The End and the Beginning.
Winter... a time for activities. In Sweden, the sunny days of summer are long gone. The short amount of daylight hours can be gruesome, but while most people see the dull winter days ahead as just a dreary dampener of spirits, for some itís an opportunity to capture amazing sceneries...
These photographs are by renowned New York based travel photographer Bo Zaunders, who captured parts of his native SmŚland during a trip to Sweden.
While on the subject of long winter days with little sunlight, the Swedes have a way of treating a too dreary mood over the dark season: Beating the winter blues ó
In a country famed for its long winter days, the impending darkness is a source of widespread grumbling. However, for some inhabitants the short daylight hours are a cause for serious concern. The sunny days of summer are long gone and while most people see the dull winter days ahead as just a dreary dampener of spirits, for some itís more serious than that. Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately shortened to SAD) is a psychological disorder characterized by depression, fatigue, decreased motivation, a tendency to sleep excessively, and a craving for carbs and sweets. In severe cases, sufferers may experience intense anxiety and irritability, and the condition can even lead to suicidal tendencies. As Jerker Hetta, Professor in Psychiatry at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm explains, SAD is a serious issue in Sweden: "I would expect that about 8-10 percent of the Swedish population do experience some form of SAD, with more extreme cases constituting 4-5 percent. Although these figures are complicated by the fact that some people displaying depressive symptoms over the winter months may already have pre-existing psychiatric problems." While there is no conclusive answer for what causes SAD, the symptomatic cycle of the condition is typically related to seasonal changes in the amount of available sunlight. Sufferers of SAD have been reported to have abnormally high levels of melatonin during the dark winter months. And Sweden does have more than its fair share of dusky days. The most northerly regions of the country experience the Arctic phenomena of polar nights, where the land is thrown into darkness for weeks at a time. The dreariness of Sweden's winters compared to its south European neighbors was documented as long ago as the 6th century. Roman chronicler Jordanes described the inhabitants of northern Sweden and Norway in his text Getica, written in Constantinople in AD 551. For those SAD sufferers who do indeed find it a sorrow to bear the long winter months in Sweden, phototherapy may offer a ray of hope. Better known as light therapy, phototherapy has been used in Sweden for years as a means of combating SAD. Phototherapy is most commonly administered through the use of a light box which emits a measured amount of balanced spectrum light from fluorescent tubes. "Clinically, patients do benefit from light exposure and light does indeed have certain biological benefits," says Hetta.
The End and the Beginning (12.21.2008)
We have talked, we have conjectured, we have expressed opinions, and now we have come to the last week of the year and this yearís last issue of the printed newspaper. It may be a few more days before this particular issue reaches everyone, and by then we will have already reached the magic hour: a new year, usually a time of expectation, a time of joy, an end and a new beginning.
The period between the major holidays is one that can be used in various ways, to revel, to reflect, and to look ahead. The Swedes have a splendid invention known as klšmdagar, days that are between holidays and weekends, a certain number of which are used every year. With both Christmas and New Years falling on Wednesdays this year itís no surprise that many people have nearly two weeks off from work or school, and a few ingenious people have no doubt figured out how to extend their holiday time even further. It is not so easy in the United States, but there will still be a good bit of free time to consider times past, present and future.
In the Christian world we are already celebrating a beginning right now. And yet, around the world are millions of people who are living their lives as usual, counting the days and other measures of time as they always have, presumably not even conscious of the momentous days we live in. While we feel that the earth revolves around us and the immediate problems of right now, remember there will always be a new beginning.
Nordstjernan and staff look forward to our 139th year of continuous publishing, and wishes everyone,
a healthy, safer, and happy 2011!