in a second, so that I could get to see the big city life and etc. I always seem to enjoy your photos with which I can't jet always relate but still I'm fascinated, just remember that you are very lucky to be where you at, in my point of view :)
PS! Estonia is amazing too :)

Bonnie said...

We have lived in Sitka, Alaska -- on an island, so you get there by plane or boat. The main road is fourteen miles long. Winter days are short/cloudy/rainy/snowy. The community is unique with lots of creative people, so you can find things to do if you look for them. We loved it there!

Brian Dubé said...

Anon - Well, I would only yearn for a brief experience of polar night. I like sunshine too much to want to live wihtin the arctic circle or anywhere near it. I am lucky to be in NYC.

Bonnie - I think these extreme environments force people to be creative in order to deal with the circumstances of their habitat.

An Honest Man said...

Superb first photo.

I've never longed for the 'long night'. What we get here in winter is quite enough thank you!

MaggieGem said...

Wonderful captures of the NY Dark time!

seanjonesfoto said...

I love both of these photographs!

helsinkippusa said...

Why not experience it yourself when you can fly to the Finnish Arctic Circle so easily from NYC? Just change a plane in Helsinki and there you are.

And come back in June/July to realize how depressingly dark your summers are. How can you stand all that darkness?