The days start to blend together. One cabin day after another, distinguished by the dinners and maybe an event or two. The big event for Day Seven: I leave the cabin. Of my own volition. I decide it must be done and, eventually, sometime in the late afternoon sun, I do it. (Actually, the bigger event comes later, but I don’t have pictures of it, and, unlike the walk–which actually required some degree of motivation–it was outside my control.)
But the day starts early I think, with me sleeping in the window rather than my bed until 7am, which afforded me some early morning light before I relocated. I did this twice. The first time, I was waking up periodically thinking I would catch that weak golden sun only to realize, at some point, that the day was cloudy. With relief, I let myself just sleep. (Whew, so glad I don’t have to wake up to see anything particularly pretty…) Our bedrooms were really just extensions of the main room, coves separated from the main room only by curtains, which we left partly open anyway. So the difference between sleeping in my room and sleeping in the living room was not significant. And the fact that I’ve spent so long writing about this probably tells you something about the newsworthiness of the rest of the day.
Most of the day was spent like this:
I’m reading a couple books simultaneously, but none voratiously, and working on writing but not much of it happened that day. I puttered on some research about the northern lights.
Sometime in the middle of the day, we ate sandwiches of regular salami and reindeer salami and ham and havarti and mustard and butter.
More reading and sharing quips and lack of writing. If this was the day it dawned cloudy, it cleared up by the afternoon. And then as the evening light kicked in, I bundled up to go outside.
It was beautiful out. It would have been criminal not to. Except for Eric and Marijke, since they had been out and about the day before while I stayed in. For me, though, it was required.
I forewent the snowshoes provided by our host and then almost immediately regretted it as I post-holed my way over the shore of the lake. Once I was on the lake, things got better, and once I was on what appeared to be a road, presumably for snowmobiles, even better. No snowshoes required. I chose a direction and trudged along. We were on a remarkably narrow part of a rather large lake, and it was as easy to walk across as, say, walking to Norway across the Tena river. Instead, though, I walked south. I walked past tight, cozy little wooden cabins. The far shoreline was a gentle yellow-pink in the day’s last light. The word quaint comes to mind, and also tranquil. It was, yes, lovely.
But there’s always something. My adventure was cut shorter than what it would have been by one of what I see as one of my quirkier and, for me, more frustrating characteristics. My legs started to itch. I have an adulthood allergy in which I often itch when moving through a cold or cool medium. Long pants, short pants, dry climate, humid climate. I haven’t quite been able to figure it out. Walks that start out euphoric (like this one) end with me vowing to never subject myself to exercise again. I often take an antihistamine and it often, as was the case here, doesn’t work. So, my otherwise very pleasant walk turned into an attempt to refrain from roaring. I may have growled a bit. Regardless, when I got back, I was quite ready to be back, on the window seat, a blanket wrapped tightly around my legs, to which I said ‘Okay, now, chill the heck out, you’re safe and warm. You’ll get there.’ And thereupon ended my ambitions of snowbound athletic activities for the short remainder of the trip. (What a relief. I don’t have to look at beautiful things in the morning, and I don’t have to go outside.)
I highly recommend traveling with people who like to cook. For dinner, Eric made us reindeer sausage with potatoes and a salad. I believe this is the night that we worked our way through a tasting of several Finnish beers. The dinner ended abruptly, however.
Did I mention the sky was clear?
Shortly after dinner, we turned off the lights to look outside, although the forecast didn’t call for aurora until later. (We all ha apps with alerts set up, and Marijke and Eric were very old about being obsessive about it.) Marijke took a peek. Just in case. There are already lights! She said. All lights off. Faces to glass. A faint white streak stretched in an arc across the sky from the northeast. And slowly changed, morphing, as they do.
Marijke rushed to gather her gear. I’d decided not to photograph this time, since I’d been so distracted the first time that I felt I didn’t really take in the phenomenon the way I’d wanted. Last time, I was the one scrambling to organize my gear. This time, I was giddy. We all headed outside, me first, watching from beside the cabin. I couldn’t wait for them. I didn’t want to miss it this time. Dancing! They were dancing! Once Marijke and Eric came out, I announced I was headed down. I was taking full advantage of being unburdened this time. And despite my earlier experience with my allergies, I was already excited about getting back out onto the lake to see the lights. I was excited before I’d even come in from my walk, because it’s walking not standing that kills me. And the lake is wonderfully open, bound by low, forested hills that provide a nice frame to a wide open sky.
In fact, it was almost too much. I couldn’t take in all the sky at once. What I really wanted was to tak in the shape-shifting nature of the lights. The subtle changes in color, the strange movement across the sky that is sometimes hard to discern, besides knowing that the light was one place and now is somewhere else. The best, though, is that ribboning, that magical shimmering movement of in our case the bottom of the lights, where they played in yellow-greens and hints of pink, warbling and seeming to shimmer like a slow-moving magical wind-tousled ribbon. And then, it’s done, and changes to something else.
The shows are fleeting. It died down before I was too cold to be happy out. I left Marijke and Eric to set up her camera for time lapse and came back in to warm up. I though I’d warm up to head back out, but that was the best of it for the night. We came in to warm up and stayed in. Once the camera was set up, the three of us hung out in the window, light out, faces to glass. Sleep overtook me. I blamed the champagne we had to celebrate the lights. Eric and Marijke woke me gently once, when the lights were stronger again, but they weren’t strong enough to keep my eyes open. I was out.
When Eric and Marijke got up for bed, I stayed in the window. I woke up enough to watch weak white-yellow stripes paint themselves and fade in the sky, reaching up from that northeastern horizon. Our huge window was perfectly oriented to watch it. It was probably 3am. Eventually, I went to sleep. That was my gift from the heavens for this trip. Now I feel that I have truly seen the northern lights. (And I hear the southern ones are pretty similar.) Trip = success.