With this sunny view in mind, I am encouraged to wish you
Saturday, 22 December 2012
Yesterday was Winter Solstice Day, as if you did not know it already. I would have loved to bring you a picture of the sun at midday, but this proved impossible, for two reasons:
Firstly, my balcony is facing due North, so I would have to venture outside to get the shot. Secondly, to no one's surprise, the sun is usually not visible at all at this time of the year. And true to this tradition, the sky was covered all day yesterday, with snowflakes tumbling down in a lazy fashion, inviting us to stay home and prepare for the big party on 24 December.
So, instead, I chose to take a picture at midnight, to show you how the Northern Sky is shaping up here in Stockholm at the darkest day of the year. As you can see, it is not really black; street lights and other city lights in the center are being reflected by the cloudy sky, warranting a dark rosy shine to bless the snowy surroundings.
This year Solstice Day has received a lot of unwarranted attention. People unfamiliar with Mayan time reckoning have wrongly deduced that judgement day would fall on 21 December 2012. This is of course a bad misunderstanding of the Mayan way of counting years. In our Christian tradition, we count the years in centuries and millennia, whereas the Mayans counted them in batches of 400s. This year marks the turn of the latest four hundredth, just as we noted the turn of the latest millenium way back in year 2000. Festivities are in order rather than dreading a (presumedly) imminent end of the world!
Come to think of it, there has always been, and will always be, a dark longing among us humans for the world to end. In Christianity, Judgement Day was foreseen already for the year 1000, but every new generation born is looking forward to its own demise. The most recent example is provided by Harold Egbert Camping who predicted that 21 October 2011 would mean the end of us all, except for those saved by Christ on Judgement Day (21 May). I met a disciple of his at UC Berkeley in May 2010 and had some interesting discussions with this fiery man of sulphur and brimstone. His portrait can be seen here:
I was astounded to meet this man again on the same spot two years later, in May 2012. His message was essentially unchanged. I was intrigued and asked him how on Earth he could proceed his proselyti-zing after having been proved wrong the first time around. He readily admitted that he had erred two years earlier, due to a miscalculation of the holy numbers in the Old Testament, but that he had corrected his mistake and now was convinced that Judgement Day would occur on 21 May 2013. So there is still hope for those of you who prefer the World to end, rather than Humanity to better its ways.
For those of us, who nurture a more festive outlook for the next few days (and years), let me show you a nice view of Hammarby Sound, taken a few days ago; in fact, the last day when the sun was shining, before hiding itself behind a cover of fluffy snow flakes.
With this sunny view in mind, I am encouraged to wish you
A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR
MAY ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE!
Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Yes, indeed! This morning I was sleeping late, and rightly so. When I opened the balcony door, icicles polished my nose and huge swaths of snow blowed into the apartment, with the wind howling around the building.
Although I am not complaining about the view from my balcony, there is a drawback: the wrath of the weather gods is reaching me unhindered, getting up to speed across the Sound until it crashes onto my balcony. It has been snowing all night long, apparently, and the balconies opposite mine are getting their load of snow already.
I am not daring to step out into fresh air now, so let's take a quick shot through a side window. The perspective is a bit unusual, but I think you are getting the message. It is snowing massively now, at quarter past 9, and Hammarby Sound is barely visible in the build-up of snowy flakes. By squinting sharply with my eyes, I can just about glimpse the boats on the opposite quay. So let's enhance them a bit in Photoshop, that you can see them a wee bit clearer.
No idea to leave the apartment today, but I am well stocked with sustenance and have plenty of work to do at home. I recently learned how to make fine prints, with the pigment ink technique, out of my digital "negatives" and I am rather pleased with the results. So let us plan for producing some home made Xmas cards this year. I have to finish this blog now so that I can rush to my little "Lightroom" and get on with the good work!
Monday, 3 December 2012
When looking out from my balcony at 9AM this early morning after First Advent, my nose immediately froze over; winter had arrived with a vengeance. The first ice had already formed on the Sound, foreboding worse to come. Temperatures are lingering around the upper tens (on the minus scale).
Only a couple of days ago, it was still raining and relatively mild in the air. This lenience came to a crushing halt and the last weekend really reminded me of the previous two harsh winters we thought were an exception. Could it be that this year-end will be as demanding as the last one? Where have the mild Stockholm winters gone?
You may have noticed that there have not been any posts lately. I am sorry for that, but I was very occupied this year, first, with getting my book Fiat Lux! from the printer and, second, with letting my friends and the broad public know about its existence. With many presentations, in the US and Austria, as well as in Sweden behind me, I am glad to say that this has been a success. So there is some time yet again to tend to other business before year-end.
This is all for now, I am afraid, but you may expect another post or two before we slide into New Year.
Thursday, 26 July 2012
The Summer Season seems to have a profound impact on the mind of us Swedes. Not so much on people of my age of course. For us old-timers, Summer means mainly sleeping bad at night and staying sleepy during day-time, combined with a welcome lessening of pain in joints and muscles. But the youngsters become a lot more lively in the warm season with its long days; a lot of partying is going on and extending long into night and even mornings.
Yesterday morning I woke up early – as so often happens to me in June and July – and tiptoed out to the balcony to inspect the scenario of Hammarby Sound in the early morning sun, already shining at 4 am. All was quiet – no breeze disturbing the view – and I delighted in observing the sky's rosy locks being mirrored in a wondrous way by the calm waters underneath.
Suddenly, a terrible screech shook me out of my meditative trance! And, with a woosh!, a swarm of seagulls sailed by me, one of them only inches from my head. I am glad it managed to bypass me at the last instance, otherwise who knows what had happened to my scalp! The ruckus got worse by the second and gradually it dawned on my that all those birds were rising from the large harbor crane standing on the quay some 100 meters to my right. Looking at it closely I saw, to my great surprise, a whole flock of the gulls attacking some youngsters who attempted to climb the crane! Juvenile exuberance being met by angry birds, disturbed in their nesting activities, I have to assume.
Swarted by the valiant defenders, the youngsters quickly abandoned their climbing expedition and proceeded, in a rambling fashion, along the quay in my direction. With rambunctuous shouts and hootings, waking up the whole neighborhood, they stopped just below my balcony and exclaimed that it was bathing time! No sooner spoken than the first braves were already undressing and jumping into the (ice-cold) water. This suddenly sobered them up and, considerably subdued, they continued their journey along the quay. Soon, calm reigned again over the sound and I returned to bed for another hour or two of uneasy sleep.
Monday, 9 July 2012
Summer weather in Stockholm used to abide by strict and never changing rules. In the first week of July, all the factories were closed, as were most restaurants and other services, and people prepared themselves for three weeks' holiday. Cars were cleaned, tents repaired, coffers packed and barbecue equipment brushed up. On first Holiday Monday, the rain would start and stay with the hardy Swedes throughout the three weeks. That notwithstanding, people insisted on having a good time and nobody complained. They knew that the sun would reappear from behind the clouds eventually, and render the working weeks in August and September more enjoyable.
These times of collective enjoyment are long gone. Nowadays, the holiday season is spread out over three months and people choose their three or four weeks within that period whenever it suits them. But the rain seems to remember those good old days and is persevering with its July exercises year after year.
This is why I was looking forward to a visit from Austria last week with some forebodings: would the Weather Gods use the trodden path once again and greet my unsuspecting visitors with a steady downpour? The weather report did not look promising; rain was foreseen at least every second day. But, unusually, it never realized. Each morning was blessed with heavy clouds or fog, but the sun always prevailed and we had warm and sunny evenings.
Have a look at this morning´s conditions around 3.15 am. Heavy clouds were hanging over Hammarby Sound, allowing barely a glimpse of the early sun. But when I am writing this, at 4 pm, the sun is again enjoying itself, swimming in a blue sky, and tickling my nose where I am sitting in front of my computer.
Lest you think that weather trends are shifting, please be informed that Southern Sweden was drenched in heavy rain yesterday afternoon. There is hope yet for a normal July Season!
