Cold kitchen, hot kettle, northern light.
I move with the light. December slows me down, and I feel like the distant sun: barely rising on these short, dim days before falling out of view again. I haven’t spent the 12th month so far north in such a long time. The alarm pries me from a thick, warm comforter to the cold, dark air. The stars twinkle in the wintry sky as I head to the street for the morning paper (yes, in print, still). I set the kettle to boil, and when it’s done, it whistles like a train. (Really; it’s made to sound that way.)
My body doesn’t like the cold, but I can appreciate what happens at this latitude. I am always amazed at the light—the way it shuffles through time; the way the sky changes visibly in a matter of days or weeks. When we arrived in Montana in late July, the sun fell on the Clark Fork past 10 p.m. But every day since has lost a few moments of light.
That doesn’t happen in the tropics, in places far south where the sun rises and falls around the 6th hour of every morning and night. At 0 degrees latitude, the days and nights stay the same.
A couple of my students will experience that soon. As I write, they’re on a plane for Nicaragua, where they will meet and interview the farmers who grow coffee sold at shops here in the North and West. They will breathe warm, humid air while we shiver in the snow. They will watch the sun rise high overhead in a routine that never really changes. And they will drink their morning coffee in a light they can’t yet imagine.
Meanwhile, Jerry and I will pack the car and begin the long drive south, toward home. We will watch the days grow longer, the sky a little brighter, the sun at a different slant. I’m looking forward to our kitchen, its windows and the strong, steady rays that hit our table in the dead of a Southwest winter.