Sunday Nature Call, uke 45: Daylight Fading
A new friend this week, he honored me by wearing a shirt with images of Haliaeetus leucocephalus. My reputation as the Bird Man of my Alcatraz precedes me even in Norway.
Come and waste another year
All the the anger and the eloquence are bleeding into fear
Moonlight creeping around the corners of our lawn
When we see the early signs that daylight’s fading
We leave just before it’s gone”
-Counting Crows, from the album “Recovering the Satellites” (1996).
“Recovering the Satellites” is one of my favorite albums. I can find a reason, without much effort, to sing songs from that collection in my head. I don’t want to pick a favorite song, I don’t want to have favorites of anything – too confining. But…”Daylight Fading” is one of my favorites.
At the latitude of Oslo, “Daylight Fading” takes on an amplified meaning. I have endured the Midwestern winters and diminished daylight but I can say with a little (just a little) pride that I have not been one to grumble about how dark it is. The M.O. for folks in Wisconsin and Iowa (you know who you are) is to grouse about how it gets dark too early during the winter. If you have a sad outlook on a season, then I bet you’ll have a sad season.
Winter is my favorite season, so many reasons: animal tracks, no misquoitoes, wool sweaters, and the magic of skiing on snow-covered fields reflecting starlight. As a boy I was fortunate to have access to land and equipment that allowed me to spend time alone listening to the zip-zip-zip of my waxless skis and the thump of my heartbeat. I enjoyed the wonder that darkened skies gave my skis; every distance was a long distance, no long gazes, shadows and stumps made for mystical phantasiums, a surprise at every turn, and solitude.
In Oslo, we have already passed the minimum daylight for Cedar Rapids Iowa. The minimum daylight for Cedar Rapids will by 9 hours and 7 minutes on December 22. In Oslo we fell under that mark on October 28. Today the amount of daylight will be 8:08, we did enjoy some sun, albeit low on the horizon. You make the best of what you have, and avoid looking to the south – it’s blinding.
With a sun so low, so weak, everything seems to hold a dampness. The low clouds and fog seems to hold on, the streets have the Hollywood look of being wetted, the benches at bus stops are worthless: nothing gets dried. And life goes on.
The lumens in Oslo will continue to diminish. I will have the privilege of traveling north of the Arctic Circle during this winter – total darkness – I can hardly wait. Winter will be dark, and then the sun will return. It always does.
I knew the daylight would fade but I moved here anyway. I have seen the signs of daylight fading but I’m not leaving. When my ancestors left Norway about 120 years ago, how did they react to the daylight fading in their new home of Wisconsin: “A winter with all this sun?”
Nature has developed a bounty of life that tolerates and even thrives in the dark months. Nature doesn’t actually care, she knows that each spot of the earth gets an average of 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness over the course of the year. Nature accepts and adjusts. I will too.
Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh