12 December 2011

Sliding into a cold dark winter of the Russian north...

Setting moon tending towards waning gibbous, dawn 1051, 12 December, NW St Petersburg.  Taken 1 1/2 days after the full moon and total lunar eclipse (obscured by skies) around 630 pm 10 December.

Barking at the full moon eclipse...

The Cold, Long Night, or Frost Moon are names for the full moon closest to the winter solstice, this year on December 10...  when there was also a total lunar eclipse! Full moons occurs when the moon is most opposite the sun during its 29.5 day cycle.

The last few nights I couldn’t sleep much until after 2 pm.  I felt a strong magnetic pull that wouldn’t let me relax, and recalled that around now would be another full moon.  I am what the Russians call a lunatic, with no aspersions intended.

Further north than a Maine winter...

Russians,  Alaskan Americans, Icelanders, Fins, Norwegians, Swedes, and Scots all live in the North... some with equanimity!

Latitude City


68 58 Murmansk    308,000
64 32 Archangel    349,000
64 08 Reykjavik    120,000
62 12 Helsinki    589,000
61 13 Anchorage    292,000
59 57 St Petersburg   4,800,000
59 55 Oslo 1,442,000
59 21 Stockholm    851,000
55 57 Edinburgh    486,000

Russians are not the only ones with a dark winter.

I remember Larissa once said ‘It’s amazing that people will live anywhere, in the worse climates and in bad conditions’.  Well, it’s amazing that I now live in the unappealing cold and unattractive conditions of the Russian north!

But even with the flat topography... clusters of drab, grey high rises... city sand, dirt, and disorganization... given a will to be cheerful and positive, life can be pleasant and often happy in the forbidding North.

Less light, little sun, poor visibility...

We are fast approaching the shortest day of the year, 22 December.  Dawn will be at 1100 and sunset will happen at 456 pm.  Winter will start that day at 930 am.

Now there’s no sun rise, just a subtle lightening in the east.  It’s rare to see even a soft glow of sunshine, because the sun arcs close to the horizon. What little sun appears is masked by the high rise apartments.

Even during daylight, it’s quite dark. In the middle of the day my camera’s flash goes off. Electric light is sponged by the darkness, seeps away, and things are harder to see unless you are next to a bright bulb.

Black clothes, dangerous crossing conditions, and some atrocious driving...

Black is the favorite clothing shade in Russia... not visible to cars when crossing the street, but otherwise practical as it doesn’t get discolored by polluted rain and snow.

It’s that time of the year when I’m only cozy outside with my black, long thermal jacket from Poland, which includes an excellent hood.  If conditions get severe, it has a second zip in lining.

It’s rare to see reflective material on children’s jackets, which are usually dark also.  There are no crossing guards at the faded zebra crossings near schools.  I see children run across the roads far from intersections, no matter what the weather or darkness.  

In Russia, pedestrians do not have the right of way.  Many drivers have only been behind the wheel ten years or less but drive aggressively, with little appreciation of the rules of the road.  Drivers routinely turn into and cross the path of pedestrians obeying the green light.

The unofficial crossing near our apartment on busy Cizova Prospect has no red light or zebra  stripes.  After dawn I was on my way across the road when I saw an old man with a cane  moving towards me, gesturing for me to help him the rest of the way.  I grabbed his arm, held up my crossing guard hand to stop rapidly approaching traffic, and got the grateful old guy safely to the sidewalk.

The day I wrote this part, a girl was hit crossing the road down by the other supermarket. 

Better to not fight it, slow down, and enjoy life indoors.

This is a time of year to sleep in, be lazy, maybe give in to melancholy.  Serotonin which helps a good mood is in short supply in our brains.  It’s frequent to hear people saying they are under the weather...aches, pains, low moods.

There just isn’t enough daylight now to stimulate the body to make adequate Vitamin D, and there’s little fortification of milk or cereal here.  We eat a lot of cheese and fish, and  take some omega 3 fish oil pills.

Our parakeets, Kesha and Noosha, are less active with lessening light.  Lazy birds now, they sleep in late, eat less, and aren’t as excited about their pieces of apple, hanging celery, or other greens.

How do we survive the dark, cold, and gloom?

Reading is my best escape.  I send and receive books with Book Mooch, get others from a yearly sale at the International Woman’s Club, and trade with a British expat friend.

I’ve recently ordered around 30 books with my Mooch points.  I enjoy the emails while arranging these swaps.  It gets me out of the apartment to send and receive Mooches at the local post office, giving me much needed exercise.

I appreciate time in the kitchen.  Recently I put together another variation of spaghetti sauce ...this time with crushed rosemary, the tastiest sauce yet!

Happiness depends on your mood.

On waking, start with a self-willed good mood, try to be cheerful, and be sure to find activities you enjoy.  Whatever climate and conditions you live in, you can with fortitude, mood, and some good luck, find the living pretty good in most places in the world.

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  1. Lori (Nashville, TN)Saturday, December 24, 2011

    Your post takes me back four years ago, when I spent from Dec. 22nd to Jan. 16th in the city of Petrozavodsk, Karelia, adopting my daughter (her detsky dom was in Segezha, even further north, not far from the Arctic Circle). Very little light at all in December, and only a few hours of daylight each day once the New Year arrived. Thank goodness I'm a homebody and didn't mind staying in and reading, cooking and watching TV. I would love to go back to visit someday, in late spring or summer, when it's easier to be outdoors.

    1. Hi Lori,

      Yes, we have large swings of light and darkness in St Petersburg, and north. Maybe it affects the Russian character.

      The summer in former part of Finland is beautiful.




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