An Awful Lot of Light

Zooming back home on the Deutsche Bahn, after a sunny afternoon spent in Hamburg with average coffee and completely non-average friends, I was seized by a familiar sensation. It is one that hits around this time of year, every year. It quickens the heartbeat, is accompanied by a flood of what could be adrenalin. There is a sense of urgency involved, this breathy fizz of anticipation. You see, as the clock crept towards 5.30pm, the sun beaming in through the thick, ICE glass, and die Lüdde slept and I chatted with my seat neighbour about her successful job interview in Recklinghausen, all I could think about was … I must stay outside today. Automatically, a list of Kiel’s restaurants with the most strategically placed Strandkörbe, or most sun-drenched terrace, popped up in my mind’s eye, and I flicked through it with great haste. It made digging around for necessary vocab to continue the job-interview-in-Recklinghausen conversation a touch more difficult, but I am nothing if not one who lives on the edge.

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It is a common affliction as we edge closer to summer, this almost desperate need to suck in every last ounce of light. We feel it – or I do, anyway – so accutely, because the first half of the year feels like it is spent in near darkness, Vitamin D but a distant, laughable dream. And it is that darkness, not the cold or the snow or the rain, that threatens to break even the hardiest of spirits. Most days in January, it feels like you have only just cleared up from breakfast and suddenly dusk is stealing in. Any sort of leisurely walk has to be neatly timed, so you’re not striding home through the naked park in the pitch black, pushing a pram and sweating through your winter coat. Ducking out for a few groceries a couple of hours after lunch, involves making sure the pram has its reflectors on and you aren’t dressed entirely in black, just in case night falls while you’re waiting in the queue at Aldi (because they only ever have one cashier open. Until the line is 100 people deep. And when they eventually open a second one, all the people in the queue behind you will flock to the new queue, avoiding your meaningful, reproachful gaze.).

Around now, according to Google and my child’s waking hours, the sun rises at 5.10am, and sets at 9.20pm. That is an awful lot of light, especially when one considers during the winter months – let’s take the aforementioned month of horror, January – the sun isn’t up until 8.30 and bids us farewell at 4pm. Suddenly – and it does feel weirdly sudden, quite like how the trees bursting into green lushness feels sudden – we are awash with Vitamin D, bathed in endless light. It is akin to what I suspect an oxygen high might feel like.

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You can only imagine, therefore, the excitement this brings on. I suspect it is something biological, your body suddenly kicking into storing mode, scrabbling wildly to gather all of the benefits of the sun and tuck them away for the next period of darkness. Come 6pm, regardless of what I have been doing all day, regardless of whether I have been outside for most of it, the idea of turning back and heading home feels wasteful. There’s still so much more daylight to be enjoyed says an anxious little voice on my shoulder. Enjoy it while it’s here. You may never see it again.

Of course, spontan dinners off the back of sunny afternoons spent in Hamburg, don’t have quite the same amount of charm with a nine month old in tow, even if the nine month old is supremely well behaved and an avid fan of eating out herself. After alighting at Kiel Hauptbahnhof, and hopping into the car, we drove around saying things like, ‘we could be totally wild and go to Laboe’ and ‘there’s Seebar, or pizza at Poi’, unable to make any sort of decision. Really, we should have just driven home, but neither of us could bring ourselves to say it. The sun was out, the sky was blue, we felt so alive. Ultimately we wound up in the cooling biergarten of Traum Fabrik, changing a nappy, cycling through toys as they were pitched from the high chair, wedging in a pizza, and making sure die Lüdde didn’t choke on her demanded crust of bread.

But we made the most of the light. That magical, wonderful light.

3 thoughts on “An Awful Lot of Light

  1. I grew up in Papua New Guinea, then Orlando, Florida… Never knew how much I love the sun until after a few years of living in Nuremberg.

    1. Meeeee neither. My first (and second … okay every) winter here was a real test. I think when you grow up with constant mild weather and not such marked changes in light, it hits you especially hard.

  2. You nailed it Liv: it’s not the cold or snow which drives me slowly towards despair through the long winter months, it’s the darkness. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to explain this to my mum on Skype – you tend to take the comfortable climate and bountiful sunshine hours for granted down in the Southern Hemisphere but living in a kind of endless grey twilight for months in Northern Europe tends to stifle the spirit and causes a creeping depression. In contrast, the colour and energy of May here feels euphoric, it feels like a crime to stay inside and not drink in every drop of that beautiful light!

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