Sunday, 26 February 2012
In several decades of – more or less – organized working life I acquired the habit of getting out of bed at 7 AM. Up here in the North, this goes against the natural flow of life most of the year. In wintertime you have to force yourself up despite a depressing dark and in summertime the sun is far ahead of you and already blazing when you stumble out of bed after a sleepless night.
But, twice a year, nature is accommodating your wish of a natural day circle. This happy state of nature starts at end of February and lasts about a month ahead. In autumn, October is the beneficial month. This is the time when the rising sun is tickling your house at the appropriate time to rise and there is no need for a wake-up call from your mobile phone (or your wife).
Take a look at the title picture: isn't it nice to be welcomed by such a rosy view precisely when you are supposed to get out of bed and prepare your morning coffee?
This may sound trivial to you, but fact is, that the mind works at its best in those two beneficial months, when nature is leading you on to a new day. This is the time to start writing your memoirs, or polish the proof of a theorem you have been pondering all winter but unable to come to grips with. As a young student I was well aware of this effect and concentrated my learning efforts to those precious few months of the year.
Sunday, 5 February 2012
This winter is supposed to be a mild one, but weather conditions far too the East have put a stop to that: a mighty High over Siberia has stretched its wings to cover most of continental Europe, with some tendrils even reaching as far north as Stockholm.
When I woke up this morning, around 8 am, serene stillness was reigning over Hammarby Sound. White ice greeted white sky slowly turning pink, and the Sound was completely frozen over. The sun had not yet risen over the horizon, but soon it would appear to shed more warmth over the scenery. It was Sunday morning and no large boats had been trafficking the strait since Friday afternoon, preventing smaller boats from daring the thrip.
Whilst bathing in that white and peaceful splendor, I spared some thoughts for less fortunate people down south. Apparently, temperatures in the minus tens have been prevailing for some time as far south as the Balkans, leaving people down there wide open to the travails of extreme frost. Whilst these poor Southerners are freezing (some even to death) in their barely sheltered lodgings, here in Hammarby Sound we barely notice that it is minus 18° outside this white morning. My apartment is keeping a constant healthy 21° inside, whatever temperature may be hounding the air over the Sound.
Whilst I am contemplating this, time has passed and it is now already 9 am. The sun has briefly won over high fog and is shedding its splendor over the ice. Time to come to closure with this blog and hurry outside, to benefit from clear frosty air on my nose and ears!
Sunday, 22 January 2012
Yesterday was quiet Saturday, so I lingered in bed for a while longer. When getting up, around 8.30, I realized that I had almost missed a charming scenery. All was calm, no gushes of wind to speak of. Ice was slowly forming on the waters, with Fog shrouding Hammarby Sound, waiting for me to document it for you trusted readers.
The day before had been relatively warm and humid. In the wee morning hours of this Saturday, the air must have gotten progressively cooler, condensing out the humidity into a myriad of tiny icicles forming the mist you are looking at. You have seen this type of picture before on the blog, you say? "Yes!", I have to admit it, but would like to add that foggy scenery stimulates my aesthetic senses, so you have to bear with me, whilst waiting for the fog to lift.
You will not be disappointed, since it indeed did lift a couple of hours later. You may ask yourself where all the icicles had disappeared to. Well, the picture below provides you with the answer. It was taken around 1.30 pm. As you can see, the fog had transformed itself into a needly carpet, covering ground and trees with its glittery whiteness. It was a pleasure to behold, far beyond the camera's ability to put it on screen.
After this, starting during the following night, rare snowflakes began to drift down from a heaven completely calmed and completed the job. This morning, around 9.30, our cosy community was fully covered in white, foreboding the winter that had dallied for so long, but will now certainly stay with us throughout February, the coldest Winter month. Still, I expect this to be a normal Stockholm Winter, so tomorrow the snow will be gone again, or – which is worse – turned into mush. But this is the price to pay for not having to endure arctic conditions in our part of the world.