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Everything that's in my head right now - Tactical Ninja

Jun. 11th, 2014

09:53 am - Everything that's in my head right now

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So, it's winter. In fact, we're just over a week out from the solstice. At our latitude, the worst of the winter weather comes after the solstice - July is often miserable, August somewhat settled, September stormy. But June? June is the month where the darkness encroaches, where the days feel like a blip in an endless expanse of darkness, and when it's overcast it feels like dusk all the time.

"What? You live on a Pacific island! WTF you talking about Tats?"


The 45th parallel (or whatever it's called) runs through New Zealand. That means we're half way between the equator and the pole. So in practice, we're half way between the same-same seasons of the equatorial countries and the endless day/endless night of the polar regions. In summer, our days stretch from about 5:30am through till 9:30pm (earlier/later the further south you go). In winter, it's just starting to get daylight at 7:30am when I leave for work and it's getting dark by 5pm when I get home.

What this means is that it feels as though we are living our lives in darkness, even though we don't have the full dark of the Nordic countries. Essentially, all the time spent outside of work is night-time. I don't get to mow the lawn after work, getting washing dry during the week is impossible, and I can't work on my art projects without intense artificial light.

So yeah, darkness encroaches.

And it gets me down, because I'm a creature of the light. I am active when the sun's up, and all this darkness in my life saps my energy and motivation - the month around the winter solstice, everything seems hard as my life turns into an endless round of work-dark-work-dark.

"Well, you'd never cope in countries where it's dark all the time in winter then, would you?"

Someone said that to me yesterday, in reference to my interest in spending time living in Finland.

They might be right. But the thing is, I'm pretty sure that in countries that have endless night, and snow, and bitter cold, winter is acknowledged. I may be wrong, I may be romanticising this, but my learning of Finnish language is hinting at a culture in which winter is a special season, one that requires different clothing and is marked by a different style of living, new words and new ways of relating to each other. "Would you like to come to my place to warm up?" or "Whose turn is it to light the sauna?" are not phrases you hear in New Zealand vocabulary.

In Svalbard, the northernmost islands of Norway, the wintertime is when the most festivals are held - festivals of light, music, art. I'm only guessing, but it seems to me that in a land where night is endless and cold, a regular festival or celebration is a good way of alleviating the sameness, of making winter more interesting and exciting, of giving people things to look forward to.

In New Zealand, we don't really acknowledge winter. Why should we? We're a Pacific island! We don't get snow, and on a nice day in winter it's still pretty and almost-warm.

But at the latitude 40s, our daylight hours don't really match our climate. The days don't stop happening, they just get short enough so it feels like they aren't happening, and we all try to pretend it doesn't affect us because we don't have any real reason to acknowledge it - no deep banks of snow, no blistering cold, just grey, short days spent looking out an office window from the inside, where daylight-frequency bulbs are prohibitively expensive and SAD is for the weak.


So we staunch it out, because we are kiwis. We're hardcore, implacable, stoic. We don't have a real winter, not compared to those other people. So we shouldn't complain, we should just tuck our chin into our collar and keep acting like it doesn't get to us.

It gets to me. I don't know if it's because of my northern ancestry or because I'm a wuss or some other reason, but this time of year I just want to hibernate, sit in my cave with my warm fire and my closest people, and make things. I don't want to go out into the darkness and the yuck every morning and pretend that I'm the same as I am in summer, because I'm not. I'm sleepy and slow and I am not getting enough sun, and it affects me.

But, only another month to go before there's enough daylight in the morning and at night so I'll stop feeling like this. It doesn't take much. So I say, roll on the stink July sleetstorms, it's a whole lot better than being awake when I should be asleep.

Comments:

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From:pombagira
Date:June 10th, 2014 10:24 pm (UTC)
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yeah.. its very dark at 7am when i leave the house.. and when i get home.. :( i have been taking vitaman d again cause it helps.. but mostly i just want to sit with the cat on the couch and read stuff.. *nods*..

ack darkness..

tonight though fish n chips. yay you can come to my house and huddle by the heater... not quite the same as come to my house and get warm.. *ponders this*.. also you gots a plunger (of the plumber variety not the coffee variety?) my shower drain is kinda crappy...

:D
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From:tatjna
Date:June 10th, 2014 10:34 pm (UTC)
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I think we do have a plunger although I'm not sure where it is. I'll have a look.
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From:pombagira
Date:June 10th, 2014 10:36 pm (UTC)
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sweet.. if you find it all good if not that is ok to. and if that dosn't work then i have a fire hose.. #whatcouldpossiblygowrong..

