The light here is different than it was at home. The summer days are longer, the winter days are shorter. The angle of the light changes more noticeably throughout the year — in the winter here, even at noon, the sun is not overhead and we get, at best, a kind of weak sunlight that is neither very cheering nor very warming, even on the brightest of days. In the autumn, the light is beautiful. It is mostly golden, and has that wonderful “late afternoon” look all day long. Everything touched by the sunlight looks like it’s glowing, and the trees, already golden, look like they’re on fire when the light catches them. Sometime in the fall, the sun stops coming in directly through our kitchen window in the afternoons, and in the mornings, it no longer comes through our living room windows. We have to wait again until spring comes around again to see it streaming across the floor. As the autumn moves towards winter, we lose the “afternoon” effect of the light and move into a state where it seems to be perpetually early evening — a state which persists throughout the winter.
Just now, it is spring again, and we’ve begun to get our sunlight back. Sitting in the living room in the mornings, the sun shines directly on our couch now — something it hasn’t done since the fall. Just a few days ago, I was suddenly blinded by a ray of sunlight coming through the window, and I had a moment of confusion until I remembered that yes, that is normal — we just haven’t seen it for a while. Spring is here, and we’re finally getting our sunlight back.
In Vienna, in the winter, so much of our time is spent in the dark, and in the summer, so little of it is. From sometime in November until early February, Dan and Benjamin are almost never home during daylight hours. From early in May until mid-August, my kids hardly ever experience darkness — they wake up and go to bed completely in daylight, for months on end.
The transitions to Daylight Saving Time and back happen at a different time here than at home, too. Not only does that give me two weeks in the spring and one week in the fall where I have no idea what time it is anywhere, but it means we have 3 weeks more of dark evenings than we had at home. This year, the Monday after the time change in October was a holiday (Austrian National Day) and we celebrated the fact that the whole family had a day off together by spending it at the swimming pool.
We were out most of the afternoon, and when we started to head home, it was already dark, thanks to the time change the day before. I found it particularly odd and a little disconcerting, in large part because, strange as it may seem, I am pretty much never out in Vienna at nighttime between April and October. Stepping out of the brightly lit swimming facility into the dusky evening was like suddenly stepping out into an unfamiliar city. It happens every year, but it always takes me a little time to get used to experiencing Vienna in the dark … and then once I get used to it, I get to spend months getting REALLY used to it.
Just last week, I picked B up from school and we arrived home with enough daylight that we didn’t immediately have to turn on all the lights — for the first time in nearly 3 months. It’s the first sign that we’re on our way back to seeing Vienna only by day and likely forgetting, once again, what it’s like here in the dark.