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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Gray Days of November

When I first arrived here, one of the standard conversations was about the weather (yep, themes for innocuous conversations are pretty much the same the world over).  My Finnish colleagues and those others who'd lived here awhile seemed to take a morbid pride in the darkness and dreariness of the Finnish winter, at least the gray periods before the snow really brightened things up and, in the spring, before it got too gray from melting.  In particular, the month of November came in for some pretty scathing critiques.  Not only would the weather get colder and the days get darker, but it would seem like things were worse everyday: everyday it would be just that bit grayer, rainier, and darker until February when it might seem like progress was possible again--at least in terms of climate.  As you can imagine, I've been oh so looking forward to November.

Now that it's here, though, I find my response to the weather really variable.  Because it's a bit colder, I can actually shut my windows at night without sweating while I sleep.  That's a big plus because it means that the construction outside my window doesn't always wake me up.  In other words, if I'm up late working I don't have an enforced wake-up time of 7 am (Yep, the builders are VERY punctual.)  With sunsets before 4 pm, too, I find that I'm happy going to bed a bit earlier.  While many Finns complain about this situation making them want to sleep 10+ hours a day, I've just found it to be a good insomnia cure and a way to guarantee a good 8 hours.

Then, too, I've never been someone who has a problem with leafless trees and the starker, gray and brown landscape of winters.  (I guess that complements my preference for black and white photos.)  Right now it's still enough of a novelty that I like to go down to the nearby lake and observe the differences between what I experienced even 6 weeks ago and what the lake is like now.

If I keep walking until the end of the park in front of the Towers, across the big street, and into the park surrounding the lake, I eventually come to this (if I step a couple of feet further forward I'd be in mud).  The picture below is a zoom across the lake to two of the posh "country" houses that turn-of-the-century Finns built here.

You can tell that this next picture is looking towards downtown: uniform skyline and telltale cranes.

Once I got to the end closest to downtown, I took this picture heading due north.  The funny thing is that the lake really isn't that big; walking all the way around it is about 2.5 miles max.  It does at least convey the gray on gray.

Don't get me wrong; I have no doubt that by April I will be going nuts.  As far as I'm concerned spring starts in March, but when I tell that to the Finns they just laugh.  For now, though, I'll enjoy the onset of winter.

At least things haven't gotten icy yet, even with the big gale the last 2 days.  For me, the only consequences were being woken up at 3:30 in the morning by the 11-story tarp on the building next door snapping in the wind and having to break out the down coat.  By today, though, I'm back to the Helsinki uniform: short, black, wool coat and thick scarf.  It's probably a good thing because, while I love how warm my down coat is, I still feel somewhat self-conscious walking around in something that has all the style of wrapping a feather bed around myself!

I'm curious how short the days will get by December 21 and am already planning to take sunrise and sunset pictures on that day.

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