*coughs*
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From:fbhjr
Date:June 10th, 2014 11:13 pm (UTC)
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Sorry. The light will come back...
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From:tatjna
Date:June 10th, 2014 11:16 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, it always does. Certain pagans I know have rituals and stuff that are all about that. I guess I just wish that our culture did something to recognise and alleviate the difficulty that comes with the light going away - like shorter working hours in winter or something.
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From:pombagira
Date:June 10th, 2014 11:38 pm (UTC)
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or more and exciting public holidays during the dark time?
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From:tatjna
Date:June 10th, 2014 11:43 pm (UTC)
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That would help. I reckon one long weekend in July and another in August would just about do it.

I'd happily sacrifice Wellington Anniversary and Anzac Day for that.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:June 11th, 2014 01:08 am (UTC)
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Matariki could do with some fireworks, take advantage of the fact that night comes on early
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From:tatjna
Date:June 11th, 2014 01:08 am (UTC)
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Matariki could do with a national long weekend.
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From:pombagira
Date:June 11th, 2014 01:12 am (UTC)
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yes please what Tatjna said..

*nods* you know i might just put my fairy lights on my lounge.. they will be pretty!
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:June 10th, 2014 11:30 pm (UTC)
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We too are 45 degrees latitude (though in the other direction) and the winter months are tough. What I find is that we tend to push the work day earlier and have early suppers and slow cozy evenings. I also try to get out during the middle of the day when there's sun (our winters are often very cloudy and wet) and have a walk. But we have a better alignment with feast and light holidays in the northern hemisphere. Between the US thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, there's a grouping of holidays right around the darkest part of the year. For those of us with office jobs, it's four paid holidays within five weeks. Many people I work with are basically gone for the last part of December. Plus unless you work in retail, the general pace of business slows because other people are also out. In colder places (like Minnesota) people will put their holiday lights up early and leave them up for a couple of months, right through to the start of spring.

Maybe you and your friends could plan a couple of long weekends, put up a bunch of lights, and get together for a feast? Have a warm sock and hat swap? Watch funny movies together and have a potluck?
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From:tatjna
Date:June 10th, 2014 11:35 pm (UTC)

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Yeah. NZ's holidays are set up so that we get one long weekend in early June (queen's birthday) and then nothing until the end of October (labour weekend).

The Maori festival of matariki (a sort of new year celebration) falls a couple of weeks after the solstice, in celebration of the rising of the matariki (Pleiades) which appear here only for a short time once a year. It's considered to herald the return of the light. There's been a drive to revive it as a celebration but it doesn't come with any change to the way we go about our day-to-day business and working lives (no holiday) so it hasn't taken off all that much as a thing.
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:June 12th, 2014 02:27 pm (UTC)
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That must be really hard! Here, even if you don't get days off (and not everyone does), there's still a general sense of celebration. And while that celebration is frequently overly consumerist, hetero-normative, and conformist; there are still elements of the core winter festival characteristics: fire, feast, friends/family.
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From:coyotegoth
Date:June 10th, 2014 11:30 pm (UTC)
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...and it's at this point that I remember that most flights to the South Pole leave from Christchurch, as it's the closest major airport. Hang in there, tats.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 10th, 2014 11:36 pm (UTC)
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Heh. It's not really that close, but where I live (Wellington) is the southernmost capital in the world.

Hanging in will commence in 3.. 2.. 1..
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From:pickleboot
Date:June 11th, 2014 01:59 am (UTC)
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i guess i thought it got a bit colder to go with your shorter days. stupid american.

i swear, we skipped spring(my poor lilac trees, they barely had time to flower!) and went straight to summer. it was snowing into may, then went from 6+ inches of snow to 60-70 degrees f the next week. it was crazy. i've had my air conditioning on since the first week in june, and usually we can put it off until at least mid june, but with the epic rain, we just skipped a season, flowers and all.(seriously, we skipped tulips, lily of the valley, daffodils, all those great spring flowers because the ground was still frozen until late may/early june)

i'm not sure i am cut out for the long winters. this year it felt too long, almost october to june. did we have snow in june? it was cold. so crazy. but it will get hot. and it will stay light to half nine, which is nine, but i love late summer nights in norway, denmark, england, where it's light so much later. even in winter the dark isn't as oppressive as it is here. it gets so cold, so bitter, that being outside is not an option. even the dogs wear boots. my big, tough dogs wear hand knit and fulled boots so they don't get frost bite.

sorry, shouldn't ramble. i can't wait to cross new zealand off our bucket list. both k and i want to go there more than australia.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 11th, 2014 03:43 am (UTC)
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It does get colder, but our climate is maritime so we don't get the extremes of temperature that countries in Europe and North America do. In summer the daytime average is about 20C and in winter it's about 8-10C. It can get below zero, but not often and usually only by a few degrees.

