Black and white photo showing a human silhouette against a fence to illustrate the longest shadow of the year during the winter solstice. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

It’s the winter solstice today, marking the first day of winter. Check your shadow at noon if you live in the Northern Hemisphere: it’ll be your longest noontime shadow of the year.

It’s also the shortest day of the year, and it never felt darker. We haven’t seen the sun since November 28th in Stockholm; it’s the darkest of December in almost a hundred years.

There is a scientific explanation for it, although a reason doesn’t help the mood: a high pressure over Russia which has formed an inversion (weather phenomenon when hot air cannot rise as it usually does). This high pressure has created a kind of “lid” of hot air that prevents the ground air from rising and cooling. And that, together with the humid air, creates this strangely foggy and rainy December.

You wake up in the morning, fumbling around in the darkness, waiting for daylight – and I mean light in the loosest meaning of the word; it’s more like 50 shades of gray, pun intended – until after nine in the morning. That’s it; that twilight zone gray is the daylight. And at two in the afternoon, the gray starts to fade to black again. At three is pitch dark again. I imagine the apocalypse would look like this.

Close up of a red squirrel

We have a few regular visitors in the garden like the cutie above, so I soldier on and take photos, but my camera struggles with the darkness. I keep increasing the ISO until 12.800 for a decent photo.

No light without dark, I keep telling myself. And I’m thinking about people in Murmansk (Russia), Thule (Greenland), or Tromsø (Norway), where total darkness reigns this time of the year. We do have six hours of daylight, whether gray or not.

To end on a more optimistic note, let’s rejoice in the fact that the days are getting longer as of tomorrow!

A sun illuminated path in the forest. Photo by Mihaela Limbertea.
Lidingö (Stockholm, Sweden)

Here comes the sun!

Bonus: Nina MacLaughlin’s Winter Solstice column

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