Catching the sun
October 14, 2013
The day is gloomy as I write this, rainy and chilly and overcast—the sort of weather that makes summer feel far behind and winter just around the corner. The leaves have gone from green to bright yellows and reds, but even now there is a crunchy blanket of dead brown ones on the ground. The robins are gone, as is the garden. All that’s left of both are the empty nests in our trees and the canned vegetables in our cupboards.
You would think I’m used to it, this shifting of the seasons. Four times a year for forty-one years, that means I’ve gone through this 164 times. I should be a pro. I’m not. Aside from Christmas, I’ve never liked winter. I’ve read there are more suicides between October and March than any other time of year. I can understand that. The cold and dark can get a person down. Around here, people say winter is a season that gets inside you.
I was thinking about all this a little bit ago while digging through the stack of papers on my desk. Midway through was a story about a Norwegian town called Rjukan, whose people know all about the cold and dark. Settled deep in a valley floor, the sun moves so low across the sky in winter that it leaves the entire town in perpetual evening. The sun doesn’t shine in Rjukan at all between September and March. It gets so bad that locals take a cable car to the top of the mountains just to stand in the light.
Sounds like a pretty horrible way to spend half your year, doesn’t it? But if things go according to plan, all that is about to change.
Over the summer, helicopters hoisted three massive mirrors 450 meters above Rjukan and anchored them to the sides of the valley. Called heliostats, the mirrors are controlled by computers to follow the path of the sun and reflect a day-long beam of light that will fall directly into the center of the town square. No more cable cars to the mountains, no more endless gloom. The people of Rjukan will only have to take a short walk to the square to catch a bit of sun. They will all gather there and be together. They will all stand in the light.
I’m thinking about that little town a lot on this gloomy morning.
I’m thinking about how it really is true that winter gets inside you. It can hunch you over and make you wince, it can steal your smile, and oftentimes it doesn’t matter at all what the season is on the outside. I know people who walk around in July, but it’s still winter in their hearts. I guess that’s sometimes by choice. More often than not, though, I really don’t think it is. This world’s a tough place. It can hurt.
But I’m thinking about those three mirrors most of all, the ones now sitting high in that Norwegian valley and catching that sun. I’m thinking about how that’s what you and I should be—reflectors. Shining a light into the dark places. Bringing warmth to the cold around us. Not a light and a warmth of our own making, but ones greater and eternal.
Yes, I think so.
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