Slowly but steady autumn is changing to winter and the training season is coming to a close. The days are getting progressively darker, every day, and the headlights come out earlier and stay on longer both mornings and evenings. The sky is getting its seasonal painted look: an explosion of streaks of color. The light we still get is pale yellow, golden and red, illuminating the tops of the trees and the other side of the river as the day breaks. I love this period, in its own way, because of beauty of the light, of the impossible skies, of the eternal sunsets. Soon, only the shimmer will remain, when Kiruna is veiled into darkness for 6 consecutive sunless weeks.
It’s been getting colder, too. Just this week temperatures plummeted from -5 to -25. The rivers and lakes are freezing: Kalix river, just here in the village, has had ice shelfs moving across it for several days now. The ice here is not steady yet, but gaining force, as the channel holding flowing water grows narrower by the day. Suddenly some dogs needed jackets, the racing dogs needed heating in their cages. But there is one thing missing, one thing that is terribly delayed: where is the snow?
The white on the pictures is but a dusting on the ground, and frost on the trees. The snow has stayed away up here, while public transport in Stockholm is down under the overload. It’s snowing in Belgium, in France, in Norway, it’s snowing everywhere. But here.
In a way it is good so the ice on the lakes and rivers can settle, which will make it easier later to make good tracks. But in four days PJ and I have our first tour: big sleds, with four guests each, which we will drive up the swamps to the tippie and back. Snowless, icy swamps mean no breaking, no ankering, no stopping possibilities. I hope the tourists are up for a thrill.
In spite of the lack of snow Kiruna has shown its best sides as of late. With a lot of cold but clear weather we can see Sweden’s highest mountains shining in the distance when we are training the dogs on the road. Every afternoon the Kebnekaise massif glows red when the last of the sun hits the snow. Every time we drive to town we see them in our rearview mirror until they disappear behind the mine. Every trip we make to Jukkasjärvi we are reminded of the power of the Torne river, with white glowing mountains further upstream, flowing until recently but now mostly frozen and glowing white. The moving ice under the bridges makes for beautiful, colorful spectacles while little waterfalls make their way over submerged ice plates. Actually, I really like this place.
Kiruna is a world of its own, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that we are still in Sweden. Only here can 30 people register on the same address without anyone asking questions or can the only bridge into a village can be declared unsafe for traffic four years ago (without anyone doing anything about it). Only here can calling the fire department be a 45 minute operation because of bad phone coverage. Only here can the hospital be closed down and moved 90 minutes south while the town is running on a giant mining operation and receives hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
But it is exactly the absurd, which makes it so interesting. In a few keywords, Kiruna is a place of never-ending double standards and endless negotiation. A malfunctioning place filled with reckless souls, vagabonds, and people seeking for a new lifestyle away from the ordinary. A place where you can always hear some new crazy idea for the future that you hadn’t thought of by yourself. In Kiruna I met some of the most fantastic and some of the most rotten people I’ve ever encountered. Amongst friends, we call it our little Russia.
Far away from the world we live our lives in ways that we hadn’t even imagined ourselves. And one day, when we are settled in comfortable houses working comfortable jobs, we’ll look back at the times we were the homeless people of the woods, living on little salaries, only for a passion we have for the jobs, for the dogs, for place we are in. We’ll look back with great nostalgia.
Now if only a little bit of snow can come, so we can pull out the sleds.