The days really are short now – today, two hours and forty four minutes to be precise. No danger of missing the sunrise anymore, since it’s so slow in coming. Then there’s a huge push to get out before it’s dark again.
I know I should feel a bit deprived and depressed about all this, but it’s a funny thing, you really appreciate the few daylight hours you have. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a gloomy day. Besides with the sunrise and sunset so close together there’s always something wonderful happening in the sky.
We also have several hours of twilight, so it isn’t dark immediately. But then it really is dark – pitch black and it’s only 2pm. The body has to realise that this is the middle of the day, not the night, and keep going. I’ve been trying to train it not to go to sleep by taking it off to the swimming pool. It objects, but we get through, and afterwards we’re ready to face the rest of the day – or night, rather.
The darkness is the time to do things like shopping, DIY, snow shovelling, anything practical. You can do most things in Kiruna in the dark because it has an enormous amount of electric light. Even more now, in the run up to Christmas. It was ahead of the game in 1910, having electric lighting when it was still only something for the very rich. I don’t think the town ever got over the feeling that more electric light is luxurious – even these days when there are so many visitors squinting around it trying to see the northern lights.
Those elusive northern lights – they’re more luxurious than anything. They appeared last night. We were very tired and didn’t feel like rushing out somewhere darker, so kept an eye on the ‘Kiruna All Sky Camera’ shot on the computer screen. At first they were only faintly visible in the northern sky, and we knew we wouldn’t see that from our house. (The northern sky is behind the town where there’s too much light pollution.) Then they obligingly moved east, and then south – perfect for viewing in the back yard. On went all the clothes and boots and we threw ourselves outside as fast as we could.
I always say, it isn’t what it looks like, it’s how it moves that’s so intoxicating. There was a wide green rainbow stretching from south to north and falling behind the house. A slightly waving, wafting, floating sort of rainbow. I thought I’d try the camera, since the bow of light seemed fairly stable in the sky, and we’ve still not cracked how to take photos of aurora. Everyone else goes away with photos in their little cameras, and we who live here never have anything to show for it. I took a few snaps.
When it had all died down (after about ten minutes) we came in, took off all the clothing, and had a look at what I’d photographed. You could just about make out the green in the picture, but it wasn’t very impressive, and it didn’t move.
Within ten minutes it had reappeared, but in a different form. On went the clothes and boots again. This time the aurora was definitely in the south, much stronger, and moving much more noticeably. Normally I’m too focussed watching to think about the camera, but this time I was determined to see if I could learn how to use it, so in between ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ I took quick snaps.
Then I started to laugh. I can’t easily explain this. The northern lights can come across as having a character, a playful will, that’s human, but at the same time, not. Tonight there was a ghostly, playful puppy up there, pushing light balls ahead of it with its soft nose, then watching the balls explode, like in a cartoon, then nudging one more. While we were watching a ball would appear in another part of the sky where we weren’t looking. This puppy was playing with us.
Then the cloud cover rolled in and that was the end of the show. Back inside, off with the clothes and boots, and put the memory card in the computer to see what images there were.
Memory card – ah yes, the little black plasticky thing, the squarish thin thingy with small writing on the front, that thingy lying on the table. Somehow it never got put back in the camera. The playful puppy had gone too far this time.