This is an odd time of year if you are living in a country that’s in the north of the northern hemisphere. It’s dark. It’s dark when I get up in the morning. It’s dark when I stop work. The days are short and the nights long, cold and damp. The 16th-century poet John Donne got it right in his Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s Day, when he described this season as “the year’s midnight”: “The sun is spent, and now his flasks/ Send forth light squibs, no constant rays.” The further north you live the more extreme it is – in Iceland a weak light may come around 11 am and be gone by 4 pm. In Lapland, there really isn’t much light at all. This sense of the enveloping power of darkness has been more acute in this year of Covid. It has added extra social limitations to these dark months, as well as a layer of uncertainty as to how long those limitations may last.
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