Finnish - [ˈkɑːmos]
2. The polar night.
Darkness. The state that came first. Symbol of the unconscious mind, of death, of space, of the unknown.
The absence of light has a great affect on the morphology, physiology and behaviors of almost every organism. Many animals sleep at this time, some become more active. Plants, who so rely on light for photosynthesis, become dormant. Daisies close every evening, to open again in the morning.
And so it is, within the cycles of day and night, light and dark. Cycles which are echoed by seasonal changes in the very North and South of this world. Near the poles, winter is an endless night, broken only by a low dawn which covers the land in an eery blue light. The Sami peoples of Finland refer to this time as Kaamos: the darkness.
I traveled to Finland to experience this darkness, to know it bodily.
. . .
When a tree hears the lulling voice of winter, brought on by chill winds, it will begin the process of withdrawing and reserving its energy. Leaves are dropped, sap and nutrients are drawn to the roots, and there is very little growth happening. It is as if the tree were huddled inwards, breathing warmth into its cold hands and protecting its sacred energies. Other animals will exhibit similar patterns, hibernating or burrowing down under layers of dirt or snow. Then they wait in the darkness for the sweet voice of Spring to call them forth.
But what of humans?
I met so many beautiful people in the East of Finland, so many smiling faces and beautiful souls. I could sense a deep sadness within many of them, and listened as they spoke of the difficulties of winter. Kaamos, they said, made them feel depleted. The artists among them felt that this was a time when they struggled to complete or begin any artwork.
With only four or five hours of sunlight in the day, I could feel myself becoming more and more sleepy. We would sit in the evenings, talking for hours on end in the light of candles. My eyes would struggle to stay open. Having no electricity meant relying on the flickering flames of candles and fireplaces. These were entrancing, almost hypnotic; activating some deep rooted circadian rhythm within my body. Often, I would give in to sleep, a deep and glorious sleep that lasted twelve hours or more. My attentions moved inwards, I felt I needed to protect myself. Eat more, fend off the cold. My energies were bundled in a tight ball, deep within, under layer after layer of clothing. I became more reserved, thoughtful, contemplative. My thoughts were my own, and they often rested on some sort of self examination.
. . .
I examined the dark corners of my brain, saw my shadow. My senses heightened, keenly aware, it felt as if all the world were a mirror. Sometimes in art and culture, we speak of a journey in the dark - wherein the hero bravely trips through unknown territory. The mythos surrounding the matter suggests that such a journey is not limited to the physical realm, but may also imply a journey into the character’s subconscious, where they will come face to face with themselves, their demons and their fears. In fact, a physical journey through darkness would make it imperative that the traveller gets in touch with his or her own body and mind, in order not to stumble or to run blindly from fright. My own journey in the dark revealed so many aspects of myself which were never illuminated in the light of day - old ideas, patterns of thought, fears and reaction behaviors. I saw them clearly now, accepted them, then let go.
Winter calls to each of us to do the same. She whispers to us to rest, to conserve our energies, to sleep. She takes from us the light, but gives us new eyes, allowing us to see that which may only be seen in the dark. Winter is the death that allows for new growth, it is as natural as the moon and stars; and so it is natural for us to feel moved by these cycles - letting go of the old to make way for the new. Growth will come in the Spring. For now, sleep.