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From:pickleboot
Date:June 11th, 2014 06:26 am (UTC)
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your winter sounds glorious compared to the record setting cold we had this year. i think that we not only had snow days, but severe cold days, meaning that we had school and other learning institutions closed for snow amounts(i think one night we had close to 18 inches by the time keir got himself off the sofa to shovel and then the district called to say no school) but also closed for insanely cold temperatures, i think with wind chill it was at least-70f one day. and that is with the new, better, we'll make it seem warmer adjusted wind chill factor. i grew up in east central illinois where it is a soy and corn field desert, which i think is worse than here as it is all flat prairie, no hills or lakes to break the wind. but, it is warmer down there. and less bugs.

but a winter like yours? i think i could take that. i know the times i have spent in more temperate areas(san francisco, seattle, even kansas) has been much easier on my head and body. now to find keir a job that pays a living wage and all would be well.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 11th, 2014 08:57 am (UTC)
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I guess it's all relative. Personally, I'm fine with cold and wind and sleet and snow (although I've never had to live with months of snow) but I really dislike the lack of light, and the way that because our temperatures aren't extreme we're supposed to act like it's no big deal that 2/3 of our lives are lived in darkness and the rest is spent at work.
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From:siobhan63
Date:June 11th, 2014 11:14 am (UTC)
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Even if NZ more formally acknowledged the onset of winter, I don't think that would make you feel better or help you cope. Sounds like you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) so you should probably look into light therapy. Some people can handle the transition to shorter days just fine, others can't. - festivals celebrating the season change won't do anything to help.

I don't know about NZ, but in Canada, you can buy the light therapy lamps all over the place - even Walmart. The more basic models are usually just over $100. Then you have more top line products that cost a lot more. Loads of companies specialize in these products (like this US-based one).We had one for a while as my husband has SAD, and it does help - if you use it regularly. He didn't use it regularly, so the benefits were so-so. We eventually sold it because he just wasn't making proper use of it, but last winter he started musing about getting another one and trying again.

Edited at 2014-06-11 11:14 am (UTC)
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From:m_danson
Date:June 11th, 2014 02:45 pm (UTC)
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Yep. I have two, a desklamp and a portable. In the winter they can make a big difference.
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From:goddessofchaos
Date:June 11th, 2014 11:37 am (UTC)
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It makes a lot of sense that the darkness affects you, even without the cold and ice (or partly because of the lack of it, perhaps, as you say). I always take lots of Vitamin D - I don't know if it helps, but it's supposed to.

(Though I do get a touch of SAD in winter, I also get it at midsummer a little bit, because the very long days mean I don't get enough sleep. I find it hard to sleep unless it's very dark.)
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From:meathiel
Date:June 11th, 2014 02:39 pm (UTC)
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Let's just swap, okay? I move down to NZ for the next 4 months and you come here ... ;-)
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From:m_danson
Date:June 11th, 2014 02:48 pm (UTC)
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Ottawa is at 45 and a bit latitude so I totally get what you mean by the light. From what I've read, the farther away from the equator ANY given group of people get, the more people in that group exhibit SAD.

Canadians mark winter by throwing away their polite ways in a frenzy of aggressive machismo towards having bits of their anatomy frozen off... the more the better.
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From:zoefruitcake
Date:June 11th, 2014 08:30 pm (UTC)
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From the moment the clocks go back in October I'm counting the days until they go forward again. I know just how you feel, I need the light to feel human. I like the idea of many festivals to get you through, although I'm not a Christmas person at all at least we have it at the darkest point of the year at my end of the planet
Hang in there, the light will return
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From:didotwite
Date:June 11th, 2014 08:51 pm (UTC)

Dunno

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My one semester in Denmark, winter did have lots of fire and candles and cultural emphasis on coziness. But also lots of over-indulging in alcohol. :/ it gets to everyone.
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From:adam_0oo
Date:June 14th, 2014 01:39 pm (UTC)
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Fascinating that it is not just the season, but people's reaction to the season that gets to you.
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