We’re All a Little Cuckoo

Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.

Where we are: Some dear NC friends are visiting us this week, so we’ve gone on a road-trip together along the southern coast of Iceland. In an unusual fit of pre-organization, I wrote this a few weeks ago, so that I wouldn’t be distracted during our first visit with friends since the pandemic began. I’m glad I did—the sightseeing is great, but the company is even better. (And no worries—I’m still feeling a little cuckoo.)

We’re All a Little Cuckoo Here

On the summer solstice, I want to write something funny about the midnight sun, or the longest day of the year, or whatever you call it, but I can’t think of anything. My brain is broken.

I expect to be tired at bedtime, but this isn’t normal tired. This is that weird, over-extended feeling you used to get when you were a kid, and you had stayed up too late at a slumber party, but you were having sooo much fun, & you didn’t want to miss anything, & you were running on adrenaline & it was all about to come crashing down in gulping sobs.

Yeah, that.

Sunset in Reykjavik is currently around midnight, and sunrise is a little before 3. You’d think it would be dark in between, but no. It’s just sort of  the world’s longest twilight. I’ve always thought the midnight sun sounded like a great idea—the short days of winter make me sad, so it only stands to reason that all light, all the time, would make me super-happy, right?

We haven’t seen darkness since late April. I keep going in the bathroom, closing the door, and turning off the light, just to rest my eyes. I’m sleeping in an eye mask, but it slides around and slips off and gets tangled in my hair—I hate the stupid thing. Light leaks in all night long. Getting up to use the bathroom is startling—I shove the mask up to the top of my head, and squint against the light as I shuffle through the living room, trying not to wake up too much.

When we first arrived at this Airbnb, Lee realized there was nowhere to plug in the lamp on his nightstand, so we went right out to buy an extension cord.

Three weeks later, he still hasn’t turned on the lamp, because who needs a lamp when it never gets dark?

One night, Lane took a photo out the window at 2:08 am, so we’d have evidence (there’s exactly zero chance I’m looking out the window at that time of night—I’m trying to stay asleep, not wake myself up). It’s that beautiful moment, just before sunrise, when the horizon glows pink and there are no shadows yet, but the air is clear and soft—Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn. But it’s in the middle of the night. The darkest hour is not just before dawn, at least not in Reykjavik, in June.

Melatonin is helping with sleep, but not with general squirelliness. The hardest part is not being able to wind down before bed. There are no curtains in our living room, and only a thin shade in the bedroom, so the choice is broad daylight, or eye cover. My brain is just confused. Most days it gets to be six or seven pm, and I’m still thinking it’s mid-afternoon. You don’t realize how much you subconsciously track the progress of a day by the position of the sun, until you can’t.

Lane and I went on a walking tour the other day, and we were asking the guide how people cope with the constant daylight. It makes us all a little cuckoo, he said.

I believe it.

It turns out the midnight sun is a totally fascinating experience, and I would like for it to get dark now, please. I am So. Tired.

From my writer’s notebook:

A 2012 heist in Greece was finally solved in June. The Picasso (a Mondrian was also taken) had an inscription on the back: For the Greek people, a tribute from Picasso. The painting was originally a gift from the artist, in honor of the Greek resistance against the Nazis during the Second World War, and the theft was taken personally by the Greek people.

The thief had stuffed the two paintings in a hole in the ground, in the woods.

Apparently it’s difficult to sell such an identifiable work. Sometimes art thieves in fiction are portrayed as glamorous and cunning, but in reality, sometimes they’re just not particularly smart.

Take care,

Lisa

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