Angling for the sun

The “remote Arctic settlement” of Longyearbyen, apparently the northernmost town in the world, “is buzzing with excitement and expectation” this week, the New York Times writes – because the sun will rise on March 8, the first time it’s done so since October. The town has been in polar darkness for the last five months.

[Image: Photo by Dean C. K. Cox for The International Herald Tribune].

Already, we read, “with the sun climbing closer to the horizon, each day is 20 minutes longer than the day before, and noticeably brighter. On Saturday, direct sunlight, with shadows and warmth, will arrive, starting with an actual sunrise.” Night as a function of the curvature of the earth.
Night as the experience of spherical geometry.
In any case, I’m reminded of at least two things here: 1) The graphic novel series 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, in which a small Alaskan town plunged into darkness by the earth’s curvature is overrun by – yes – vampires, and 2) a short story I’ve always wanted to write about a man who, fed up with the world, goes out to revive his sense of awe and too-long-lost capacity for self-appreciation by camping for a few nights alone in southern Utah. He wants to see sunrise, a kind of zero-moment out of which all emotional calibrations can be reset and centered once again – in illo tempore, as Mircea Eliade might say – and he’s all prepared for it, with a journal and gloves, feeling warm, surrounded by geology, sitting there beneath the stars, glad to have given himself this experience, relieved that amidst all the failure there can still be dawn, still something as simple as that to look forward to – except the sun doesn’t rise.
He’s two days’ drive away from home, there’s no one else in sight, he can’t get a cellphone signal in the midst of these rocky canyonlands in southern Utah, and it’s already noon. And it’s still dark.

12 thoughts on “Angling for the sun”

  1. “Night as a function of the curvature of the Earth” – you don’t know how right you are.

    I remember living just shy of the arctic circle and feeling acutely aware of the spatial relationships between continents, and of the spinning nature of the globe.

  2. Nice post – thankyou! 🙂
    I’m writing from Finland where we also have a very long, dark winter (but at least a couple of hours sunlight each day). Even as a native, one never quite gets used to the shifts between extreme darkness and light (in the summer), I’m often exhausted, not only during “kaamos” but also in mid-summer when it’s bright all the time!… The shifts definitely change the mood in the whole nation, from slow,quiet and introvert in the winter to the opposite in the summer.
    PS:the book idea is great!

  3. Your premise reminds me of a movie which begins with an 8 min shot of the sun rising, but everyone but a couple people are missing. I don’t remember the rest of the movie, so I must have fallen asleep at some point, but the book does sound like a great idea. Not only does the protagonist get to contemplate his own mortality but that of the world as well.

  4. Ah, was the film “Stellet Licht/Silent Light” (Dir. Carlos Reygadas)? It seems that opening scene might be shortened on re-release as people did fall asleep. But it’s a beautiful shot.

    Maybe the story ends just there, man in the dark, waiting…

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