Lighthouse on an island in Vesterålen, Norway

Living on an Island (in the Arctic)

8:30AM. Sky is still black. For the third time, the piercing sound of my alarm clock rings out trying to awake me from lethargy. I dread the moment to come. Leaving this warm cocoon made of three layers is the daily torture required to live in this centenary lighthouse, a thermal shock of about forty degrees centigrade propelling me in icy clothes to a well deserved breakfast, cuddled by the smooth warmth of the wood stove.

Lighthouse on an island in Vesterålen, Norway

My mind is still close to Morpheus when I ritually walk down the two hundred snow covered stairs leading to the – also centenary – boathouse. As I arrive, once can not but notice that one of the ropes holding the floating quay to terra firma broke, again. A few efforts are required to setup the metallic gangway at the same level as the swell shook pontoon. Now I only have to wait for a good wave, jump, attach the rope, wait for another good wave and jump on the gangway again. As scary as it might sound, one gets quickly accustomed to it after the first time – especially when this first time happens in the dark and during a storm, the water beneath being close to 4°C!

Lighthouse on an island in Vesterålen, Norway

This time, back to the boathouse for good. Sanding, sawing, nailing, snatching, nailing again, swearing, laughing, … With focused mind and skilled hands, renovation progresses. I remember how it looked like when I arrived: an old worn boathouse with a filthy floor scattered by oil stains… It is hard to believe that this is the same place – even David Copperfield would not have done better! Yet, the young rascal without any gift for DIY that I am, now enjoys and begins to get by with it.

Sawing wood...

“An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work”. Then, before being able to fill the sinkholes of our stomachs, we climb the two hundred stairs leading to the main house, loaded with about twenty kilograms of fire wood. Breathless and with stiffened muscles, it is now time to devour the delicious meals based on local fish and vegetables that are offered to us, and to enjoy the hypnotic dance of the sea with the white summits of Lofoten islands as a background.

Long exposure of a storm in Vesterålen, Norway

Soon comes the time to go down again to the boathouse, the time to sand, nail, saw, … you know the drill. The Arctic winter already stroke out the sun of his quill and soon, the blue and grey glow of the sky will turn to ink-black. It will then be about 3:00PM. A few more hours and the moment will come to walk up the two hundred stairs for the last time of the day to the haven of our house – except from the happy volunteer responsible of the generator tonight, meaning me :)

Dinner with candles...

Under the spell of the fire warmth, minutes pass, along with the lines of the stories stuffing my dreams. Quickly, minutes become hours and it is time to walk up to the tower of glass, iron and stone that is my shelter. I have a last look at the panoramic bay from which used to glow the beacon guiding mariners of the north seas, then get to my room. Being unable to knock on wood, I keep my fingers crossed and hope that, this time, wind would not have opened its doors, blowing snow inside. I then would be able to slip into this frosted cocoon from which contact with my skin gives me thrills… of pleasure. Then, cradled by the metallic and worrying sounds of the gusts of wind assaulting the invincible structure of my den, I would fall asleep.

Sleeping in a lighthouse in Vesterålen, Norway

Comments

  • 04/12/2013
    reply

    Gabi

    I love your writing! Well, living on an island is quite an experience. Expecially in winter!
    Greetings, Gabi

    • 04/12/2013
      reply

      Thanks a lot Gabi, I appreciate it.
      Yes it is, especially when you decide to live in a lighthouse without any heating system ;)

  • 04/12/2013
    reply

    Jutta

    Marvellous! Looking forward to more!

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