Chasing Light. So, picture this: a small island off Greenland’s west coast, where darkness reigns from late November to January. Yeah, that’s a whole different level of winter, right? The Upernavik archipelago is no joke when it comes to polar nights, and I got to experience it firsthand.
Invitation to Darkness: A Unique Gig in Greenland
I got this email inviting me to work in an artist’s “refuge” at the world’s northernmost island museum. The catch? I had to choose between summer and winter. I went for winter, diving headfirst into the perpetual dark. The museum director was right – the winter darkness felt like a daunting time for many, but as I embraced it, I discovered a unique space for reflection that daylight usually steals away.
Dance of Light and Darkness
As I adjusted to the constant darkness, the play of light became magical. Starry constellations, the shifting moon, and the warm glow from a neighbor’s window took center stage. Amid the howls of distant sled dogs and the sound of little snow boots crunching, I found an intimate connection with the island.
Festivities in the Dark: Keeping Spirits Bright
Don’t think it was all gloom and doom. Far from it. The islanders knew how to throw a party, even in the never-ending night. Simple rituals and companionship were the secrets. From making breakfast porridge to the daily coffee rounds (kaffemik), every little act became a celebration. Christmas, New Year, and even Valentine’s Day made their appearances, but nothing topped the anticipation of the sun’s return.
The Sun’s Grand Comeback
In the northernmost reaches, where we barely saw a glimmer of the sun, we eagerly awaited its return. It was like watching a suspenseful TV series as reports came in from lower latitudes about the approaching light. Then, the big day arrived. Our community gathered atop the island, led by schoolchildren wearing paper suns on their snowsuits, singing a welcome song. Witnessing the golden orb rise over the sea ice was a moment of hope, cutting through the precarious life in the region.
Iceland’s Winter Wonder: The Dance of Northern Lights
Iceland, with its distinct nights and days, offers a different winter wonder. I lived in a cozy iron hut in Siglufjörður, writing my book “The Library of Ice.” While Icelanders are known for their indoor reading and writing traditions during winter, the outdoors have their own mesmerizing entertainment. The northern lights, those mystical green fires dancing in the night sky, steal the show. According to folklore, they’re the traces left by elves or “hidden people” dancing in the dark. The lights’ enigmatic nature adds to their allure.
New Year Rituals: Lead Pouring and Sauna Plunges
Transitioning into the new year isn’t just about parties and resolutions; it’s about embracing traditions. In Bamberg, Bavaria, I took part in an ancient practice called molybdomancy or lead pouring. Picture this: melting lead in a ladle, pouring it into cold water, and interpreting the shapes it forms to predict the future. It’s like a quirky New Year’s fortune-telling session.