Land of Dark and Light

It’s not sunset out there, I must remind myself. Sunset won’t happen for a few hours yet, and it will never be the kind of golden-hour light I’d see back in Texas.

But the shadows are long–the valleys between buildings and hills become pockets which never warm. It looks and feels like sunset. It’s afternoon.

The sun isn’t setting. It’s just not rising much, either.

The shadows are always long, the cool of night never does leave, and I’ve lost all sense of time.

11am? 3pm? Who knows.

Andreas tells me the days are already getting longer. I just have to wait my turn, for the brightness, un-ending, of summer. The daylight at 9pm, and ever twilight beyond. I thought Michigan’s seasons affected my mood but I’m a perfect yo-yo in this country, hibernating the polar nights and in June hot-wired, in the golden, though lukewarm, glow of Norway’s midnight sun.

Here's a fun game: Texas, or Norway? (Answer: Texas. Midland, Texas.)
Here’s a fun game: Texas, or Norway? (Answer: Texas. Midland, Texas.)

I’ve acclimated to the cold, at least. I can thank Michigan for the good winter coat I finally acquired after three years of humiliating ice storms, and the Nordic Grips for my treacherous walk to campus (after the subsequent perpetually bruised hips). I slip into penguin walk quite naturally and haven’t fallen so far even without the Grips. I keep gloves in my pockets, the kind with electric wire in the fingertips so I can queue up all them tunes without exposing my hands. I know this has nothing to do with morphing into a credible adult and everything to do with necessity, and at last capitulating to a season I’ve hated my entire life. (I could have really used the gloves and the coat and the penguin walk in St. Louis all those years, but trust the state shaped like actual winter gear to get the job done.) I’m even daydreaming of the long underwear my Dad used to make me put on for skiing — but it’s good that I don’t have any just yet because we all know I’d live in it to the point of stench. (Update: I do have a pair from Moods of Norway now and yes, they make for great loungewear.)

Oh yeah, lookin' fly.
Oh yeah, lookin’ fly.

The Norwegians have mastered the art of interior heating. You know that thing you hate about taking showers in winter–the part where your little toesies, still residually warm from your cosy-ass bed, hit criminally frigid bathroom tile and the shock of it nearly kills you, every time? That won’t happen in a Norwegian home. The floors are heated. Always. Trust a Norwegian to solve that little riddle while the rest of us hide in our beds and stop showering suffer through like frozen morons martyrs. Some of the sidewalks are even heated–you can identify which ones by the snowmelt, while the rest turn into icy death slides (or fun icy death slides?) if the temperature licks above freezing. There are nearby power plants which heat water and send it off to surrounding homes, where little pathways of melted snow indicate water pipes running under the street.

A favorite pastime - helping friends de-ice their cars before they head home.
A favorite pastime – helping friends de-ice their cars before they head home.

Honestly, it’s not even that cold here. A balmy 16° F (-8° C). There’s no snow, at least (Oslo is covered in the stuff). (Update: Juuuuust kidding, there is snow every day now, and I don’t even mind.) As the temperature nears 0°, Fahrenheit and Celsius more closely align, although I’m even more terrible at converting in that case. It’ll get down to 8° at night (-°13 C — see how confusing that is?). I know in the summers it’s generally 16° C (60.8° F) and on Andreas’ perfect day it’s 20° C (68° F) and on my perfect day it’s more like 25° C (77° F). I’m from West Texas — anything below 110° F is livable. After this paragraph I’ve officially muscle-memorized the keystrokes for the degree symbol, figured out you can convert temperatures right in the google search bar, and perhaps I’ve demonstrated how crazy-making being born into the Imperial system can be. (This is why you’re behind in Science, Andreas nags. What even are feet.)

Mmmm warm.
Mmmm warm.

The Norwegians tell me there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. And they’re right — I no longer worry when there’s snow outside, I just consider whether or not I need to grab an umbrella or if the hood on my coat will suffice. We wander home from the bars and make snow angels along the way and my only concern is if I’m about to lose an earring (I did. I retraced my steps, and there it was, unmolested and waiting for me along the path, alongside the NordicGrips which refuse to stay on the toes of my thicker boots). Andreas owns three different pairs of skis, and his parents bought me my first cross-country pair last year for Christmas (it seemed like for them it was a casual gift but I was blown away). The women of Trondheim still tiptoe through the snow in their high heels and tiny skirts (skirts and tights are a kind of uniform here) like it’s just a cold night in Texas. I lived in St. Louis for years, and dreaded winter. But for the people here, it’s a season of fun, winter sports and warm drinks by the fireplace, and everyone knows how to drive whatever the roads look like. Oh, it’s time to put on the winter tires. Oh, it’s time to close off the porch and bust out the space heaters. No big deal.

And scraping off the ice can be a great workout, no?
Scraping off the ice can be a great workout, no?

During last year’s visit, I was sleeping more heavily in the wintertime. The light does affect my brain, but you get used to it, and this year I’m just looking up into the sky for Northern Lights. And in the summers the light stays late in the evenings, sunset at 10pm and rising at 3am. It’s a strange place, a strange existence. But anywhere can become a home if you let your heart stay open, find the right person to snuggle up with, and don’t forget your gloves.

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